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Ask HN: Do you really need a $1000 phone?
17 points by funwie 12 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 48 comments
I am trying to come up with reasons why anyone will spend such an amount for a mobile phone when you can probably get good performance and use same apps with devices < $500.

Why would you spend > $1000 on a mobile phone?






Because the higher-end Apple devices have crossed the line into a luxury good. Go read this link from HN yesterday:

https://stratechery.com/2018/the-iphone-franchise/

The answer turned out to be pretty simple:

"Apple wouldn’t go down-market, nor did its customers want it to."

The final conclusion seals the deal further:

"Some people buy an iPhone every year; some are on a two-year cycle; others wait for screens to crack, batteries to die, or apps to slow. Nearly all, though, buy another iPhone, making the purpose of yesterday’s keynote less an exercise in selling a device and more a matter of informing self-selected segments which device they will ultimately buy, and for what price."


Microphone and camera quality is very important for some of my side projects, and professional-grade equipment can add up quickly in price, volume, and weight.

I'm not spending $1000 on a phone, I'm spending $1000 on a very small and portable (admittedly not quite pro-level) video camera that works well enough in a wide range of light conditions and noise environments.


What kind of side projects do you do? The microphones on smartphones really suck, you can’t capture anything unless you’re in a fairly quiet room or speaking to it up close. The lense just isn’t large enough to capture enough detail. Recording video drains the battery extremely fast. Even as a hobbyist, I find it extremely limiting.

I bought some used recording equipment that’s probably 10 years old for $200, it’s miles ahead of what my smartphone can do.


Do you rally need a $1000: -pair of shoes? -pants? -tshirt? -jacket? -pen? -<add our own>?

No you definitely don't need. You want!

Now then.. how come you/I/anyone ends up wanting a $1000 phone? Marketing? Vanity? Riches beyng sense? Need for portable computing power? Need to constantly have with you 5000 photos, 5000 songs, 50 movies?


> Do you rally need a $1000: -pair of shoes? -pants? -tshirt? -jacket? -pen? -<add our own>?

> No you definitely don't need. You want!

That's a weird way to start an argument, because I definitely don't need a $1000 tshirt. In fact, a quick tally suggests that my entire wardrobe cost slightly less than $1000 (retail value, not present value).


Need? No, I don't need it. I have an iPhone X, which I paid $1,200 for. It replaced a Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge, which I think I paid $700 for.

My X gives me better integration between my MBP, iPad, and AirPods. Siri is actually somewhat usable now, though it has room for improvements. I use it quite a bit while driving to "read" and respond to text messages, and I almost always have my AirPods in while driving. I drive a Jeep, without doors, and I've noticed some hearing damage that I attribute to the wind noise at highway speeds. My AirPods mean I can listen to podcasts or music without cranking the volume so high that people can hear it in their houses next to the road.

It's neat that my iPhone has so much processing power, but I rarely use it. The camera is good enough that I don't feel I have to carry my dedicated camera with me on a daily basis anymore, but when I do, I occasionally transfer my photos from it to my phone to post something on Instagram or upload through Lightroom to a shared gallery. I do all of my photo post-processing in Lightroom on my iPad, and usually have it with me.

At the end of the day, though, it's purely a luxury item. I like having good tools, and I make enough money to buy some. The difference in satisfaction for me between using my old S7 Edge and the iPhone X is enough to justify the cost to me.


"Need" is too of a strong word. People doesn't need a $80,000 car that can go from 0-60 miles per hour in 1.9 seconds in a country whose max highway speed is around 75mph but they buy it anyway when they can afford it.

Highway traffic speed on a clear day not during rush hour = speed limit + speeding amount required to get a misdemeanor - 1-2mph.

