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A decade-long boom is ending as consumers hang on to devices for longer (economist.com)
227 points by Austin_Conlon 35 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 367 comments

I used to work for a mobile phone wholesaler that also owned a phone repair business and they noticed this trend as far back as 2013. The age of phones coming in for repair was rising year on year. They were coming under pressure from manufacturers and retailers to disincentivise customers from repairing older phones. One manufacturer even threatened to stop paying for in-warranty repairs if the company offered an out-of-warranty repair service.

The problem is that smartphones are way too expensive. Back in the old days of dumb phones a top end SIM free phone would cost no more than €400. Most people would opt for a cheaper model that allowed for a 12 months subsidy with the phone being free and monthly fees being fairly low by todays standards. In the UK it was common to find deals where you got a cheap phone for free, plus a game console or TV on a 12 month contract.

Now it has flipped. Top end phones are now nudging €1000, this means higher monthly fees plus 24-36 month contracts. That's a hell of a commitment, especially considering smart phones aren't as durable as dumb phones were. Of course people are repairing phones when they cost that much.

Plus, there is less of a feature incentive to upgrade. All I use my phone for is web browsing, email, social stuff and photo/video - it's three years old and does all that with no lag. New models don't offer me enough of an incentive to upgrade.

If manufacturers want people to upgrade more often they need to work on curbing the price of top end models. The more expensive they are, the longer people are going to want them to last. Also, a bit more innovation would be nice - must every smartphone follow the exact same black rectangle design template?

> The problem is that smartphones are way too expensive.


People keeping their phones longer is not a problem. People creating less trash is not a problem. People choosing to hold on to their money rather than pumping it into tech companies at a furious rate is not a problem.

I was speaking from the manufacturers perspective.

As a consumer I can see the difference between a €200 smartphone and a €1,000 smartphone isn't as wide as it used to be.

Also worth noting that the wholesale company I worked for made its real money in accessories.

Something can be a problem from one person's perspective and not a problem from another person's perspective and/or globally. :) (Full disclosure: I upvoted you, because from a global perspective I agree that it is not a problem.)

I'm going to go ahead and say that, if you have a perspective where it's that important for you to be figuring out ways to compel people to send you 1/10 of the average person's discretionary income every 1-2 years, then it's that perspective that's the problem.

Sure, but if your perspective is that you want to design something compel-ling enough that people would send you that money, then maybe it's not so bad.

There's nothing inherently wrong with that perspective though, as the benefits can easily be worth it to the individual. Consider that in many places smartphones are the only gateway to the Internet, and that having access to the Internet (and all the productivity that entails) can easily be worth more than 10% of discretionary income.

As one example: https://foodtank.com/news/2015/01/five-ways-cell-phones-are-...

You're comparing smartphone to no smartphone at all, which is (unintentionally, I realize) a srawman version of what I'm talking about.

I'm not saying that people shouldn't get a mobile or smart phone at all. I'm criticizing planned obsolescence, "free replacements" and other consumer-hostile policies that are designed to try and force or trick people into spending vastly more money than they would need to if they were simply after an Internet-equipped mobile device, and were allowed full agency as consumers.

I do way more meaningful things on the internet with my laptop than my phone. Not all internet access is the same opportunity.

ok but what is your alternative to the capitalist model?

>Something can be a problem from one person's perspective and not a problem from another person's perspective and/or globally. :)

Sure, but also some things (like waste and overconsumption) are objective problems for our societies/environment, and we should not allow companies to profit from them and find ways to make them worse.

All depends how the discarded device is being used -- i.e. the net emissions of the new device. Apple claims to emit about 80 kg of carbon dioxide (equivalent) per iPhone. This is basically in the noise for the typical consumer.

80kg * 100s of millions adds up soon. Plus this number can sliced and diced in several ways (e.g. does it included total costs for raw materials, transport, and so on, or just the assembly manufacturing?)

Does that include the whole supply chain?

I bought a Motorola last year for €160, which isn't a great deal. It works perfectly well. It isn't slow. (Admittedly I am not glued to my phone 24-7 like some people).

I have no idea why people feel the need to spend 6 or 7 times more for the latest iPhone. What do you get for the extra money that is actually useful? I know it has a "better" screen but I never had a problem reading on the phone I have. Faster processor? Are people performing heavy computing on their phones, or just sending some whatsapp messages ans surfing the web?

I've purchased flagship Android phones from Samsung/Google for a while. The biggest differentiator for me is the quality of the camera. I've owned budget phones before, and even though I'm not much of a photographer, I find the (relatively) poorer photo quality a big turn-away.

Other smaller reasons include convenience features like wireless charging, a fingerprint reader, water resistance, a nicer screen, and faster Android updates that are available for longer.

Water resistance is easily prioritized if the previous device failed due to water damage -- this was a big factor in my last purchase

Security. My phone is the root of trust for my life. It has my password manager (I never use a PM on a full computer) and is my only truly trusted device.

I wouldn’t trust your Motorola’s timely security updates or hardware trustzone implememtation.

The vast, vast majority of people who buy new phones don't care about security. They buy them because they're the "new shiny thing."

Funny you say that. I'm the exact opposite. I consider my laptop to be much more likely to be secure than my phone.

Most laptop OSes, like Windows, macOS, and Linux, are a decade behind mobile OSes in terms of application sandboxing and also still lagging behind on restricting OS tampering and implementing reliable chains of trust from the system software to the hardware level, e.g. features like secure enclaves.

Unfortunately, those restrictions also make mobile OSes less useful for the sort of technical work that people use "real" OSes for. However, those restrictions make such devices much more compelling roots of trust for our digital lives.

