Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Bang for Your Buck, iPhone X Edition

The Macalope responds to Mike Murphy’s piece in Quartz about the cost of enabling faster charging on the iPhone 8 models and iPhone X:

The point is, the iPhone X-spensive (pronounced “tenspensive”) is very expensive and still does not come with literally everything!

As Gizmodo points out in its great investigation into all of the various charging cables and plugs Apple offers, to actually get the quickest charging, you need to buy a 61-Watt adapter plug and a USB-C to Lightning cable.

And, to protect your phone, you have to buy a case! To listen to music wirelessly, you have to buy Bluetooth headphones! To look at it while eating a ham sandwich, you have to buy the ham sandwich! That’s right, a lot of people don’t know this, but there’s no ham sandwich in the box! Outrageous!

A classic Macalope retort to a typical whiny article, right?

Well, not exactly. In this case, I actually think Murphy has a good point: at $25 per USB-C to Lightning cable, Apple has good reason not to include them in the box, but the customer experience would be way better if they did.

Apple doesn’t have to include headphones in every iPhone box, but they do because they know that it’s far better for someone to have the option to listen to music as soon as they set up their device. They don’t have to ship every iPhone with a 50% battery charge, but they do because it’s a better experience when a customer opens the box. “Batteries not included” is a barely-tolerable buying experience for kids’ toys; Apple understands that its smartphone equivalent is unacceptable.

But if a customer has one of Apple’s recent-generation laptops, they also need to buy a cable with their new iPhone. I wouldn’t be surprised if a handful of customers bought their new iPhone and forgot to buy a USB-C cable with it, and had to drive to their nearest Apple Store or electronics retailer to pick one up. That sucks.

Likewise, the fast charging feature in these new iPhones requires additional hardware, which means that it’s something many users will be unlikely to discover on their own. Maybe that doesn’t matter much overall, but it would be fantastic if customers could experience that right out of the box.

The “iPhone X is expensive!” complaints will continue despite the phone selling extremely well. It occurs to the Macalope that in a market-based society, the real way to complain about something being too expensive is to not buy it. But the passive-aggressive whining about it lets you have your cake and complain about it, too.

I don’t think anyone’s buying decision for a thousand-dollar smartphone is predicated on whether a $25 cable is in the box. But Murphy’s complaint is not invalidated because of that; there are reasonable arguments to be made for the cable’s inclusion on the grounds of value and the unboxing experience. Maybe the 61-watt charging brick is a step too far — it’s heavy and probably expensive to build — but what about the 29-watt brick? And maybe it is absurd to include both USB-A and USB-C Lightning cables in every iPhone’s box, like Apple used to do when they shipped iPods with USB and FireWire cables, but they could include a USB-C to Lightning cable with every MacBook Pro or offer the opportunity for customers to make a trade at the point of purchase.

Murphy’s article isn’t passive-aggressive — it’s customer feedback. You may disagree with it, as does the Macalope, but “that’s capitalism!” isn’t a valid response on its own.