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I am not sure if I was suddenly without money, the iPhone would be what I would want to give up.

The utility of the device is incredible: Mapping. Phone. Internet. Email. Alarm Clock. Calendaring. Photography.

If anything we should work to get smart phones in the hands of the poor. It would be a great way to improve their lives for a somewhat modest cost. I am not sure it is all for looks. Maybe we could quibble about whether they should have an iPhone or some cheaper smartphone. I am just saying, it could be more for utility than image.

>I am not sure if I was suddenly without money, the iPhone would be what I would want to give up.

If you have an iPhone and then become poor, sure. You probably won't get ahead much by getting rid of your iPhone. If you're already poor, then an iPhone (not a smartphone) is definitely a luxury.

There are capable smartphones for much cheaper then an iPhone that could get the job done. That's what GP was likely getting at.

>If anything we should work to get smart phones in the hands of the poor.

I am not aware of a socialized plan to put phone in the hands of poor people, but they are getting increasingly cheaper. You can get Samsung Galaxy line (not the flagship model) phones from cheap, prepaid carriers. Wi-Fi is becoming increasingly available, which makes the limited data plans not that bad of a drawback.

> If you're already poor, then an iPhone (not a smartphone) is definitely a luxury.

It's not wrong, nor necessarily economically irresponsible, for "poor" people to have a few nice things.

Assuming a lifespan of 3 years, the cost difference between a $600 phone and a $300 phone is barely more than $0.25 per day - and probably even less, considering that iPhones have a higher resale value.

Maybe that "poor person" carrying an iPhone just forgoes $0.25 or $0.50 of other niceties per day so they can afford that iPhone and those $100 shoes - or maybe they just work in a city, because you can literally find that much money on the ground every day if you keep your eyes peeled.

If a person routinely made such purchases, to the detriment of their well-being, certainly that could be a problem. But unless we know somebody's full financial picture we should not presume to make such a judgement.

I'm not sure if you have any perspective what being poor means.

This link : http://whatever.scalzi.com/2005/09/03/being-poor/

Seems quite appropriate and - I hope - illuminating.

I'm glad you posted that: everybody should read it and truly try to put themselves in those shoes.

I do not understand the fact that you seem to have posted it as a rebuttal to my post.

My post was meant as a criticism of another indignity that the poor often face: other peoples' (often baseless, and always condescending) criticisms of their financial decisions.

Their criticisms often carry the subtext that poor people are poor because they are wearing a $100 item of clothing or because they own a smartphone - in essence, those criticisms say that these people deserve to be poor and/or poor people don't deserve nice things.

I find such criticisms of poor people to be incredibly classist and devoid of empathy and my post was intended to address that. I don't know how my words could have been read otherwise.

Thanks for the clarification. I think it was mostly this statement :

  Assuming a lifespan of 3 years, the cost difference between a $600 phone and a $300 phone is barely more than $0.25 per day
that triggered my response. Rereading it: you're right. I'm still glad to have posted the link :)

What really riles me up is that a lot of people have no clue how expensive it actually is to be poor and how hard is it to break the vicious circle. That's in addition that a lot of poor people work equally hard as the rest of us.

I see what you mean. And you're right: not everybody has an extra $0.25/day or $1.75/week for a nicer phone. $1.75/week for some people is the difference between having oatmeal for breakfast and not having breakfast.

That is an excellent, excellent link. And this:

> What really riles me up is that a lot of people have no clue how expensive it actually is to be poor

Yes! This is the one thing I wish everybody could understand about being poor. Not only do you have less money, almost everything is more expensive.

"Simple" things like buying food when it's on sale and freezing it for later aren't possible if you don't have a second freezer, or even a first freezer, or if you're in danger of having your power turned off, or if you live in a terrible apartment where the power goes off for reasons not even in your control.

Heck, a lot of people can't even clip supermarket coupons because they don't have access to a supermarket. (For anybody scratching their heads at this, Google "food desert")

Or another great example:

Cost of a $150,000 home if you're rich and don't need a mortgage: $150,000 (or $0 in the long run, because you can get that money back when you sell it)

Cost of a $150,000 home if you need a mortgage: $500,000+

(Not that the truly poor can even obtain mortgages, but it's a good illustration of how much cheaper things can get as you go further and further up the income scale)

That's a heart-wrenching list. I love Scalzi's SF, but didn't know that side of him. My parents were poor by any US standard. But basically, I was trained for the Cold War, so hey.

I do recall, however, a friend who was raising two kids on her own. With some horrible history of migration etc. She did indeed know the cost of everything. And budgeted carefully, down to the penny.

It's nice that Scalzi "made it" and turned his writing into a successful career.

I really like his blog (sorry John, I guess I'm one of your freeloaders; that's because I'm just not that much into SF)

He seems to be a really decent guy and shows an ability, which is sorely missed nowadays:

Comon Sense.

I guess a should have clarified: flagship phones of any major manufacturer can last many years past a carrier's upgrade period with a little extra care from the user. Continuous upgrading to the latest flagship phone is a luxury, but owning one is not necessarily a luxury in its own right.

I try not to make judgments about anyone's spending habits unless it's affecting me.

One of my biggest issues online is forgetting that subtext is easily missed. In cases where it is missed, it can be minutes or hours before you have a chance to rectify it. Sorry about that, and thanks for the criticism.

I think people criticise these financial decisions because they feel their tax money is going to people who can afford things they either can't or have to work harder for. They might be failing to see the bigger picture, but I think it's reasonable to at least look at peoples' financial decisions if they are receiving handouts.

I find it quite annoying when people equate owning a smartphone to not being poor. Phones are regularly sold on 18 month contracts, so there are tons of 2 year old perfectly usable smartphones kicking around and probably given to the ex-owners poorer friends.

That's being poor in the first world. Being poor in the 3rd world is entirely different.

I guess that is relevant here since Apple is a company that makes products for first world only.

That's a good perspective for those of us living comfortable middle-class lives in the developed world currently.

But having seen the other side of the coin in the not-so-developed world, I'm sure the author could (and should) add the words "in America" to that essay's title. Being poor elsewhere is far far worse than what he describes here.

I don't think the OP's criticism is on the "poor person", but rather on the fact that Apple's business model and marketing scheme is premised on a false need to buy some new "revolutionary" iThing which actually offers little or no functional benefit over a perfectly fine older PC or less-powerful android.

> It's not wrong, nor necessarily economically irresponsible, for "poor" people to have a few nice things.

I strongly agree with this, but if someone does choose to buy an iPhone they should know it's a luxury. It bothers me that Apple doesn't acknowledge this.

I don't want to totally let producers of consumer goods off the hook here: they are certainly not blameless when it comes to the unhealthy consumer culture we have, and Schiller's comment was tone deaf IMHO.

But generally I feel it's appropriate for companies to tell us how awesome their products are; it's up to us to recognize which things are necessities and which are luxuries.

Other responses disagree with you, but I agree with you... and I'm rather anti-consumerist (it's difficult to pull off completely...).

