In 2017, Mobile Phones Aren't Exciting Enough To Cost $1800

Remember 2009?

Remember when every house party was 10 drunk-ass dudes, brand new iPhones in hand, swinging that goddamn lightsabre app, breaking lampshades and spilling beers.




Remember that? I certainly do. I was one of those idiots.


I was also the guy hysterically telling everyone they should be playing Doodle Jump. Or Flight Control. The guy playing ten games of Words With Friends simultaneously.

I was the guy pulling out my phone every other day to say, “hey have you seen this new app?”

When was the last time you pulled out your phone to show someone a new app?

When was the last time you pulled out your phone to show someone anything?

Yesterday Apple announced the iPhone X. The iPhone X is going to cost over $1800 in this country. Call me crazy, but that seems excessive. I could buy a fully specced gaming PC for that. I could buy a quality 70 inch television for that. A brand new laptop. A second-hand car. A 55 gallon can of lube.

A lot of moolah.

Times have changed. I have no doubt there’ll be people lining up to pay bucket loads for the iPhone X at launch, but I suspect there’ll be less of them, especially in Australia. $1800 is a big number. Enthusiasts will be there, and I get it. I spend $500 dollars a year on rock climbing shoes. Probably about $3,500 on lunch. People buy what brings them enjoyment in life. If that’s a sparkly new phone that recognises your face and animates poop emojis more power to you.

But I have sensed a long-term switch in how I (and others) think about mobile phones.

Once upon a time I cared about the phone I used. I really cared. My phone wasn’t a device that made calls or received text messages -- it was a device that sparked my imagination, a portal to the future. Phones were something to get excited about, so I was happy to pay a premium.

Now I have an Oppo.

I have an old crusty Oppo.

I am the Managing Editor of Gizmodo Australia and the phone I use every day is an Oppo.

Phones aren’t interesting anymore.

I’m about five years removed from being the guy at the house party busting out his phone to show his friends a new app that’ll ‘blow your mind’. Five years removed from checking the App Store each day to find the brand-new software that will literally change the way I live. The disruption is done, the dust has settled.

Here’s a list of the things I use my phone for.

1. Listening to music

2. Listening to podcasts

3. Watching video

4. Checking social media

5. Taking photos

6. Occasionally playing games

7. Searching for answers to random questions

8. As a GPS in my car

9. Messaging (Text/What’s App/Facebook/Whatever)

10. Phonecalls… I guess

That’s a decent sized list and that makes sense. Phones are now inseparable from daily existence. They are intertwined in the fabric of our lives. But this list -- my list -- hasn't changed or evolved in the last three (maybe even five) years. For the last five years I've been using my phone to these normal, everyday banal things. No amount of innovation, increased resolution or processor power has changed what I do with my mobile phone on a daily basis.

Maybe this is it?

Mobile phones have become invisible. Mobile Phones are vacuum cleaners, dishwashers, washing machines. Devices so common, so saturated that we take them for granted. Phones are the things that let us do the things we’ve always done. Phones aren't driving change. Phones aren't transformative devices. They’re just… there. Like they’ve always been there.

And they all do the same thing. There’s no point of difference. The difference between my Oppo and the iPhone X is the stuff of indulgence. A face scanner that probably doesn’t work that well. Resolution my shitty old eyes can barely register. Window dressing. I can’t justify the extra $1000 for window dressing.

I need something that inspires me.

I won’t be buying the iPhone X, but I am considering buying a Tesla Model 3. A $55,000 car that I probably can’t afford but absolutely want because it’s part of a life-shifting paradigm with the potential to actually change the world.

Like the original iPhone did.

I want something like that. But in 2017, is that possible? What does that shift even look like?

Phones are no longer life-changing. So my little Oppo -- my Oppo that lets me listen to my podcasts, make my phonecalls and compulsively scroll through Facebook -- that’ll do for now. That'll do.

Until mobile phones do something worth paying $1800 for again.



    $1800 for a f$%^ing phone? What??? Oh dear!

      We paid almost exactly that money for a Motorola StarTac flip-phone in 1996, so yeah, phones can cost that much.

    Oppo is a good brand of phone. Don't be ashamed if it is "old and crusty."


        How much did it cost?

        I just want something for podcasts and music and maps in the car, when my 5S dies, I was thinking about getting an ipod and a candybar style non-smart phone, but the maps I use all the time.

          I loved my 5s, but have been rocking the iPhone SE since that died. Must admit I can't recall the price, but it'll be my go-to phone purchase for the foreseeable future.

      That's true. Call me set in my ways but I got me a R7 a little over 2 years ago (shortly before Dick Smith tanked) and one of the main features I liked is the UI resembled iOS 6, the last good OS for the iPhone before Apple completely lost the plot.

