/ 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
toffe says:
8 December 2017

yes, and probably even faster than at 1k. Its the beginning of the end for iphone era, which has lasted surpisingly long. With Nokia there was Vertu, now there is iPhone X. There will be a few more, but when they start talking about sapphire glass and precious metals, then you know they have run out of ideas.

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.