What do I need to give up for a $1,000 iPhone X?


Apple’s new iPhone X is the most advanced phone the company has ever built, but it’s also the most expensive.

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Starting at $1,000, £1,000 or AU$1,579 for the basic version, this freshly designed iPhone that’s packed with all kinds of new technology isn’t meant for the average consumer. It’s an exclusive product meant for a certain kind of customer. But is it really worth it?

In this edition of Ask Maggie, I offer my thoughts.

Dear Maggie,

I am in the market for a new smartphone and I am absolutely lusting after the new iPhone X. I don’t have another phone to trade in since I’m giving my current iPhone to one of my kids. But $1,000 seems like a lot of money to spend. Is it really worth it?

Thanks,

Tempted but cheap

Dear Tempted,

I hear you. But to be clear, it’s unlikely you’d get the 64GB version of the device, which costs $999. Instead, if you’re spending that kind of cash on a super high-end phone, you’ll want the 256GB version for $1,149 (that’s £1,149 in the UK and AU$1,829 in Australia).

As my colleague Roger Cheng put it, “Buying the 64GB iPhone X is like buying a Porsche with half a fuel tank: It looks good, but you’re not going too far.”

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Apple’s iPhone X is its most advanced phone to date. And its most expensive.


James Martin/CNET

I agree. If you’re going to drop that kind of dough on a new phone, why not spend the additional $150 for four times more storage?

But now we’re just splitting hairs. The real question is whether you think it’s worth spending $1,000 to $1,149 on a device that most Americans get rid of after a couple of years.

For one, you have to determine if you can actually afford to spend that much money on a new phone when you can easily get the same basic functionality in a device for a third of the price tag. (The iPhone SE now costs $349, £349 and AU$549. You can get a cheaper Android phone, like a Moto G5 Plus, for even less.)

For the sake of argument, let’s say you can afford it without forgoing your mortgage payment or food for your kids. The next question comes down to whether you’re willing to spend that much on a phone that you will use every day, but will likely replace within a couple of years.

The price of luxury

There’s no question that the iPhone X offers more features, a newer design and more cutting-edge technology than less expensive phones.

Aside from its looks, the display is noticeably better than other iPhones. And there are loads of other premium features, including wireless charging, an improved dual-lens camera system, a faster processor, better battery life and a new facial recognition feature for unlocking the device and Apple Pay.

Keep in mind that the iPhone X isn’t a device for the masses. It’s a luxury item. And like other luxury models of utilitarian products, like watches or cars, you have to think about how much you’re willing to spend for style, comfort and functionality. For instance, some people will spend $10,000 or more on a Rolex while others will spend $50 for a Swatch watch. They both tell time.

But of course, owning a luxury product says something about the owner and what he or she values.

I’m not really sure I can justify the hefty price tag. I’m just a bit more practical. To give you an idea of my lifestyle, I don’t own a Rolex or any expensive piece of jewelry other than my engagement ring. I proudly sport a Swatch watch. I drive a Honda Odyssey. And my personal cell phone at the moment is a year-old Moto G, purchased unlocked on Amazon for $229 in the US.

I’ll admit that I do get phone envy from time to time, especially when it comes to camera quality. But is it enough for me to spend $1,149? I’m not sure I can stomach that.


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Adjusting my lifestyle

To justify that kind of expense, I’d have to find a way to cut something out of my budget. Here’s a look at what I’d have to give up and for how long to justify the cost of a 256GB iPhone X.

  • Stop drinking my daily Starbucks latte for 274 days.
  • Unsubscribe to HBO Now for the next six years. (“Game of Thrones” is almost over anyway, right?)
  • Give up my family’s gym membership at a fancy sports club for four months.
  • Forgo music lessons for my kids for the next eight months. (Piano lessons are so passe.)
  • Stop coloring my hair for the next year. (Yikes! I don’t think anyone wants to see that.)
  • If my husband wants a new fancy iPhone X, too, I guess we could give up our family vacation next year.

Ugh. That just seems unrealistic and sad.

Budget shmudget

Some people might say that a new premium phone is worth the splurge. After all, it’s a device you use every day.  It’s arguably the most personal possession you own. You use it to capture intimate family moments. It knows your schedule and tracks your whereabouts. And in comparison, it’s really not that much more than many other products you’ve likely come to depend on in your home, like a nice laptop or big screen TV. Even a super nice Bosch dishwasher can run you almost as much as the new iPhone X.

But here’s the thing, these other premium products and even the luxury items I talked about above will last you much longer than your typical phone. A Rolex, for instance, can be thought of as a family heirloom, meant to be passed down to the next generation. It actually goes up in value.

That fancy Bosch dishwasher? It should last on average about seven to 12 years. A 65-inch flat screen TV won’t be replaced for at least seven years on average. Even your $1,300 (£1,249, AU$1,900) Apple Macbook will last you three to five years. By comparison, most American consumers keep their phones only 18 months to two years.

The bottom line

Of course, you could think of your iPhone X as an investment. Apple products have historically held their resale value well, allowing you to trade in an old device to defray the cost of a new one. And there’s always the option to lease or finance a device, which might alleviate the immediate sticker shock.

But for me, I think I’ll pass on the iPhone X for now. I’ve got kids to put through college.

Ask Maggie is an advice column that answers readers’ wireless and broadband questions. If you have a question, I’d love to hear from you. Please send me an email at maggie dot reardon at cbs dot com. And please put “Ask Maggie” in the subject header. You can also follow me on Facebook on my Ask Maggie page.

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