      Currently on a LG V20 now. Long story short, I grabbed it as they were clearing the old stock out after my R7 died without warning on me. Looks like the internal storage perished given the random behavior and inability to boot it.

      The other reason I'm on a V20 is I could not find an Oppo with 4G+3G combination. Despite the 2G network being switched off, many dual sim phones still use a (4G/3G)+2G combination, the secondary being on 2G.

      The V20 is a great phone (so far) but the other feature I really miss is the VOOC charger where my phone will be fully charged in less than an hour.

      As for my current R7. It's out of warranty but if the repairs are cheap I'll just have it mended and give it to my mother. She's in need of a new phone.

        Xiaomi have 3G/4G and for a fraction of the price. Dual user as well.

    I completely relate to this story ...right down to the OPPO...mines an R7plus.

    It's thin enough, big screen, simple, pretty, edge to edge screen, small upper n lower chins and it works simply, consistently and without drama day after day - it also bounces wonderfully.

    I do a lot on it and i does everything - and for under $500 AU bucks.

      I think people forget Apple also have less expensive phone, like the SE that you can get for under $500 that run the latest apps and iOS, the X is just the flagship model, like an Nvidia TitanX

        I think Apple intentionally under-advertises the SE so they can push their other models.

        Were it not for the train wreak that is iOS now, I'd get one myself.

        And before anyone starts, Android is no better being an unethical clone from the get go. It's only leading now because Apple tried (and failed) to litigate Android out of existence when it should have beaten Android at its own game.

          ios train wreck?

          I've got a 7 plus and a Samsung S8+ (for mobile app testing). To me ios feels a lot more polished than what Samsung is running.

            Sorry. I meant to say that iOS is not as good as it was back in iOS 6.

            iOS 7 itself is a real fiasco. They weren't innovating when the completely changed the UI. They changed the UI because they fired the guy that drew the UI when he refused to take the blame for the poor Maps app they added to replace the Google version.

            Aside from the UI, I just don't feel it is as fast, smooth and as refined as its predecessors were.

            But that's just me. When it comes to Macs I still have some using Snow Leopard because I don't think any of the newer versions are as stable but this alone shows how picky I am.

              Fair enough, I'm running ios10 on the 7plus and it feels pretty seamless.

              I had a HTC m8 back when they first came out and it suited my needs for 6 months before I ditched it. I always felt there was a slight disconnect with the swiping and all that, but it was "good enough". I just picked up the s8+ and it's certainly much much better, but there's still something about it that doesn't feel as polished as ios. We're really talking semantics though because if I had only ever used an Android I'd be looking at it saying "what do you mean, this works perfectly". But being such a heavy Iphone user there is definitely something that ios is doing to make things "feel better".

    surely you use apps to order things like takeaway or ebay or amazon.I have a windows phone so i have no idea how people use apps. I frustratingly love it and dont want to part with it when it eventually dies.

      I knew there must be a fellow WinPhan out there.
      Yep - I just replaced my Lumia 930 with a 950 ($399 from HN if you can find a store that still has old new stock). Does everything I need:
      - Send SMS/MMS
      - Messaging: FB Messenger, WhatsApp, WeChat
      - Social: FB, Twitter, Instagram
      - Casual gaming: Bubble Witch, Royal Revolt, Candy Crush
      - Read Gizmodo (via Edge)
      - Listen to music: Spotify, Groove
      - Watch video: YouTube (web/PerfectTube), Netflix, on a 1440x2560 564 ppi 5.2" AMOLED screen
      - Take photos: 20MP f/1.9 OIS camera with Ziess optics, RGB LED flash
      - Shoot video: Up to 1920x1080 at 60fps, or 3840x2160 at 30 fps
      - SatNav using the (mostly excellent) Windows Maps app
      - Ignore/delete emails (occasionally I can be bothered reading one or two)
      - Track/stalk my family using the (very excellent, but now unsupported) Life360 app
      - Unlock it using the Windows Hello iris scanner (it even works through my prescription sunglasses!)
      - Oh yeah, I occasionally make/receive phone calls on it too

        same, i loved my old lumia 920 and 930. awesome phones. and they had so many cool features that iphones are just getting now. like an always on clock, double tap to wake, wireless charging, OLED screen, smooth OS, gestures. then i went back to an iphone, and have to plug in my phone like a sucker everynight fumbling for the cord in the dark, and no always on clock to be able to glance at in the middle of the night.

    Apple generally provides products that match the shape of the upper half of the market. I'm sure they're not expecting everyone to move to iPhone X, it's just the highest point they think they can exploit. They then have products through to the middle and leave the bottom half to other manufacturers. They'll probably succeed again despite it feeling a little crazy.

