Now that I have a little time on my hands (I’m on holidays, which is why there’s no news this week), I’ve noticed that we haven’t exactly had any real debate on Apple-related subjects for… quite a while now. I have my own suspicions as to why that’s the case, but I’m also of the opinion that there are certain topics that we should be talking about and discussing as Apple enthusiasts, even if we’re going to fall on one side of the fence or the other. Topics from The Garage occupy four out of the top five topics right now, which Just Won’t Do, no matter how much I acknowledge that we all have other interests and pursuits.
I’ve got a few ideas for price-related discussions, hence this topic. The idea is that I’ll post up something, give it a few days so we can discuss, then, once the discussion has petered out, post up something new for us all to chew on (still related to price). Reply if you’ve feel there’s something you need to say, or if want to point out the many, exhaustive, number of ways I’m wrong (or how flawed my analogies are), but hopefully we can all learn a little.
Back in the Australian iPhone XS/XS Max/XR Pricing topic, I hinted at having some kind of argument that iPhones were the cheapest bit of technology you owned when you factor in cost per use. I never published it — until now. I still think there’s an argument to be had that says if you consider cost per use, the iPhone is the cheapest bit of technology you own.
I mean, I get it, iPhones are more expensive than they’ve ever been. A lot of that is on Apple charging as much as they think the market can bear, which is reflected in their market cap and financial statements as examples of how good at capitalism they are. Even if at times, as evidenced by their recent updated financial guidance and missed revenue, they get some things wrong. The other half of the equation probably has something to do with the economy — the AUD is about 10% down vs the USD at the same time last year (at least, it was when I wrote this back in October, and is probably something similar now), and the iPhone XS Max has an even bigger screen and even more on-board storage than the previously-most-expensive device, so obviously it’s going to be comparatively more expensive. Bear in mind that both of these (higher iPhone selling prices and currency fluctuations, specifically) are reasons — explanations — that Apple execs have used to explain lower revenue than they expected from Q1 2019, so at least some of this is based in fact.
But as expensive as iPhones are, they’re probably still somewhat comparable with other things you own when you talk about cost per use, if they’re not outright beating them.
Some quick maths: Screen Time says I’ve picked up my iPhone an average of 36 times per day for the last seven days. If we’re saying I get a new phone every year, that’s 13140 pickups over the course of a year, which puts the cost per use at 15c, assuming I paid $2000 for the iPhone when I bought it.
Obviously, these numbers depend a lot on what you consider a “use”, and we’re also ignoring running expenses here (the cost of your phone plan, charging, etc) but you can see where I’m going with this, right? That number halves if you keep your iPhone for two years, which is an entirely reasonable proposition now that iPhone hardware and software is what it is, now that both have had a decade to mature.
Comparably, if you buy a high-end DSLR kit, you can probably expect to pay upwards of $5000. Let’s say $6500, once you have a nice lens and all the other accessories you might need. That’s upwards of 40,000 shots to even approach the same figure in terms of cost per use. Now obviously, if you’re a pro whose livelihood depends on that kit, then you’ll probably be able to put double that amount through before wearing out your shutter or thinking about upgrading, but I think my point stands. Even if you’re buying a cheap point-and-shoot (not sure why you would when smartphone photography is so good these days, but that’s for another time) for $600, you still have to take 4,000 shots before you get to the same 15c/use level. By my reckoning, that’s more than a few overseas trips, which you’re probably doing over a few years anyway.
And if we truly want to compare Apples and oranges, my washing machine cost $800 (I have no idea how much my current washing machine cost, but let’s go with this ballpark figure I found from The Good Guys). If I’m using it an average of three times a week, that’s $5.13 per use after a year. Obviously no one is upgrading their washing machine every year, but even if I hang onto it for ten years, the cost per use is still 50c — more than three times the cost per use of an iPhone — again, ignoring running expenses like water, electricity, detergent, etc.
So yeah, we’re making some pretty huge assumptions here. I like to think I use my iPhone relatively conservatively, compared to others, and obviously there will be people who use their iPhones even less than I do. But I still think there’s an argument to be had that the iPhone is the cheapest bit of technology you own, especially when you consider what you can do with it day-in, day-out, or the fact that you can replace a handful of different devices with it, the kind of experiences it offers, or the kind of thing you never thought would be possible with an always-connected supercomputer in your pocket.
I think it’s important to keep in mind that no one needs to be upgrading their iPhone every year (we’ve been through this argument with Macs, in a different topic), and if you are in the privileged position of being able to even consider doing so, your complaints about iPhone pricing are likely to fall on deaf ears.
All of that said, I didn’t buy a new iPhone this time around. Not because I couldn’t, but because of reasons I outlined in another topic at the time. I’ve only upgraded every other year, even before I was employed full-time, and while I could afford to (upgrade every year) now, I feel as though it probably falls into some kind of “unnecessary luxury” territory, especially when S-revisions — like this years’ models were — don’t have the same kind of narrative attached to them that previous S-revisions have had.
All I’m saying is, there are other factors to consider besides price, even though that’s a large part of the “new iPhone?” question for many. Because when it comes to price, there’s a good chance than iPhones are the cheapest bit of technology that you own.
But what do you think? Is the argument of “iPhones are too expensive” just a fallacy, or is there something to it, in light of Apple execs admitting that they may have priced the iPhone too high in countries that experienced currency fluctuations?