/ Technology

Can a smartphone ever be worth £1,000?

iPhone X

Apple has announced its latest smartphone – the iPhone X. Brimming with new features, Apple hopes you’ll be so enamoured by the phone’s good looks that you’ll pay £1,000 for it. Would you?

One of the best-selling mobile phones in history, the Nokia 3210 was feverishly lapped up by over 160 million customers around the world. When it was released in 1999 it cost £150 and instantly set the standard for what a mobile phone should be.

Eight-and-a-half years later the first Apple iPhone hit UK stores and, just like the 3210 before it, completely redefined what you should expect from the little brick in your pocket. It cost £270 off-contract… you can probably begin to see where this is going.

To mark its 10th anniversary Apple this week announced the iPhone X. The most advanced smartphone the company has ever produced. It seems like a genuine improvement over its predecessor, the iPhone 7, and the as-yet unreleased iPhone 8. But the iPhone X will cost £999 when it hits stores on 3 November this year.

The iPhone X costs how much?!

The iPhone X is undeniably a very desirable handset. Looking past the inevitable brand-envy that every Apple product seems to garner, the iPhone X is clearly a telephonic force to be reckoned with. The display looks glorious and the technology contained within it would have seemed like a sci-fi flight of fancy only 15 years ago. Of course, you’ll have to wait and see how the iPhone X performs in our tests in the near future.

The iPhone X is metaphorically the Nokia 3210 of its age, and literally the iPhone of it. But can it possibly justify a £1,000 price tag? When my colleague Oli McKean wrote about the price of the Galaxy Note 8 being £869, 90% of you voted that you wouldn’t spend more than £900 for a smartphone. So what about £1,000?

Adjusted for inflation the Nokia 3210 would cost roughly £240 if it were released today, and the original iPhone would cost £345. These devices were more revolutionary than the iPhone X is, or ever will be. The technology was newer and had never been seen before – these devices reshaped the landscape around them. The prices at the time seemed steep, but the price was justifiable.

Is the iPhone X ground-breaking?

The average consumer is already jaded enough by Apple’s annual release cycle. Could most people tell the nuanced differences between the iPhone 6s and the iPhone 7? Could you, even? When the iPhone 7 launched it was priced at £600. That was only 12 months ago. Is the iPhone X really 66% better? Because that’s what its unprecedented pricing has to justify.

It makes calls. It browses the internet. It stores apps, and music, and photos, and video. It has a lovely camera, it packs a powerful processor and the screen is edge-to-edge. Perhaps the manufacturing costs and physical components really are that much more expensive?

The trouble is, the consumer doesn’t care – and nor should they. You don’t price a product based around what it’s worth to the manufacturer, you base it around what it’s worth to yourself. Looking back through the groundbreaking phones of the past, and then looking at the iPhone X, I’m just not sure it can substantiate a £1,000 asking price all on its own. What do you think?

Comments
Member

No-one ‘needs’ to buy a iPhone X, just like no-one ‘needs’ to buy a Lamborghini, but there’ll be enough demand to justify the price tag. The ridiculous cost makes it more of a luxury item than its predecessors. All the Hollywood celebrities will buy one, and that will make all the millennials of the Instagram generation want one too.

Member

i wont

Member
Patrick Taylor says:
14 September 2017

Could you, even? Believe it.

Useful to see the historic costs brought up-to-date. The article makes one realise how Apple marketing hype works to make the 8 look like a bargain when it is released to those aspirationally weak-minded.

Which? subscribers [mostly] perhaps being interested in value will be less fertile ground than most.

Member

Chinese wages have increased by an order of magnitude since 1999, working conditions have improved greatly, and Chinese manufacturers are in a better negotiating position.

Lots of things cost quite a lot more in real terms in the west than they did in the 90s, for these reasons and many others. There’s constant complaint in, for example, the board gaming community, that manufacturers are ripping consumers off. In fact, the price of cardboard has gone up massively and Chinese factories cost more than they did.

I’m not sure it’s entirely a bad thing.

Addressing the relative value-for-money argument, the original iPhone was great but you certainly wouldn’t want to use it as your main email device. You couldn’t run word processors and photo editing software on it. You couldn’t take a beautiful professional photograph or video of a moment with your child, on a day when you’d forgotten your camera. You couldn’t send those images to your child’s grandparents in seconds.

