Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

A Milli

Joe Maring, Android Central:

I don’t know about you, but I’m growing a little tired of $1000 and up being the new norm for smartphone prices. Apple was the first company to break that threshold in 2017 with the iPhone X, and in the years following that, it’s quickly become something that we now have to expect.

If you want to be pedantic about it — and that is arguably what this globally-connected network of computers is all about — the iPhone X not only was not the first smartphone to get close to the thousand-dollar price tag, it was a dollar short of breaking that barrier in its base configuration.

I’ve mostly grown used to these increased costs as a result of writing about them almost every day, but there’s still part of me that’s annoyed with how much money these companies are asking us to spend these days.

Smartphones are valuable tools and are something a lot of us rely on to live our lives. There’s a valid argument to be made that buying a phone is an investment and a necessary purchase, but the prices being charged for high-end models are climbing at an alarming rate year after year.

I get where this feeling comes from, but I think it’s remarkable just how competitive the mid-range smartphone market has become. I was discussing this a couple of weeks ago in a Slack group and Josh Calvetti pointed out that the iPhone 11, for example, is $300 less than the iPhone 11 Pro, but you get the same processor, the same facial recognition, two of the three cameras, and a greater array of colour choices. Sure, you get a lower-resolution LCD display instead of an OLED, but I think many people would find it difficult to tell the difference.

Compare this to, say, ten years ago, when the flagship iPhone 4 came out — $599 for the base model, without a contract. The iPhone 11 is the second-tier model, and it used to be the case that the non-flagship iPhones were just carry-over devices from previous years in a baseline configuration. Indeed, the iPhone 3GS was available ten years ago in an 8 GB spec for $499. Yes, that’s $200 less than the iPhone 11, but it was the previous year’s phone, not a brand new device. If you want last year’s phone right now, it’s $599 for an iPhone XR and that’s still an entirely capable phone. It will certainly last longer than a 3GS did in 2010, and, ten years later, it’s just $100 more.

Maring points out that this is the case on the Android side, too: there are plenty of terrific smartphone models at similar price points to that which we’ve paid for years. It’s not so much that smartphone prices have, necessarily, gone up; it’s that a new higher-end segment has been added. It turns out that there’s a market for people who are comfortable with spending over a thousand dollars on cutting-edge technology.