In fact, I feel a bit silly having paid "only" $300 for my Samsung phone, having read your economic breakdown. I was imagining myself having an extra $200 for stuff... but I go through a lot of wasted time having "only" 16GB.. continuously moving stuff off of it... missed photos and videos I could have taken. Perhaps the pix didn't have economic value worth $200 over 3 years, but the time is probably worth it.

I've also heard the perspective on the poor that if they have to be poor, it helps to have at least one nice thing. the nice thing of choice is the phone.

The real question is, imho, how to leverage these choices to get what helps an individual. e.g. use the phone to get jobs, to shop around for the best price, to buy used things on craigslist to save money, to watch inspiring and encouraging videos, to learn new skills to get better jobs, etc.

I really appreciate your reply!

Yeah, sometimes (not always) the more expensive option is actually cheaper in the long run, or is at least a justifiable cost. Looking at the $/day or $/hour cost over the lifespan of a product is one way to get a better understanding of the "real" cost.

The danger is that it can be easy to justify too many of those "well, it's only $0.10 a day!" purchases because they can really add up.

(In fact, car salesmen will often try to sell you upgrades in a similar way. "Well, upgrading to the leather seats will only add $25 to your monthly payments...")

The reason I decided to go cheap with smartphone is because I bought a Samsung Galaxy Note 2 with the intention of using it for at least 5 years but the utter piece of junk broke stone cold dead after 2 years and 3 months. I basically got robbed for half the value of the phone because of the attitude that old hardware is bad (read unprofitable) hardware and therefore we don't build stuff to last anymore. Same with the iPhone before it but in Apples case their revolutionary new iOS update made my phone basically unusable. So I voted with my wallet and went for a mid range Android option for $250.

I bought an iPhone 3GS in 2009, that's 6 and a half years ago and my daughter now uses it at school. It even still connects to the App Store. Other than a cracked screen it works fine. Battery life isn't great, but it gets her through the school day.

These things have incredible lifetimes and also keep their resale value very well. So in terms of value, I'm not convinced that iPhones are a frivolous luxury. In my experience they're a reliable long term investment.

Is that relevant to low wage earners? I think so. If iPhones stopped getting software updates 12 months (or less) after launch and ended up in a junk drawer soon after, I don't think they'd sell nearly so well in any demographic range.

To add some real-world numbers: The resale value has dropped about £100 per year for the entire line-up ever since launch. So if I can buy a second-hand used model at a price that I can currently afford, and re-sell it in a year's time for £100 less, and buy the next model. Meanwhile, I have had the best (if not the fastest) computer money can buy, with the latest operating system. For £1.91/week, the price of a bus fare or a cheap meal.

I can go up or down a model at any given time, as the hardware behaves as a commodity, and there is little penalty for trading, both price-wise, and restoring the settings and contents of the device. It is a good store of value, with the only cost of ownership the steady depreciation. And if you can buy below market and sell above market, extracting value from folks who are not as thrifty as you are, you can drive the cost even lower, or possibly even make a profit.

I have bought a "4" in spring 2011 (£350, sold for £40; 1 × battery replacement £10, 1 × screen & button replacement for free from a friend's junker), and a "5S" last year (£230, current re-sale value £170+). The actual cost over the five years has been £1.50/week, £79/year).

I still have an iPad 1 and I have the opposite feeling. Many websites kill the browser and I can't install another one. I'm gradually running out of use cases (browsing the web in a comfortable position is my main use case) and the device hardware itself is in perfect shape.

I also bought the iPad 1 and was similarly burned. The iPad 2 however has had tremendous longevity. I think the iPad 1 came out just one generation too early.

Define "longevity"? I'm typing this on an iPad 3 running iOS 9 and it's definitely showing its age. The hardware is in perfect condition but it struggles to render many web pages and the wifi (although better than on iOS 6-8) is hideously slow compared to my midrange Android phone.

The iPad 2 was sold side-by-side the iPad 3, 4 and iPad Air in Apple's stores. The iPad Mini also is essentially an iPad 2 in a smaller form factor as well.

So if you had gotten an iPad 2 on day 1, I feel like you would have had a reasonably long life on the device.

Your case with the iPad 3 is a little unique. It was the first device with a retina screen and was arguably underpowered for that task. This is why apple replaced the iPad 3 with the iPad 4 just 6 months later in the same year.

The iPad 1 and the iPad 3 are both underpowered for their typical workloads. The other iPads however have stood the test of time fairly well. My iPad Mini 1 (which is essentially an iPad 2) is a little slow, but serviceable and my wife's iPad 4 still works great.

Interesting, thanks for the history lesson! I got my iPad 3 at a discount when they were running out stock, and chose it specifically for the retina screen. It's done well, all things considered, but it definitely seems underpowered these days. Apps are fine but web browsing is quite clunky.

I basically stopped using my iPad2 a couple of years ago because it's too slow, interactively. I do leave a weather radar app running on it in the kitchen, just as a display. If I had to interact with it, it's painful.

I second you on this. My ipad one is perfect but websites are killing it. Reddit and Hcker News are working fine mbasic.facebook.com too but for other websites I expect a crash as soon as I touch the link. People talk about planned obsolescence but it's webdesigners that killed my Ipad1 not Apple.

You can install goodreader on it and use it for PDFs. The pandora app works ok (crashes once every couple days).

iPhones are still pretty poor value for money compared to cheap androids, as long as you can get reasonable pay-as-you-go contracts as well.

I'm not sure how that situation changes in the US, where there doesn't seem to be the same market for pay-as-you-go sims that is found in the rest of the world.

Most of the things my family used an original ipad for stopped working after a very short amount of time. It is now essentially garbage that I can't bring myself to throw away.

And my wife and I still use our iPad 2 without issue aside from the noticeable sluggishness switching apps or updating. Anecdotes!

Not sure what your point is. My point was that the original iPad was nearly unusable in less than 3 years. This is not an anecdote, it's a simple matter of fact.

The original iPad was launched in mid 2010. In September 2012 Apple released iOS 6, which didn't run on the original iPad. Shortly afterward, the apps we used all required a forced update to their iOS6 version (which of course didn't work) and it became a doorstop. YouTube lasted a little longer than most, but eventually it stopped working too.

It's quite possible that the iPad 2 you mention has had a longer life than the original iPad, but this in no way diminishes the fact that the original iPad, a not inexpensive piece of hardware was useless for most purposes after a little more than 2 years (assuming you bought it on release, which I did not).

That reminds me of my iPod Touch, bought in 2008 to help me decide whether I wanted to try a smartphone. The hardware's fine. Runs as well as it ever has. It's a paperweight because of the lack of software and the discontinuation of support for its hardware's video codecs (Youtube, Netflix, et al).

The first generation of any entirely new category of hardware is always a bit of a gamble.

"It is now essentially garbage that I can't bring myself to throw away."

I could have told you that before you bought it.

We've got an iPad 2 that is not useless, but much worse after upgrading to ios9. I still play Kingdom Rush games on it but its so slow now its too frustrating to use for internet browsing and other things.

I can't seem to find the link anymore but recently a tool was released which let me downgrade my iPad 2 back to iOS 6 and it's so much faster than it was on iOS 8. Obviously it's not an official Apple tool.