      Yeah good comment. I think you're absolutely right.

      Even so I'd say their main market is the middle; the tech illiterate and the image concious, mostly people who can't logically afford it but will buy it anyway using plans from networks.

        Why tech illiterate?

          because they will believe the iris sensor is new and never seen before or that prior to this phone, there was no place in the world for wireless charging or NFC

            You have evidence to back that up?

            In my experience, they want a good phone that works.
            If iPhones are too expensive, they go for Android phones.

            Also in my anecdotal experience, they regret that decision, and eventually return to the iPhone.

              If a person goes for a cheap android phone then yes, they'll regret it. That's why I say tech illiterate.
              If they can't afford a new iphone and they weren't tech illiterate then they'd get last year's model or the year before, or they'd get a top of the range Android that was last year's model. But no, they get a crappy phone instead and continue along their stupid way. :)

          What I mean is people who fall for marketing buzzwords and those who are unaware that the alternatives are just as good. Basically they know the brand name and want it.

        I think "image conscious" is the target demographic for the X. As the article says, there's nothing there to justify the price tag. The people who buy it won't be buying it because they need (or even want) any of the extra functionality it offers. They don't need or want an $1800 phone. What they want is to be SEEN with an $1800 phone. They want people around them to know that they can afford an $1800 phone.

        It's not about technology, it's about fashion and image. It's for people who will go and spend $500 on a pair of designer jeans instead of $100 on a pair of Levi's.

        And that's all fine - I think most of us who are fortunate enough to have a bit of disposable income probably have something very unnecessary that we spend that income on. Whether it's collecting expensive rare video games or sports memorabilia or nice cars or whatever. For some people it's expensive clothes and expensive accessories like $1800 phones.

          The trouble is that most of the people buying this won't be doing so with disposable income.
          In my experience they're all doing it on plans, whether they can afford it or not.

      Yeah, they have a big range of price points now, from the SE to the 7, the 8 and the X.

    Wow, have good 70" tellies really gotten that cheap?

    In your opinion.

      Of course it's his opinion. This is an editorial piece, no?

    Yep, totally agree. I stopped buying top end phones a couple of years ago since the price doesn't justify what I use it for. I'm not a 20 something so I don't give a flying f%$k about the status of having the latest/bestest, I pretty much use mine for the same purposes as you listed, with virtually no gaming.

    @markserrels finally a tech journalist that makes sense. I have been saying exactly what you so well described in this article for years. Hopefully the rest of the tech world can look at these phone launches and understand what is actually being delivered. A rectangular slab of material with a screen that can message and call people and perform basic computer functions. If there was no social media i wonder how many people would actually be walking around with the thing stuck to their eyeballs.

      It's not just social media, but I get your point. These are just pieces of hardware. In and of themselves, they can provide very little, it's the software that's the selling point more than anything else.

    This article speaks to me so much. I've been feeling the smart phone drag for a while, and cannot see myself "upgrading" any time soon. Personally, I think that the 2 year cycle is too short, and we are likely headed into a five year cycle for smart phones, just like desktop PCs. The enthusiast will upgrade more often, but most people will keep the same device for quite a bit longer.

    Heck, the smart watch had a brief stent that consumed the consumer conscious for a while, but saturated the market so quickly that most hardware manufacturers were left stumped. It's just taken a lot longer for smart phones to get there since their complexity is of a magnitude higher.

    Truth be told, I think it's going to take the advent of truly immersive augmented reality to bring about the second mobile revolution. Until we can have a proper "cool" pair of shades that also act as AR devices, I don't think we will be feeling the rush of mobile computing like we did in the early days of the pocket pc and iphone.

    I actually love my $150 Motorola Moto C Android smartphone with Android Nougat. But $1800 just for a new smartphone like the iPhone 8 and iPhone X don't think so.

    Repping a redmi note 3 here, ~$300 phone that does everything a flagship will do. Even has an IR blaster for when I cbf looking for the remote.

      My LG G4 had/has an IR blaster - that is the one thing I miss the most. I suppose in some cases it has become a little redundant as newer TVs get HDMI-CEC. But then you need to get new TV. Waste of money, me thinks!

    Oh my god, thank you for this! I just had this argument with my whole team from work over dinner yesterday, and I cant get over how sheepish the world has become when it comes to iPhones. I am not gonna be that guy that goes around saying iPones are sh**, but truth is, the iPhone X has nothing we did not see from Xiaomi last year. The Mi Mix 2 is likely going to be better, but we wont notice because we are all slaves to the cult of apple. until someone goes back and does the asus transformer idea the right way, there is nothing in the phone market to justify the iphone or the note 8...but hey, what do I know...

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