To me the X probably is worth three times more in real terms than the original iPhone.

For the price of the original iPhone, you can buy an SE, which is astonishingly superior to the original on every axis.

Member
DARREN PARLOUR says:
14 September 2017

It could have a 2k price tag and still sell out

Member

The interesting issue is how we regard the iPhone in question. Essentially, you’re buying a small computer – not simply a ‘phone and a computer, it should be said, with significantly greater processing power than its predecessors.

Now, I don’t want one, despite being a loyal Apple advocate, mainly because we have no mobile signals whatsoever and also because neither of us work anywhere outside of the house, so we have all the computing power we need at our fingertips. But Apple is adept at creating products that fulfil needs people weren’t aware they had. So I suspect the market will decide whether this is a valuable tool for the travelling professional or simply a status gadget for pulling out at night clubs. Will be interesting to see which.

Member

I agree there is no earth shattering step-change in the iPhone X (particularly for the average user) and I’m not sure it has the potential to give us something we don’t know we want? – but like it or not, I’m sure we’ll see the queues of people waiting to buy on the release date. As most users buy their iPhone on contract then the £1000 price tag becomes £42 per month over 2 years – £12 more than I pay for my iPhone 7. Sad to say but I’ll probably be in that queue!

Member

I might go for a cheaper model in due course but for the time being I’m happy with my three and a half year old iPhone at present. It’s disappointing that the iPhone X does not have a replaceable memory card.

As Ian says, a smartphone is a powerful small computer and many people use their phones more than anything else they own, so maybe buying a good one (of any brand) does make sense. It’s peanuts compared with buying an expensive car that will depreciate to 60% of its cost with breathtaking speed.

Member
bishbut says:
14 September 2017

It will sell too many people have more money than sense isn’t that true

Member

Its true Bishbut –and another short but excellent post.

Member
bishbut says:
15 September 2017

Smartphones are not phones now but mini computers ! That what people buy them for the other things they do not to use as a phone just so they can make contact with others when on the move A new name for them please without “phone” in it They want to make use of a computer everywhere they are or go anytime day or night but cannot be bothered with anything larger

Member

Yes Bishbut —-and when the power is turned off ?? As it will be in any crisis ? In the future we will no longer have control over anything , we will be powerless automatons completely in the hands of Big Government (USA ) . Only those living in rural ,isolated country areas with their own supplies of food, fish, running water , use of natural resources of power generation will be left to “give the finger ” to those in control of us , all others will rush to their GP for “pills ” as they cant cope.

Member

Actually, compared to the last “mini computer” that I bought at work, £1000 for an iPhone is nice and cheap.

All in all, my microvax cost £34K, including its terminals and laser printer.

Member

If its over £9.99 I simply do not want to know

Member

When is a phone not a phone? When it’s all singing and dancing with digital bells on! Seriously ?? They can keep that phone because I’m likely to lose or break it and I just don’t NEED that phone…

Member

Well said Carol I am at present under constant pressure to take a smart-phone from my ISP.

Member
George says:
15 September 2017

Apple is all HYPE….
I would rather spend the £1000 on a High End Ultra High Definition /High Res Bluray player which has more WOW than any mere phone can possibly have.

Member

I don’t do phone contracts. I buy my phone outright. I would never spend £1,000 to buy one. I’ll continue to buy ‘almost as good’ smartphones at a much cheaper price.

Member

Overhyped overpriced junk,never been interested in owning an iPhone!I can afford one Ive just never had the desire to own one!the price is ridiculous,more like outrageous,but as I saw another guy here say,like with anything,somethings only worth as much as people will pay,and I suppose millions of (gullible idiots)can’t be wrong!

Member
Josephine Over says:
15 September 2017

Once again buyers in the UK are ripped off as this will sell for $1,000 nearer £700 in sterling.

Member

Well some did ask –do you REALLY want to know how much it costs manufacturers to BUILD a smartphone , and by the way the profit margin is approx 70 % more if its the top model . : https://www.techwalls.com/production-costs-of-smartphones/ Apple iPhone 6S Plus- production cost= $236–Retail price =$749 and what makes it worse ?? prices in the UK are always higher than the States.

Member

The answers are predictable…. didn’t need to read them