It's one of the reasons why I haven't upgraded my iPad 2 past iOS6.

It still streams Netflix great though, but the browser is starting to show its age - I can't load all webpages anymore. :(

Looks like I might need to pick up a new iPad..

"Looks like I might need to pick up a new iPad.."

That is insane. I can load all webpages on any laptop from 5 years ago. A browser doesn't become "slower". Even with bigger pages, they are still web pages, not 3D games.

It means the ipad itself is, for some reason, rendering itself slow. And you can't do anything about it because you can't hack it.

And your idea of the solution to the problem is to buy a new one ?

My god, somebody sell you a self-destructing product in order to force you to buy a new one, and you oblige ?

In the last 5 years, bloat on web pages has increased considerably. Tracking script counts on all pages has gone way up, and I very frequently will find that if I leave some web pages in a background tab, their memory usage will climb into the gigabytes, even for pages that are mostly just text! Since the ram on those older devices is not getting any bigger, of course web pages are going to get slower.

Yes, but it still web pages. Not meteo simulations. And I just tested in on an old asus with a dead battery and a broken screen. It's fine to surf on the web. Watch videos. Listen to music. You could do it 10 years ago already with even older computers. Your ipad is lying to you.

I know Kingdom Rush isn't exactly the latest high-end 3D thing, but I did a double-take at the notion that hardware that's fine for gaming is too slow for internet browsing.

obsoletion built into the product roadmap

And yet Apple devices have longer software support lifetimes than any Android devices and better resale values for a longer time. That hardly sounds like a set of characteristics you'd associate with products designed to become obsolete.

They are dependent on Apple for updates due to the code signing. Alternative operating systems also cannot be installed once Apple stops supporting them. That ensures obsolensce in the long term, even if it is longer term than their competitors' blob-ridden Android products.

Anyway, plenty of machines sold then and even today are junk, so maybe replacing them is not such a terrible idea. However, I think replacing the software matters more. Linux is an excellent option for these systems in the long term. If Apple made Mac OS X available for them, it would be too.

Is Android the right comparison? Because I don't think Android when I think about my barely useful iPad 2 (because Android tablets are tire fires), I think of the Pentium III Thinkpad that I use for distraction-free writing. They're both about as useful to me, and one is as old as a high school sophomore.

Realistically the early iPhones and iPads were an experiment. Nobody really knew what their useful lifetime would be. The same went for Android devices.

In fact the wisely received wisdom was that Android devices would have longer useful lifespans because open source leads to higher quality software that's maintained and updated for longer, which can be customized by users so it meets their needs better. The reality that many Android devices never see a single software update and are junked up with carrier crapware and poor device drivers hidden in binary blobs still hasn't sunk home for everyone yet.

Even now when I buy a new device I think about how useful it will be and what it's support will be like for 2 to 4 years. Beyond that, there's no way to tell. When my kid's original iPad Minis get replaced, if they still work I'll probably just use them as family photo and video galleries.

Cannot say the same for the iPhone 3G I had. Long gone.

I think most people when left to their own devices (heh) would prefer to purchase something that's more expensive to buy but less expensive to own, and in that vein I think the iPhone is much better value than an Android.

> There are capable smartphones for much cheaper then an iPhone that could get the job done. That's what GP was likely getting at.

True enough. And yet, if you yourself are not actually poor, you may not realize the value that a marginal luxury like an iPhone or Air Jordans or a top brand purse (sorry, I don't know what the hot brand of purses is atm) can bring to someone in that situation. Spending a few hundred dollars will not get them a better place to live or a better job or out of debt, but it can get them something that helps them appear less poor to the people around them, who can't see their bank balance or their house, but they can see what phone they are carrying around.

Poor people don't need to 'seem less poor'. They need to be less poor. And admitting you need to save is the first step to doing so. I wonder if this need to seem less poor so often is actually part of how some of them get poor; wasting money/effort trying to influence perception instead of spending it trying to change reality.

You're close, the poor in most cases have self-defeating money habits. Any time they get money, they spend it immediately on things that have a short term feel-good effect, because their life has so little of that otherwise. This might be junk food, cigarettes/booze/drugs, lottery tickets, restaurant meals, gadgets or other "bling" etc.

They rarely have a person in their life who models delayed gratification and saving behavior, let alone strategic investing, so they never see the benefit of doing that.


The singular defining quality of the poor is that they lack capital.

This makes everything about being poor more expensive.

They should read things like YNAB:


It is amazing how much money one has when one exercises restraint when spending it.

Budgets rapidly break down when you're regularly faced with unforeseen but necessary expenses that blow your cash reserves out of the water.

A lot of the problems of poverty is that once you get below a certain level, even if you are the most thrifty person around, you lose predictability in ways that end up costing you a lot of extra money.

Suddenly your employer pays you a day late and your carefully arranged bill payment schedule goes out the window and you get charged extra fees, or your car that you depend on to keep your job breaks down and you're forced into ridiculously high interest credit.

The purpose of trying to budget is to stop living from paycheck to paycheck. There might be some people for which this will not work, but the ones leasing new cars every few years (or signing overpriced contracts because of the "free" phone every two years) are not among them. I am sure that many people in such circumstances could find little things that could be cut if they looked (e.g. Cable TV, the landline phone, etcetera). Such things add up.

I have been applying such things to my parents' budget. Just the other day I heard from my mother that she no longer worries when unexpected medical expenses come up because she has found that the savings that my suggestions made more than paid for it. She gets TV for free OTA, replaced her expensive landline with free VoIP through Google Voice using an Obihai ATA, has lower electrical consumption (from various things, but the simplest being putting a lid on the frying pan to reduce evaporative heat loss, which is an efficiency improvement that allows food to cook faster), has a promotional rate for the newspaper she insists on having, has cell phone service that has no monthly fee (through ring plus), obtains heating oil at COD pricing, etcetera. Such things add to a four figure amount each year.

People leasing cars are not who I am talking about - they are not poor. If you are poor you don't get approved for credit to lease cars. At least my definition of poor draws the line well below that point.

I know of poor people in India who lack the ability to get jobs due to disabilities. They either have never had a job to be able to have a pay check or had jobs before they became disabled and are unlikely to see a pay check ever again. I know of a few instances of abject poverty in India through a priest I know. In one instance, the sole provider of a household developed a medical condition that rendered him unemployable. In another instance, people at a shelter for the physically and mentally disabled lack things like wheel chairs and bedding, with some of them just lying on the floor.

In both cases, I know people are sending money to help them. That is especially true in the case of that household in a poor village where the father is a disabled craftsman while the mother is completely uneducated. Enabling the children to study will give them the opportunity to work for a better life, which is an opportunity that their parents will never have.

Anyone who has a paycheck has the opportunity to obtain financial advice from sites like YNAB. Not all such people live as they would like, but being able to imagine something better puts them in a whole different category than actual poor people. They are able to make financial decisions and save for the purpose of making their lives better in the future. The truly poor lack such luxury.

I wonder on what basis you claim "the poor in most cases have self-defeating money habits", because your description doesn't fit for any people I've know with little money.

