The Voice Of A Generation

Do we really need a new phone every year?

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Last week, Apple held their annual Autumn keynote, announcing 3 new iPhone and a new iteration if the Apple Watch. The iPhone XS (that’s 10S, not extra small!), their new flagship device, confirming many rumors that had been circulating on the web over the summer. The form factor hasn’t strayed far from its predecessor, with the exception of its big-screen brother XS Max. The limelight of the keynote, however, was stolen by the “budget” iPhone XR, but I don’t see what part of €750 for a base model is budget. Regardless, the prices of all the devices in this lineup (sans the XR) are all north of €1000, which begs the question: When is a phone too expensive? Are we going to just accept these ridiculous prices every year simply to have the newest 

It’s an annual affair

A recent poll from TheJournal.ie measured how often Irish consumers bought a new phone and while maybe not a large figure in the grand scheme of things, 4% of respondents said they purchased a new phone at least once a year. Think about this for a second. They spent at least €600 ( and that’s being conservative) on a phone that more than likely is not all that different to what they already own feature wise. Now maybe you have money to burn and this is just something you do, each to their own I suppose. For me, the idea that you wouldn’t use your phone until it’s on its last legs seem likes a foreign concept to me. Why wouldn’t you want to get the most value out of such an expensive purchase? Maybe you trade the old one in against a new and fair enough, at least it might get a second life with someone else this way. Regardless, purchasing a new phone every year is not the soundest financial practice and that money could probably be put to better use in most cases.

The new “budget” iPhone XR. At €750, budget seems like a stretch…

Sheep of the Flock

But there’s another side to this story that doesn’t get mentioned all that often: the people so dedicated to Apple that no price could ever deter them from making that next purchase. Straight away I can see a few problems with this: Firstly, this may be an uninformed purchase. If you knew you were already going to be getting the next iPhone, then what are the chances you looked at what other phones are on the market? Unlikely. Secondly, its guaranteed money for Apple, and when you’re guaranteed to get paid regardless of what you manufacture, it makes you complacent. Suddenly the device isn’t exactly the cutting edge technology wise, yet still carries that price tag. And on the subject of pricing…

On the up…and up…and up…

Anyone who’s paid any attention to the prices of smartphones in the last 2 years would be able to see that the price tag on some flagship devices is starting to break loose from the tech it represents. Apple made headlines last year when the iPhone X became the first mainstream phone to retail over €1000. At the same time, the other end of the price spectrum was undergoing a shake-up of huge proportions. Suddenly you could buy a phone with last year’s flagship specs for under €400. The €1000 phone no longer represents value. Really, you’re buying a known brand and that’s the only difference. If people keep paying these extortionate prices, then why would they bring them down?

Although it might sound like it from this piece, I’m not trying to hate on Apple. I still think their craftsmanship is fantastic and of course, they are the ones that familiarised us with the smartphone as we know it today. Also, competition is what drives innovation, and that’s what powers this industry.  

However, I do think that we need to take some more time to think before we go out and purchase that next smartphone. Do you really need it? Can you buy a second hand one and do the environment a favour? I still believe that in the next 5 years the balance in the smartphone market may tip back towards the value end of the scale, but until that day, we need to push manufacturers to continue innovating to justify the current price tags.

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