Consequently there's lots of semi-limited access state highways that have the occasional stop light and 45-55mph speed limits giving you plenty of opportunities to enjoy fast 0-60 acceleration. Also, the ability to just move left and almost instantly be going 30+mph faster is great when the person in front of you insists on merging at 35mph (you can go around them WITHOUT cutting someone else off). Or if you are that 35mph merger you can take your sweet ass time finding the perfect spot and then just step on it and merge without the guy you merged in front of (who's probably going 70+mph) having to tap their brakes.

Yes, it's a luxury but the capability is more useful day to day than most people think.


Un, speak for yourself...I SO MUCH need a car that'll do 0-60 in 1.9 seconds. If you can find a car in that price range that can actually do that, please let me know.

Don't the 100K-ish Teslas, in monster mode or whatever it is, get within a few tenths of a second of this? 2.3 seems to stick in my mind, for some reason. Maybe even 2.2 or 2.1 .

And that was a year or more ago.


Ludicrous mode. And you can't get 1.9 for 80k. That is ludicrous. P100D is ~135k starting. Off the top of my head a Z06 will do just under 3 and you can pick them up for <=80k new

FatF taught us all you need is a 9-speed FWD DSM.

The speed limit is not a limit but variable. It's what you can get away with considering the conditions and surroundings. On I40 through Texas I was getting passed going 90.

I've been pretty happy with my Moto G5+ 4/64 GB, except for a few things:

Updates: Its lesser powered successor, the Moto G6 (no + in the U.S.) runs Android 8. The G5+ certainly could. Moto's X4 has the same 630 CPU along with a GB less RAM and, I've read, will be advanced to Pie. The G5+ could be, if Moto chose to do so.

Camera. Take one of these "budget" models, and add $50 or even $100 to the price to put in a top-notch camera. I'd buy it. I don't need CPU "up the wazoo", nor a super-whatever bezel-less display (a good IPS is enough, for me); however, I would like to take really good pictures. (Really good, less the "AI" stuff -- and its cost -- that I'm not asking for; rather, top notch optics and sensor.)

I really don't need, nor even want, a $1000 phone. Only, the manufacturers refuse to make some modest upgrades to the lower tier models -- because money, I guess.

It also, in my opinion, reflects the lack of real competition in this space. In a truly competitive market, I believe my "market segment" would be found to be far from trivial and so worth pursuing.

Hell, with a generation older CPU and such tech (I don't know about cameras), all the tech is well known, has stable drivers and all, and is probably more easily supported. Should be a no-brainer, at this point -- except, well, money.

P.S. I haven't had the models in-hand, to compare, but putting together all I've read on them, I gather that both the G6 and the X4 have worse cameras than the G5+ . The G5+ camera isn't bad, but it doesn't perform nearly as well -- in detail, low-light, and some edge cases -- as the top-tier cameras -- even those of a generation or two ago.


Why not buy older or used models then?

You're never not ever going to get the latest technology/functionality in a low margin device--because return on investment, I guess.


I've started thinking about this. Although I'd want some way -- for a reasonable upcharge -- of assuring that the hardware, particularly the camera, was in excellent condition.

Pixel 1's are below $300, I understand, and I'd be reasonably happy with one, except I believe their support window is about done. (Last Google phone with a headphone jack, to boot, IIRC. On the other hand, lesser storage capacity and no microSD support; microSD support is very nice, with my G5+.)


Don't tell people how to spend their money. Need isn't an issue here, people who have $1000 can spend it on whatever they want whether or not they "need" it.

$1000 is a lot for a phone, but for a device people use so often is it too much? I'm not so sure.

The more relevant question isn't whether or not a $1000 phone is "worth the cost" (or "needed"), but whether or not the overall prices of Apple's phone lineups make sense. Given their sales figures over the years it's hard to say that they are overcharging for their phones, even now.


I am a pretty consumerist person. If I had a choice between working-little-and-having-little, and working-a-lot-and-having-a-lot, I'd choose the latter.

I didn't choose the above attitude consciously per se, but thinking about it in retrospect, I'm comfortable with it. I have a lot of product-category-choices that make little sense to someone unwilling to spend $1000 on a phone: wool underwear, an Onyx Boox Max 2 (wonderful device), an Urbit star. I don't spend money pragmatically.