>They rarely have a person in their life who models delayed gratification and saving behavior, let alone strategic investing, so they never see the benefit of doing that.

I'm not really sure this is correct. If you have a source please do share it.

From what I've read, the reason they have difficulty saving isn't because they weren't taught to do so but because when you constantly have to no to things you want, you use up a lot of energy, or more specifically, glucose. This in turn makes you more impulsive and less rational.

For example see: https://www.psychologicalscience.org/media/releases/2010/wan...

That being the case, I don't really like the idea of labeling poor people as being poor because of their inability to save or their own foolishness. There have also been studies that show that living in poverty actually changes your brain and makes you less intelligent.

See: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/poverty-disturbs-c...

It's a self perpetuating cycle as far as I can tell

Seeming less poor is what measurably increases your quality of life in almost every social dimension. Given that social capital is the only capital most poor people have, it counts for a lot.

(As a chap who grew up poor.)

If you asked them, they would say that they definitely need to seem less poor. It brings a measure of status, easing their way through daily social affairs.

> "it can get them something that helps them appear less poor to the people around them"

I think it works the opposite -- if I see someone who I think is maybe poor, and they whip out the latest and greatest iPhone or are wearing $200 shoes or overpriced brand-name sunglasses, now I know they're poor. Because it's an obvious status symbol that's not in line with the rest of their lifestyle. Other poor people aren't stupid; they see right through it as well.

Whereas if I see someone who looks poor and they whip out an old Moto X and are wearing shoes from Payless, I assume they're comfortable with whatever economic/social status they have and don't need to try to signal. I view them as immediately more trustworthy and am more willing to cut them a deal, because I assume they're capable of long-term planning rather than impulsive spending.

This might not be 100% accurate, but I find it's a generally effective rule of thumb, and I think a lot of people use it to evaluate.

The same case could be made for the poor buying golden jewelry. I don't find it very convincing.

The same case could not be made, because gold is much less effective at signaling wealth. Gold plated jewelry is visually identical but much cheaper, so there's a "market for lemons" situation where the signaling value of solid gold drops to that of gold plated items. You can even get gold plated tungsten for the rare cases where weight matters. Fake iPhones are much more obvious.

This is really insightful. If anyone's getting hung up on 'not spending that money on groceries' try swapping 'iPhone' for "Suit you could wear to an interview".

Now do you think it's a waste of money? The function is very similar: an item that visually identifies you as part of some socioeconomic group.

The suit will get you a better paying job. How many of those buying expensive shoes are using them in a way that they are expected to pay off like the suit does? I'm not saying it is impossible, only that it doesn't apply in most cases.

At the expense of being more in debt, or worse, skipping a rent payment or a grocery run.

Skipping a rent payment or a grocery run might very well have much less impact on their lives.

In reply to pc86, yes, exactly. Do you believe everyone should make purely rational financial decisions, or only the poorest people in our society?

It's funny how people generally only make these criticisms of "poor" peoples' purchases.

You never hear people criticizing some middle-class guy for spending $27,000 on a Honda Accord instead of paying for a year of his kid's college education.

You do hear that, if you listen to the right people.

Admittedly, I hear that criticism of middle-class purchases quite a bit, among friends and family.

But when it comes to criticism of strangers, I just never hear it directed at the middle-class stranger in his Honda Accord. It's always directed at the lower-economic-class stranger and his $100 sneakers.

It buys them signaling. Why is that a good thing?

Because signalling affects how people treat you in every aspect of your life; everything from customer service to job prospects to your love life.

And we should be providing welfare to help people get better custom service and improve their love life? When we are talking about providing for people's needs, this wasn't part of the agreement. If we want to expand welfare, let's be upfront about it and decide what we expect in return for that welfare.

>I am not aware of a socialized plan to put phone in the hands of poor people

"Since 1985, the Lifeline program has provided a discount on phone service for qualifying low-income consumers... The Lifeline program is available to eligible low-income consumers in every state, territory, commonwealth, and on Tribal lands."[1]

[1] https://www.fcc.gov/general/lifeline-program-low-income-cons...

>If you're already poor, then an iPhone (not a smartphone) is definitely a luxury.

Depends where you get it. I've known some teens who have managed to pick up iPhones on the second hand market really cheap. There are enough people always wanting the shiniest new thing that more enterprising individuals can pick up a generation old iPhone for less than many cheaper Androids.

The luxury is being able to pay full price for a brand new device.

I think the real problem is that new updates to iphone software are not capable of being run on old iPhones. Thus, the older, yet still physically capable, phones are softly obsoleted.

There is no reason there shouldnt be a 3G, 4, 4S capable of owrking and in the hands of "the poor"

Why not a turn-in system where older yet still functioning phones are given to anyone who wants them.

I personally am guilty of not properly handling my old phones. I've had every single generation of the iPhone since the initial launch. I've broken 17 of them to date. I have no clue where the other 16 are now, aside from one.

I'd happily have contributed my old phones to some program where either poor or kids can have them freely.

> I'd happily have contributed my old phones to some program where either poor or kids can have them freely.

I asked a Roman Catholic priest I know to give my household's old iPhones to the poor during his trip to India last year. I had originally planned to sell them when I had a chance after upgrading myself and my parents, but I changed my mind when I heard he was going to visit his village in India where there are many poor people.

You could ask your local Roman Catholic parish if any of the priests plan to travel to poor places. They tend to be from all over the world, many are from poor places and they tend to visit family every year or so. They would definitely be able to give your phones to the poor.

Just make sure that the phones are unlocked, supports GSM internationally (if it is a US phone) and have a charging cable. In my case, I neglected to realize that the NEMA outlets used in the US are not typically used in India and included the US chargers. Compatible AC to USB chargers are cheap enough that it was not a big deal.

Also, models like the Virgin Mobile iPhone 4S whose baseband is programmed to only connect to US CDMA networks would only be useful for parts in many other countries. Phones that are locked to CDMA in the US, but support GSM when unlocked for international use, like the Sprint iPhone 5 will work fine, provided that they are unlocked before they are sent.

If it is a CDMA only phone that is not locked to the US, you could check to see if the country where the priest is going has a network compatible with it, although it is hard to find coverage maps for CDMA outside the US to know if those networks would actually be relevant:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_CDMA2000_networks http://www.memphissoftware.net/img/coverage1.jpg

Unfortunately named website, but: http://www.obamaphone.com/what-is-the-obama-phone

> I am not aware of a socialized plan to put phone in the hands of poor people


Google/Android has the Android One Program. https://www.android.com/one/

The problem with those cheap phones is that your private information will be mercilessly sucked into the Google cloud. Some of that is disguised as perfectly innocent and helpful features: contacts syncing, back-ups, connecting more easily to WiFis, etc.

The end result though is that your entire digital life will be on some Google server. Preventing this requires significant effort and technical expertise.

We got windows phones at work: the activation process is a comical list of "turn off this", "deactivate that", "say no to so and so" data sync policy. But, I guess you can in the end disable the thing.

iOS is probably the least bad in this respect. I won't say it's good or anything, but at least they show some respect towards customers.

