Thursday, February 13, 2020 [Tweets] [Favorites]

How Important Our Phones Are

John Gruber:

Yes, phones that cost $1,000 or more are expensive. Yes, that’s outside the budget for most people. But why in the world would anyone argue this is ”hard to justify”? Phones are, for most people, the most-used computing device in their lives.

[…]

There are way more people on the planet who’d rather have a $1,400 phone and a $400 laptop than the other way around.

Phones are too important to be limited to software approved and sold by their platform vendor.

11 Comments

Most users in the US can’t even justify that price as they do not cross geos and have SIM wallets.

“Outside budget” for... twitter? ...facebook?

What docs are being stored on these devices? Huge multi-page PDFs on devices with a 6” screen? Or less?

The point really is that Apple and Google “appstore” “reviewers” haven’t been good stewards of their platforms, and they NEVER should have gotten into the politics game. They now preside over over-priced, extremely limited in use but very shiny “dumb terminals” and until Tim Cook has to cry over not having a bonus that’s not going to change.

I currently use an iPhone 6s Plus. I haven't been able to justify upgrading it. Is it way better than the "free" flip phone I got with contract before I got iPhones? Absolutely! $750 was a lot of money, but I think it was worth it, especially as I'm going on Year 4 of using it. Is a new $1100 phone $1100 better than my existing phone? So far that answer for me has been no. I know lots of people love to upgrade every year, at the price of ~30 a month i think, and always have a new phone. For some people that is worth it. I'm still happy with my 6S plus though, and will probably use it for a few more years.

My old clamshell dumbphone is dying a slow death, so I'll probably need a smartphone soon. But no way I'm paying that much money for an iPhone. With Macs I always buy the top model, maxed out, but I'm not willing to throw away €1,400 or more for a device I have virtually no control over. So it'll just be the upcoming SE2, maybe an Apple Watch in the fall, but as for smartphones, I'm leaning toward the Librem 5, as soon as the mk2 comes out. (Maybe in 2021?) If Apple gave us root & admin on iOS, e.g. as special boot settings, with control as on macOS, I'd be willing to give them a lot of money for the top model.

IMO, phones being important is an argument that they should be *less* expensive, not more.

Also completely agree regarding software control. This is a really important point, thanks for making it.

@Moonlight I think it’s an argument that they should be available at a range of price points to meet different needs and budgets. Presumably, with the SE 2, iPhone will have that.

Some people will spend money on high fidelity sound equipment, fancy cameras, well tailored suits, Manolo Blahniks or granite countertops. Not everyone prioritizes internal transparency. In fact, many people pay good money to avoid having to look inside. That was a big selling point for Rolls Royce. Similarly, Apple sells to people who really don't want to have to look under the hood any more than they have to. They really don't care if it is hard to put in custom spark plugs. They can't even imagine a situation where they might want custom spark plugs. I like to tinker, so I play with Arduinos and Raspberries Pi. I could, assuming I ever wanted to, pop the cap off the processor chip and hand wire a new instruction set, but I'll be damned if I do that with any machine I use to get anything serious done.

P.S. If you have to walk any serious distance in high heels, go for Blahniks. Seriously. They're like iPhones, worth the premium.

Gruber's gripe is that Fowler said that > $1,000 phones are a luxury.

And then he says,

"the fact that top-of-the-line phones have reached these price points does not negate the fact that truly excellent phones are available at much lower prices."

Fowler couldn't have said it better himself.

Sören Nils Kuklau

>I think it’s an argument that they should be available at a range of price points to meet different needs and budgets.

Precisely.

If Fowler is worried that the existence of high-end phones will drive prices up, I don't think that's what's happening. If anything, it's an indicator of the opposite: where Samsung once ruled many price points, they've lost some ground against Huawei and Xiaomi on the low-end and mid range (see in particular their issues in China: https://daringfireball.net/linked/2019/10/03/samsung-china), so they're looking at growth opportunities at the high end. It doesn't negate the existence of Huawei, Xiaomi and others.

I wish it had more viable software platforms (like webOS, Sailfish, Windows Phone), but hardware-wise, we have a rather healthy market with many price points.

>Fowler couldn't have said it better himself.

Well, I kind of hope he _could_ have.

@Michael Yes, that's a better way of thinking about it. I really hope the SE 2 fits into that category. I have friends who are hanging on to their extremely old iPhones because the new ones are too big and/or too expensive. Very frustrating that such a product is not a more regular occurrence.

Drunken Dogcow

> Phones are too important to be limited to software approved and sold by their platform vendor.

This point finally bothered me enough that I switched to a $270 Android phone a few months ago (which I promptly installed LineageOS on to lessen my exposure to Google's privacy invasions). I actually consider my phone to be considerably _less_ important to me than my desktop workstation, but I nonetheless greatly value having control over my phone hardware without a multi-billion corporate overlord dictating what I can and can't do with it.

According to the US Bureau of Labor, the average American made $67,241 after taxes (the mean) in 2018. Something that is 1/67 (or more!) of your annual budget is a pretty big expenditure, even worse when you figure the average cell phone bill is at least $60/month (Numbers from the BLS report on income shows about $99/month per person, but that likely includes cell phone payments for most consumers, so I subtracted out $40).

John Gruber makes an excellent point when he says:

"And, the fact that top-of-the-line phones have reached these price points does not negate the fact that truly excellent phones are available at much lower prices."

Very, very, very astute point there, never mind you will be hard pressed to find truly inexpensive phones from Apple. I have six phones and combined they were under $1000 with taxes. Three were $200ish each, one was $60ish, one was $90ish, and another was $150ish. All were new when purchased, except the $90ish model, and all are smart phones. Yet, as @RawBob already commented, it rather contradicts Gruber's initial argument. I think quibbling with the fact these particular phones are a luxury is strange as they most certainly are, especially in light of the fact many excellent, cheaper models exist in the market. Not from Apple unfortunately, which of course prompted the price tag rebuttal from Gruber…

Ps While I think my computer is much more useful to my life and most serious work is completed upon it, I clearly use my phone non stop for communication. Both are important in my modern life, but I keep both budgets down. I have not purchased a computer for more than $400 in years. Recent ones have been generally just over $300 or just under. While my computer budget is higher than my phone budget, it is not much higher.

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