>>wool underwear

Ha, what? Now I'm intrigued. What kind??


The same argument could be made for almost everything people might purchase. Just buy what works for you and don’t worry about what others choose to do with their money.

NO! Not at all. Jesus Apple. Give me a break. I like the privacy, I am invested in the ecosystem, and I can afford it, but a phone isn't worth $1000 dollars to me. It isn't a computer, it can never replace my macbook, and it will never be anywhere near a third as valuable to me.

> It isn't a computer, it can never replace my macbook

That's probably why most people don't mind paying that much. They see their phones as their personal computer and don't need an actual desktop, or even notebook anymore. And a phone delivers a lot of extra value like the camera. A high-end GPU alone could be seen as luxury and some of their MSRP are already over $800.


And Apple agrees with you as well. Thus they are continuing to sell other models for under $1,000.

"Everything is worth what its purchaser will pay for it." - Publilius Syrus, ~100 BC

Nor is there any accounting for taste. Looked at purely logically, it is absurd to spend 1K on a phone. Humans aren't always logical. We don't need a 1K phone, some people just want one.


When I heard what they were charging for the iPhone X I thought it was a joke. but I know several people who now have them, and they all say it was worth it. And they can't explain why. I suspect they're all deluding themselves, like people who have watched 9 seasons of a terrible TV show and try to convince you it was worth the time and you should watch all 9 seasons too. I can't understand it. I wouldn't even spend that much on a full laptop. I stay 2-3 years behind the curve. I can buy a phone that was state of the art in 2015 for <300 and do everything the guy with the iPhone X can do.

Phones evolve. The evolution to a near edge-to-edge OLED screen is a costly one, look at the competition. In your ideal world Apple would delay the X by three years and continue to pump out forehead + chin LCD phones with spec bumps? iPhone X is the future you can have today, at a premium. If you don't want to spend the extra money, wait. You can buy it in 2020, when all new phones look like it. It's not like Apple is forcing you to buy it. Each phone they make is overpowered so that older phones are still good-enough for every day tasks, they release new iOS patches to even five year old devices, and they specifically advertise the older phones with price drops at every keynote. What is it that you want them to do differently? You want them to treat people like you as their target demographic for new phones?

I can't see it either. If I had to, I'd get an used 16 GiB iPhone 6S, change the battery for $29 while it's still cheap and then flash chip-swap to 256 GiB via the usual sources. Headphone connector and undocumented water-resistance if you replace the gasket (6 for $5 on eBay). If you look at the iPhone 6S carefully, you can see it was a pilot project for water-resistance because of all the gaskets around ports and the screen. I wouldn't take a good phone into a shower or pool, but it would be fun to see with an used cheapo phone to see how water-resistant.

>when you can probably get good performance

This is a big problem with android. Performance sucks overall, and like windows, degrade over time. The quality of apps is not there.

And also, android is the worst if you care a bit about privacy and security.

When you must decide between a clear superior product (iPhone) vs a overall inferior (except if you take a lot of care in researching, have luck or expend almost the same money) and have a tight budget? Go for the best, because we don't have money to waste money. ---

BTW: My policy is buy the previous model when needed, so I still not expend that much neither waste money with android.


Something you use a lot every day is definitely worth spending money on. Myself, I am an Android guy, but if the new iPhone is only a little better than the previous, out may very well be worth buying.

Android in particular really benefits from the faster hardware in my experience. I fly frequently so I get a lot out of more storage and better displays as well. Battery life is a big deal. That added up to me getting a Note 9. The main thing I use the pen for is just taking screenshots.

Really for me it's just a nice to have though. A few years ago I got by with a Lumia 520, I'm sure I could live with a $100 Android phone if the cost were an issue. But I use my phone a lot so it's worth it for me.