The conclusion is that the poor will get abused either way, be it through price gouging or in more difficult to recognise ways.

> mercilessly sucked into the Google cloud.

Hyperbole much?

>Some of that is disguised as perfectly innocent and helpful features: contacts syncing, back-ups, connecting more easily to WiFis, etc.

Disguised? Um... That's how those features work.

Your personal information is a currency that you have to budget. Want timely weather information in your location? Guess what? You have to spend a little location currency to get that.

Edit to add:

> The conclusion is that the poor will get abused either way, be it through price gouging or in more difficult to recognise ways.

Why are you picking on the poor here? What are you trying to generalize about?

What an aggressive answer. Should I come back in a few hours when everyone's had time to cool off?

I don't have anything against these features per se, but I can't help but notice when it's almost imposssible to turn them off and dark patterns are used to guide customers onto certain paths where more data is shared. Then one starts to wonder for whose benefits are the features developed.

You are commiting an error when thinking that it's solely the responsibility of customers to take care of their privacy. There needs to be a strong legal framework and incentives should be set in such a way as to encourage respectful handling of customer data.

Because otherwise we end up in a situation where powerful corporations do as they wish as long as they stay within the too weak legal requirements (which they lobbied for) and it's the responsibility of the customer to:

* protect their privacy when everyone is trying to screw them and grab their data. Now they're a tech expert.

* protect their health because corps want to produce cheap goods and some ingredients cause e.g. birth defects or impotence. Now they're a chemistry expert.

* be careful what food they buy, because food nowadays is mass produced with bleach, antibiotics and hormones, pesticides & other nice stuff. Now they're an agricultural expert.

* and so on and so forth.

I hope it's clear that this doesn't work and the average citizen needs someone to have their back. In the USA they don't, so every corporation is trying its best to gather and mine private data.

And I am not picking on the poor at all, check your reading comprehension please. In fact I seem to be one of the few that is concerned about how the non-technical, and yes the poor too get screwed over by people recommending them that they use cheap products. If you want to recommend Android, take the time to educate people on what they are trading away for that affordable phone and tell them how to maintain their privacy.

Aggressive? How? My hyperbole comment? How could I not call you out for that?

I in no way said privacy was solely in the hands of the customer. I said your personal data is a currency that the customer must budget. That is not the same thing.

But you know that the iCloud is moving from aws to the Google Cloud at the Moment?

Yes but the data is encrypted by Apple and Google can't read it.

So..., Apple can read it? How is it any better?

Because Apple isn't an advertising company.

No, Apple can't read it either.

Actually, Apple does retain the ability to provide iCloud data to law enforcement.

I don't think they want to for that reason; the reason they can gain access to such data is that if it's entirely in the user's hands (and passwords) then there's no way to recover the data for the user if they forget the password.

As for the grandparent comment: I trust Apple with my data more than Google because Apple doesn't want to use it, has no financial incentive to do so, and has no track record of subverting my privacy unlike Google (https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/press-releases/2012/08/googl...).

  The problem with those cheap phones is that your private information
  will be mercilessly sucked into the Google cloud. Some of that is
  disguised as perfectly innocent and helpful features: contacts
  syncing, back-ups, connecting more easily to WiFis, etc.
if you truly value your privacy (most people don't; which solves the problem for them), it is trivially easy: buy a cheap phone (i.e. Moto E/G) and install a custom ROM like cyanogenmod without the gapps on it. then just run a Card-/CalDAV server (radicale, owncload, ...) on a computer in your home network (can be your laptop/server/raspberry ...) and you get the syncing you want without the google part.

of course it's extra work, but it's not rocket science. so if you really care about privacy, it's trivial to do. but as pointed out: most people don't, no matter if they have a cheap phone or not.

I think you grossly overestimate the technical aptitude of... 99.8% of the population?

no, not at all. I know most people are not capable of setting this up. but this is not the point:

the parent claimed that you pay for these cheap phones with your private data, which is not true. if you care about that (which > 99.8% of the population don't do) you are able to use those phones with those features without handing over your data to google.

Just never enter your Google password into your Android phone.

The problem is: Access to the App Store. Not sure, if you can work around this.

You could use alternative app stores (Amazon's comes to mind, although of course you have to sign in to amazon for that) or download APKs directly.

F-Droid is the free app store.

You just described the functionality of every single phone on the market, though. Almost all of which are much less expensive than the iPhone.

Was going to say this. If you are legitimately poor, you can get a used Moto G 2013 for $35 and activate it on Freedompop for some free data each month and use wifi wherever possible.

That would be a phone on a budget. iphones are absolutely just for prestige, the same way Macbooks in universities are.

If you're poor and don't want everyone around you to know it, why would you buy the phone that screams "hey, I'm poor and got the cheapest possible phone!" Everyone has something they do to stand out from the people that surround them. It's cruel to suggest that folks living in poverty can only be deserving of assistance if they embrace their poverty and advertise it to the world. There are real costs to appearing poor in our society. Is it a surprise that people would spend what little extra money they have on things that help them appear not quite as poor as they actually are?

And you will remain poor and some people will continue to say it is everyone else's fault.

I've been there (before smart phones). Watching people wait for payday so they can go drinking. Everyone had a nicer car than necessary. Clothes or shoes to look like the situation is improving instead actually improving their situation.

Yes there is a marginal improvement in lifestyle. But there is always a marginal improvement available so that you can be in the bottom of that next group of Joneses.

I'm 45 and this is now making me remember some of the conversations I had with people who lived through the great depression. That generation was stamped with a frugality and practicality that just isn't being passed along anymore.

I think you're raising the phone to a much higher level of importance than it truly holds. The fact of the matter is that if someone can afford a brand new iPhone6, they don't deserve any help buying food because they spend a huge chunk of available food money on an expensive luxury. It must be torturous to use a phone you can actually afford!

>It's cruel to suggest that folks living in poverty can only be deserving of assistance if they embrace their poverty and advertise it to the world.

When I'm getting buyer on something cheaper than an iPhone, why should I help someone else get a full price iPhone? If they want to put the work in finding a second hand one at a cheap price, good for them. But why should I help them pay for shinier equipment than I even get for myself?

> It's cruel to suggest that folks living in poverty can only be deserving of assistance if they embrace their poverty and advertise it to the world. There are real costs to appearing poor in our society.

Can you offer an alternative? I can't see anything else being workable and not insanely expensive.

I am not poor yet I have a Moto E that I bought from Best Buy last black Friday for $10. I love it. Anybody that would judge me based on my choice of phone would promptly get their face laughed in.

I am not poor and have a beat up Moto E bought for $99. I don't think anybody thinks I am poor either. A phone (and $300 sneakers) are very bad devices for signaling status.

thats totally irrelevant here.

iphones are absolutely just for prestige

I have an iPhone 6S (and previously an iPhone 5) on Verizon, through my employer. Personally, my wife has a Nexus 4 and my daugther a Moto G, both on T-Mobile pre-paid. Both of them tell me about crappy network coverage, poor camera image quality, and so forth.

I'm not saying these aren't perfectly acceptable alternatives when you're on a budget or are frugal or these just aren't things you care about, but the iPhone and using a better carrier are not just for prestige. For many people, they are a better product and provide a better experience.

And I'll point out: usually spending more money gets you a better product. Whether or not it's better in ways you care about is obviosly a personal decision.

edit: so you disagree? What in my argument here is wrong?

edit 2: this comment was directed only at the assertion that buying an iphone is just about prestige. I completely agree with the original article.

Network coverage has little to do with the phone (it can, but it's minimal). Poor camera and image quality are not purely Apple solvable. The Sony xperia range have brilliant cameras and image quality (unfortunately the Sony UI is sub-optimal in other areas).

Also, An iPhone 6S would be more reasonably compared to a Nexus 6P, not a Nexus 4.

The iPhone doesn't have a monopoly on quality,

> Network coverage has little to do with the phone

The network coverage part of my comment was in reference to freedompop. Not sure who freedompop contracts with, but I went with T-Mobile because at the time they were much cheaper than Verizon. Their coverage is also much worse in my area.

> The iPhone doesn't have a monopoly on quality

I didn't claimed that it does. They were examples of devices I have direct experience with. The iPhone 5 was a similar generation to the Nexus 4 and Moto G and was a better (but more expensive) device. The Sony xperia devices similarly cost more than a Moto G, do they not? And you just wrote they have a suboptimal UI, so for someone who cares about that, that might rule out those devices.

My argument is not that iPhones are the only quality devices. It's that spending more usually gets you a better product, not just a more prestigious one.

I agree the lowest tier of phones cameras are not as good as an extremely expensive phone camera. Besides the whole I want to actually own computers in my possession part, part of the reason I have an S4 is for camera fidelity. My grandmother has a Note 4, predominantly for its good camera.

But we are not talking about luxurious features. A Moto G camera still takes better photos than almost any consumer camera from before 2003 that most people had (I'm talking the old disposable point and shoots or a a bulky film camera). If you need to take pictures, an entry level phone like the Moto G does more than enough of a good job - you can easily take photos of anything, you have flash, and they will be reasonable pictures. You will know what it is a picture of and discern light detail. It does the job.

> It does the job.

Certainly. Again, was just addressing it's not only prestige. Look, I own a Nutribullet. It does the job. But it's a complete frustration to use on a daily basis. I'm replacing it with a Vitamix at like 3X the cost, because I'm tired of dealing with the Nutribullet's quirks. And that's just a fricken blender. :-)

You can get a new one for that price when it is on sale at Best Buy. I picked up a Boost Mobile one that I use as a jogging companion due to its size. It may be from 2013, but it functions really well.

I was going to say you could get a similar level iPhone for a similar price -- most people seem to compare top-of-the-line iPhones with low- or mid-range Android devices.

But then I looked up the iPhone 4s (2013's low-range) on eBay and didn't see one for less than $70. I'm honestly surprised by that.

I'm a huge advocate of using refurbished two or so year old phones for anyone I have influence on the purchasing decisions of, because while there was a period of extremely rapid feature growth (2009-2014) since then phones have been "good enough" in the same way notebooks and desktops have been "good enough" since about 2007.

There is a price floor I find on any older phone. They generally won't fall below $50, and I always find the Moto G 2013 exceptional in how you can get them really cheap. A great example is that I am always watching S series phone prices on Swappa, but in my experience (pre-S7, usually this list shifts down a price tier when the new phone comes out):

S2 for $80, S3 for $100, S4 for $150, S5 for $225, S6 for $300. When the S7 comes out, the S3 will probably drop to S2 range and S4 might drop to S3 range, but I expect less of a decline than that because since the S3/4 the feature differences have diminished substantially. An S4 is still a beast phone today - 1080p 5" screen, quad core CPU, 13MP camera.

> You just described the functionality of every single phone on the market, though. Almost all of which are much less expensive than the iPhone.

This is true. In fact I've personally used mapping tools on Sony Ericsson feature phones which are around 10 years old now. You don't need a smartphone to do any of the aforementioned, let alone a market leading one.

edit: Would the people who downvoted me please explain how I didn't use mapping tools on my feature phone? I'd be interested to know how people who have never met me remember my life better than I do ;)

Off topic, but I do think HN should have a rule that you're not allowed to downvote without leaving a counterargument. That would help kerb the abuse of negative karma to demote comments which a reader disagrees with just due to personal preferences / biases. Which we're increasingly seeing these days. Particularly in threads that have potential flamewar subjects like trendy technologies or companies.

A SE is $399, sure you can get an ok phone for less than that. But, ED: even if that's significantly more than a 'cheap' phone it's not that expensive compared to a cellphone plan. People look at things as symptoms, but it's mostly ongoing costs that are real issues.

I thought those where locked/discounted phones.

First is: Boost (67.99), or Sprint prepaid (104$)

Second is: AT&T Go Phone only.

But, it looks like you can get a new unlocked smartphone for 60$. http://www.amazon.com/BLU-Advance-5-0-Unlocked-Smartphone/dp...

I got the Lumia 635 for $30 last year as a temporary replacement for my Nexus 5 that I walked into a lake on accident, and it's worked out so well I still have it with no plans to upgrade.

I've gotten cheap Android phones that have felt sluggish and super buggy after a mere 6 months (not the Nexus 5, though, that just had a crap battery life, but I also spent ~$450 on it, so it wasn't cheap), but this one still operates as slick and smooth as the day I bought it, with a battery that lasts a day and a half.

Anyone looking for a cheap phone, I highly recommend the Lumia 635 (640 is just as cheap, but it doesn't support LTE, supposedly).

It's a good deal, but I think it's subsided.


Amazon lists: $131.11 and Cricket has it for 20$. Still, as long as your not locked into a contract and can buy replacements at that cost it's not a problem.

PS: Windows does seem to beat Android on low end phones.

You're right, I did catch it on sale at Best Buy, marked down from $100 the week I just happened to be looking for the phone, but it seems like the Lumias often get marked down, and regardless I paid $140 for a HTC One V as my 'cheap phone' that turned awful after only six months.

My first smartphone was the first Samsung Galaxy S that cost me $200 with a two year contract. It lasted just over a year before the radio stopped functioning and it became unusable as a phone.

Then I replaced it with a Motorola something-or-other that cost me $140 with a two year contract. That one lasted just under a year before the SIM card reader stopped working, and it was good for emergency calls only.

I replaced that with a Nokia Lumia something-or-other that cost $90 with no contract. After three years, it still works to this day.

However, I did feel the need for a hardware upgrade, so in November I replaced it with a Microsoft Lumia 640 LTE, which cost me $40, again with no contract.

I've been very happy with the Lumias. The UI is very fluid and responsive, and it does everything I want it to do and then some. The build quality is also an order of magnitude better than a cheap Android phone, and the battery lasts longer. The only drawback is that there aren't a hell of a lot of third party apps. That's manageable because the ones I care about are available: Web browser, e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, Uber, Skype, Weather, maps, navigation, a PDF reader, Kindle, a Reddit client, an SSH terminal, emulators for retro game consoles, and a guitar tuner. It also comes with a fully functional mobile version of Microsoft Office, and OneNote was a game-changer for me. I can also enable Internet sharing, so if I'm somewhere with no wifi, I can enable a hotspot on my phone and connect from my laptop (things may be different now, but on my Android phones that was only possible by using a custom ROM, e.g. Cyanogenmod).