Yes. I don't live in the states. I travel nearly non-stop. I was sick to handle literally dozens of SIM cards and go through the possibly painful registration process in many countries abroad. Cheaper Google Project FI Phones were sold out. So I coughed up nearly 1k for a Pixel One 64 GB google project fi phone.

Otherwise a 200 Dollar phone is likely more than enough. Actually, since I buy laptops used, my phone nearly costs three times as much as my refurbished dell XPS 14"


Of course not. You also don't need a $600 pair of Chanel sunglasses or a $6,000 Gibson guitar. It's kinda like a luxury moniker at this point.

I went for the longest time without a cell phone. Then I had a job change and had to get one. (Fortunately, my employer paid for it.)

I started out with a flip phone. That was adequate until somebody showed me the many advantages of a smart phone-- primarily the web browser, which brings weather, news, etc. etc.

I don't need a $1k phone, but I do feel I benefit a lot from a smartphone.


Most (non-tech) people I know are interested in the camera. People are change-adverse (so those with an Apple device want to stay on iOS) and want the latest photo taking capabilities.

Especially for friends who rely on photos for their jobs / side projects, it is a huge difference comparing pictures from a Google Pixel / iPhone X and phone models from a few years ago.


When I bought my current phone (an iPhone 5) I paid $700 and half-jokingly told the sales clerk that would be the last phone I ever bought. That might not end up being literally true, but I just blew this year's new toy budget on a banjo instead, so I guess I can wait a little longer.

I would if:

* I needed the performance of a $1000 device. For example, if I did a significant portion of my work from my phone, I'd consider it a worthwhile investment.

* I had enough disposable income and wanted a particular ~$1000 device

* I wanted it, had a credit card, and no financial or common sense.


I would if it was the last phone I ever needed. It had full service unless you were a mile underground. A battery life that made Jesus jealous.

I like the future idea that phones become such a throw away item you can buy them from vending machines with instant service.


Simple, it's a luxury status symbol like Vertu phones of the past, Gucci bags etc. There are a LOT of people in the world that can afford such things, and there are a lot more that will go beyond their means to pay for it.

Salary Sacrifice means my AU$1500 note 9 cost me approx $700 I'll sell my Note 8 for about $600... I can live with that. a $100 512GB Note 9 :-P

but yeah I wouldn't be buying it without sal sac.


I am thoroughly satisfied with my LG Zone 4. It cost me $120 and I've never met an app it can't run.

Truly an amazing off the shelf Walmart phone, a breath of fresh air from my throttled iphone5


Do I need it? No.

Do I want to have a nice phone that is a bit of a luxury good from an ecosystem that I'm a fan of? Yes.

No one is making anyone buy a $1000 phone, but why not if you want to?


I don't need it but I did buy the iPhone X as basically this is the one device that I use all the time everyday.

I don’t need it, but the extra size is nice and my budget allows for it, so why not.

I would spend $1k on a phone the size of the SE with a headphone jack, fingerprint unlock, 3-day battery life, a camera like the ones on the new iPhones, and internals robust enough to last 8-10 years.

There can never be a good answer to such questions.

I don't even spend $1k on my cars. While I'd love to have a new, secure, iPhone I can't justify that level of expense.

Regardless, what other people do with their money isn't your problem.


You don't even spend $1,000 on your car? Sheesh, are you like 17?

$1k cars are just $2k cars with dirty interiors and $2k cars are just $4k cars with one or two current problems. ¯\_ツ_/¯

I work for BigCo make almost six figures (real dollars in a moderate cost of living area, not SV funny money dollars) so it's not like I couldn't afford better if I wanted. I do all my own work so maintenance is basically free. I have other things I'd rather spend my money on.

I'm probably gonna buy a small pickup this January (when everyone else is short on cash from all the traveling and gift buying they did in November/December) because I want a middle ground between the wagons and the full-size truck. I might buy a minivan if I can find an Aerostar with a manual transmission.




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