The developer experience for Windows Phone is also great. Visual Studio beats the pants off of Xcode, and C# is a much nicer language than both Objective-C and Java (though not quite as nice as Swift, I must say).

The only thing I miss from Android is a file browser. Apps are completely sandboxed and can only access their own files, which makes a general file browser impossible on Windows Phone. But I've been living without it for over 3 years now, so it's not that big of a deal.

Despite the low price, they really are quality phones. As long as Microsoft keeps it up, I intend to stick with the Lumia indefinitely.

I bought a prepaid Moto E for $39.99 and activated it on Ringplus (a Sprint MVNO that offers free data/text/minutes every month) as a backup phone.

If you're willing to order from places like AliExpress, try <$40 for low end Android phones (unlocked).

E.g. here's one that ships to the UK for $31.58: http://www.aliexpress.com/item/Original-Blackview-BV2000S-Mo...

Gotta love regional pricing. I see Galaxy phone as $57, the Lumia is $44. That they are locked to a particular provider makes them not really any different than your average phone. They do have the advantage of not locking you into a 2+ year contract.

Nice find on the BLU though.

Ok, does this make you not poor? I think not.

The cost separation between a cheap phone and a nice one, spread across a contract, is probably not very significant. An iPhone isn't like having a Rolex; it (like many of the other higher end, new phones) offers significant functionality and performance benefits. Which is to say -- its easy to look at a poor person carrying an iPhone and say they only chose that particular phone to not look poor. But i'd personally wager that they chose (what they perceived as) the best phone, because the cost difference was not a significant factor.

If you're on a tight budget, then £20 a month matters. It might be loose change to people like us, but unfortunately there are people who have to budget the meals they eat to bring costs down.

And to use your watch analogy, you wouldn't expect people on tight incomes to buy a Rolex when a <£15 watch works the same.

> And to use your watch analogy, you wouldn't expect people on tight incomes to buy a Rolex when a <£15 watch works the same.

That is the point of my analogy -- you can justify a high end phone based on more than just its "status", and the cost difference is extremely small (the opposite cases of the Rolex and a normal watch). I'm not making an argument about what poor people in general should do; nor am I saying status plays no factor. I just think the argument that they are buying the newest phone based 100% on social status seems a bit thin.

The advice I give to anyone buying any tech is to buy the best that you can afford, then what you prefer (i.e. Android, iOS, Windows, Mac etc.). If someone on a 'tight budget' determines that an iPhone or an S7 is a priority, who are you to judge?

I'm not judging. I'm just saying £20/m is a lot to some people to counter the point made previously that the investment was only small.

To be clear, I never intended to say that 20 Euro a month would be affordable for everyone. I"m only saying its an objectively small sum of money in a first world country, and we could reasonably imagine some otherwise poor people fitting it into their budget (unlike a Rolex, a nice car, etc.). Especially if we believe a person would consider it their most important possession -- they can have the (debatably, I use a Nexus) best version of their most desirable possession without going outside their budget. I've known plenty of hard-working budget conscious poor people who have saved up for possessions they very much wanted -- nobody ever said being poor means you can't have anything nice. It just means you can't have everything nice.

For people who have the luxury of some non-trivial amount of disposable income, there's not really any such thing as "the best you can afford". I could afford to get an iPhone 6S in the sense that I have enough money, but on the other hand, there are other things I might want that I could buy if I got a cheaper phone instead. Unless having a high end phone is a big priority for me, it makes no sense for me to get the best phone I can afford.

Mine is merely advise to those that ask. YMMV goes without saying really. With any technology; car, bike, phone, computer, washing machine etc. you should buy the best that you can afford. That doesn't mean spend all your money. It doesn't mean buy the most expensive. Best is very subjective. It could be 'best suits my needs' or it could be 'best on the market'. Nothing to do with priorities.

I know I would, Mapping. Phone. Internet. Email. Alarm Clock. Calendaring are also my primary use cases, but there are devices that cost a lot less than an iPhone that do those things just as good or even better.

First, let's get the internet part clear. Mobile internet is consistently more expensive that fixed line (in xUSSR at least). And as somebody with more than 1 degree, I can tell you that you don't need an iphone map, phone, alarm, or camera functionality to make your life better, while internet and email on a mobile device is counterproductive. If you really want to save money and get better, go buy a core 2 duo desktop pc for less than $100 and a simple internet connection. Turn on the pomodoro. Turn off your phone. Reply to all your emails. Get some quality study/work time.

As someone who has done work with folks in this demographic, I find this sentiment to be a bit counterproductive/missing the experience of lower income individuals in a meaningful way.

It is definitely the case, for many people (especially teens and 20 somethings) that smartphones are viewed as essentials – but more than that, mobile devices are becoming the perceived norm – if you don't have one, you're weird. There is such a stigma around "being poor" and many low-income folks are incredibly mindful of that.

Moreover, they know what "good" looks like and they want that experience – and like it or not, having a smartphone is becoming more and more essential for full access to daily life. It's not fully there but there is definitely a fast-moving trend and the evidence is everywhere – you just may not be as mindful if you're not lacking a smartphone.

Lastly, while mobile internet is more expensive, it's a false dichotomy to assume they're strict substitutes. Now consider other details – like ease of purchase – cellphone shops are common, even in inner city neighborhoods, when compared to places that sell actual computers. When you put it all together, it makes clear sense why mobile internet is booming and becoming a first-choice option in low-income communities even if you can claim it's more expense. This is not an isolated trend. Being poor is expensive – this has definitely been written about, at length, elsewhere, but I can dig up links if needed.

I totally agree with you on the perception of smartphone ownership and ease of access.

I am trying to make the point that it is not going to help you to improve your status in the society. You can't do home budget on a phone, can't access most of Ukrainian online banking, can't do an online course. And for tasks that you can do, like email and calendar, you are more likely to spend more time on the phone while doing them. I like to think of this as a "thing" vs a "tool". I had a low-end Sempron PC since I was around 15 and it was far more useful to me than a smartphone (I had my first smartphone around the same time - shiny new Nokia Symbian, which I probably asked for the reasons you've outlined in your reply). Now I am using laptops, dual screen setups, work and personal phones, tablets etc. and it is useful, but not essential. I really like duolingo and podcasts on my phone, though.

And sorry, I wasn't clear: I am strictly opposing the utility of an iPhone or an expensive Android smartphone for poor, because almost everyone has a (relatively) affordable access to least an Android 2.3 / Windows Phone device in Ukraine now (usable for calls, SMS and basic messaging, some web browsing if you're patient and lucky).

Well, I pay $5 for the limited data plan on my phone, here in the US (Walmart Family Mobile). That's on top of $25/mo primary line and $20/mo additional lines. The cheapest internet line for my home I could find was around $30 at a promotional rate, which bumped up to $45 after a year. Yes, I can get more data per dollar out of that $45 line, but aside from entertainment purposes, I can get by on my 1GB of data. Or I could bump it to 5GB for another $10 and that would get me by on everything short of regular streaming or large downloads. So, being frugal, it does make sense in some cases to just get a cheap phone with a data plan, even more so if you don't need a home PC, as many poor folk.

I now live in EU and can relate to your experiences. But when I was referring to what struggling folk need, I meant what can really improve their position. And I hope you understand that it's not something like 9gag, but udacity. And udacity is a pain on a tablet (let alone phone) if you do the exercises.

Well, a phone is enough for many useful services. Putting in applications, gathering information, etc. Then there's tethering for a cheap internet solution if you can get a hold of a desktop/laptop.

But really, if we're talking about improving one's lot through education, the best bet would probably be a local community college, which should have their own computer rooms. I don't know much about udacity and the like, but I'm not sure there's a route there for people in my neck of the woods, at least. Any local tech jobs want a Bachelor's degree.

Actually, you're totally right that a local college (I would add a more or less central city library) is a really good alternative.

I actually do embedded automotive now, so master's is almost a must but you'd be surprised how many seasoned pros are utterly incompetent in basic things like automata and Boolean algebra that I went through in my first semester.

If you need a cell phone to be available for calls and texts (say, to set up a job interview...), it might be cheaper to have a cell contract with data, than to have a cell contract and DSL at home.

Now that I am in EU, I totally agree with you, but just checked my mom's provider and it's $3.82 (100 UAH) for 25Mbps/mo.

I think you're off base. There are plenty of devices out there (android, windows phone) which have all the utility of the iPhone, but cost half the price of the iPhone (or less). To suggest that an iPhone is the only device capable of these things and therefore is a fixed cost is incorrect, IMO

With a little forethought and initial investment, you don't have to decide between giving up an iPhone and continuing to pay three figures monthly for the privilege of using it. Consider:

Sprint - ostensibly free phone, $120/mo for a 2-year contract: $2880 all told, and you don't have a choice but to pay all of it

Ting - $500 up front for 64G iPhone SE, avg. $27.50/mo for the same period: $1160 all told, and you can stop service any time if things get bad enough that you have to

Sure, if you can't make the initial nut, it's not an option - but you're talking about being suddenly broke or close to it, which is the situation in which I found myself last year, and which motivated me to put some thought into better options for mobile service. The more I look at it, the more it seems to me that mobile contracts, at least in the US and at least for single phones, are every bit as much for suckers as rent-to-own shops are.

Buy pre-used phone (~$50 for an older-gen device). Use pre-paid phone service. (~$40/month). Doesn't need to be expensive if you're willing to forgo the latest and 'greatest'. I use pre-paid Verizon anyway since it's the best deal for my usage pattern.

Or, if you live in a city with ubiquitous wifi, buy an iPod touch and use Google Voice/Hangouts. $200 up front, free/mo thereafter.

Project Fi is a prepaid service and allows you to finance the phone. Currently the cheapest is $200 for the Nexus 5x.

I'm with you on this one. I've never owned an iphone because I'm cheap, but when you see a poor person with an iphone it's not a phone they have in their hands -- it's _the_ only device they have to connect to the internet and communicate.

That being said, you can get a motorola G lte for 100 bucks.

A <100$ smartphone can do all of those things.

>Mapping. Phone. Internet. Email. Alarm Clock. Calendaring. Photography.

Soo... It does exactly the same as my LG with Android 2.2 that costed me ~$70 2.5 years ago?

Especially when the iPhone's cost is calculated over the lifetime of the device and the quality of the hardware.

Apple's latest iOS version 9.3 just dropped. And the 5 year old iPhone 4s along with every iPad except the original just got that update.

What other device would be safe to use with personal information and be just as usable after 5 years? At the original full price that comes to around $80/year. With the additional street cred of owning an iPhone?

Sorry, but claiming 4 year old devices are usable with iOS 9 is a joke.

The rule of a thumb with iPhones is that you update n+1 version your phone shipped with. Anything more kills the performance to almost a standstill. I won't go into the debate if it's intentionally or not, but as sure isn't with much added value.

You say that, but the guy sitting right behind me happily used his 4s until last month. And he's a heavy app user, installing all sorts of stuff, from flight tracking, weird weather apps, bird watching, whatever. I'm not sure if that counts as a joke from where I'm from.

There, a test on the 4S : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9J6R0NnqOzc

If you look at it this way - all that's changed are "clients", the data displayed is the same for both. But only on one phone the system experience is enjoyable. I guess Schiller forgot about that they once had a good optimized mobile OS.

One of my friend is not particularly well off, to say the least. Until a month or so ago he had been using a HTC Desire that he got for free from somebody. He used email, mapping, alarm clock, calendar, instant messaging. On a 5 year old phone.

And he was using an unpatched, unsupported OS, with a myriad of security vulnerabilities, on a phone that offered him no social capital and advertised his poverty. I'm not saying it is right or wrong that someone's phone should stand in as a status symbol, but it does.

"a phone that offered him no social capital and advertised his poverty"

Wow. So iPhones are basically diamond engagement rings for men? At least you're being honest...

That isn't necessarily true. there are cyanogenmod 13 builds for the desire HD on xda

> street cred


I have money and the utility of iPhone is what I don't want. Instead opted for a cheap Moto G basic model 4-5 years ago and still happy with it.

"Mapping. Phone. Internet. Email. Alarm Clock. Calendaring. Photography."

You realize those features are not unique to iPhone... right?

"Maybe we could quibble about whether they should have an iPhone or some cheaper smartphone. I am just saying, it could be more for utility than image."

The whole point is that buying an iPhone as opposed to an equally capable cheaper smartphone is done for branding and image.

> I am not sure if I was suddenly without money, the iPhone would be what I would want to give up.

Poor is when you have to dig through other peoples' trash to find food (I see this every week). I'm pretty sure you you really ended up poor you wouldn't give a damn about your iPhone except to sell it to buy food.

>If anything we should work to get smart phones in the hands of the poor.

It sure as hell won't be iPhones we get into the hands of the poor. There are regional mvno's/prepaid carriers here who pretty much give away cheap android phones to get on their cheap plans.

" Mapping. Phone. Internet. Email. Alarm Clock. Calendaring. Photography."

All these are easily available for a fraction of iPhone's/iPad's price.

you can live with none of that.

You can have internet at school on a needing basic. You don't need it in your pocket.

You can live without mapping, a dumb phone with alarm clock and be done with it.

If you live by the cent, no, the iPhone is not a priority.

I didn't have a smartphone before 4 months ago, and it was fine. And if you are at school, then it's even easier.

The biggest problem is the social isolation, since now a lot of kids interactions are going through apps.

But can get a nice Motorola for £150 and a £7 month sim - you dont need a Iphone do do all that

Why do you need an iPhone for that? A Moto G will do all of that, at a fraction of the price.

A 50$ Android smartphone can do all of those, and more.

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