An iOS app can't extract my contacts unless I grant permission, yet an application installed on Ubuntu via `apt` can casually start rummaging around my home directory which I won't know about unless I spend considerable time on mandatory access control profiles, isolation through containerisation or virtualisation, or something equally esoteric for the average user.

I suppose a phone does hold more sensitive information though, like location and mobile payments, making it a more lucrative target.

These desktop OSs don't, however, run a baseband known to be littered with bugs that listens for commands over the EM spectrum amd has low level access to the entire system. Even airplane mode just means it doesn't transmit.

Good point. The lack of visibility into today's blackbox commodity hardware is frightening, such as Intel ME. It's even worse when that hardware is listening to external commands via the EM spectrum and the like, as you point out.

> An iOS app can't extract my contacts unless I grant permission, yet an application installed on Ubuntu via `apt` can casually start rummaging around my home directory which I won't know about unless I spend considerable time on mandatory access control profiles, isolation through containerisation or virtualisation, or something equally esoteric for the average user.

Fwiw, this is becoming increasingly less true on macOS. And the newer Macs also have secure enclaves.

I'm generally not a fan of the trend, as it means more hoops for me to jump through, and I'm not convinced I benefit from this level of security. But, it is much closer to iOS.

Yes, macOS seems to be heading in the right direction (even if it means frustrating legitimate usage patterns at times).

In particular, I like that it kept it simple by either an application being sandboxed with explicit user permissions for certain features, or not being sandboxed at all. Contrast with Linux FlatPaks where even "sandboxed" programs can have a wide range of implicit permissions based on the image configuration, which aren't obvious to end users when running `flatpak install` in the same way that macOS's privacy settings are for each sandboxed macOS app.

I remember some FlatPak applications defaulting to allowing unsandboxed home directory access without prompting me on installation, which seemed to defeat the purpose somewhat. It does block nefarious control flow attacks against programs that declare a strict sandbox, but that doesn't seem to go far enough in my view.

> Most laptop OSes, like Windows, macOS, and Linux, are a decade behind mobile OSes in terms of application sandboxing and also still lagging behind on restricting OS tampering and implementing reliable chains of trust from the system software to the hardware level, e.g. features like secure enclaves.

Desktops/Laptops come with decades worth of software that I do trust. Applying trust at the application level or at a permissions prompt is too late, for the average user it has to be handled by the OS vendor, much like linux distros and apple do. Users mostly just click to allow everything, even most tech savy ones.

The android and possibly iOS sand boxing also does a poor job of protecting against things like user tracking.

The constant availability of a phone is a big incentive to make it the central device.

Why's that? My Moto G5+ bought in January 2018 gets updates of some sort or another every few months.

So who do you trust?

As is the 2013 iPhone 5s. What are the chances that you will still get updates in 5+ years?

how are those updates going to look in January 2020

What's your plan if you lose the phone, or it gets stolen?

You could just as well use pass [1] or something on a USB stick.

[1] https://www.passwordstore.org/

You can't check your email on a USB stick. You still very much need a phone for most uses.

Generally it's the camera which incentives my friends with better phones, more expensive phone = much better camera.

Apart from that, it's also the same argument about why would anyone buy an expensive watch or a branded handbag or expensive clothes? It's to show off.

Some people use their phone for things other than web surfing. Some examples: shooting high quality video. Taking high quality photos. For many people, the high quality phone has taken the place of a camera. The sub-$1000 digital camera can be replaced by iPhone. You can record music using GarageBand. An iPhone can also replace a Zoom recorder in many contexts. You can use an iPhone to measure rooms, plan furniture and even plan how paint will look on your walls with AR. You can create Keynote presentations pretty easily. You can create documents using Pages or update spreadsheets. You can use iPhone as a POS system: when I had a small hotel, we used iPhone to check in guests and take payments. I also occasionally use it to SSH into servers when I need to do something quick and I’m not at my computer. I use it to read books, so the screen quality does make a difference. The screen quality also makes a difference when editing photos.

The Civilizations AR App is pretty incredible and isn’t possible on low quality hardware. The Chalk AR app for live tech support is also not possible on a cheap Motorola. There are also “fun” aspects, like games, and the Dance Reality app that uses AR to teach dance steps. You can use iPhone to launch model rockets, control drones and a bunch of other cool things. Not everyone is going to care about all of this stuff, but for those that do, iPhone is far more than a websurfing, texting device. The criticism around why would anyone “need” so much power in a phone isn’t unlike the old days when nobody “needed” a hard drive or more than 16kb of RAM. Or a color screen. Or anything other than a dot matrix printer. These expensive phones are essentially supercomputers in your pocket; that people choose to use them for the proverbial solitaire isn’t the fault of the tech. It’s like people that use pocket calculators lamenting why anyone would ever need a Cray.

Status. Being part of the cool kids with their airdrop and animojis that the proles can't use.

Is that a factor beyond high school?

Scott Galloway, a marketing professor, and an interesting guy, thing that it is the main factor, even after high school.

It is if you make it a factor. Some do.

it is a factor in high schools?

Well, kids do have silly rivalries and "clubs" based on things like their family's income and how much designer stuff they wear.

It wouldn't be much different in adult life too, but unlike kids, richer / upper middle class people are not forced in the same space for half of their day with people making less (unless they're their subordinates in an office). Often they don't even live in the same areas of a city (or in the same area of the country). So they just signal their superiority over their poorer brethren on social media mostly (that's where expensive branch pics and holiday instagrams and other consumption showcases come from).

Two things for me.

One, as mentioned numerous times here, is the camera. I'm honestly still wanting someone to just release any old smartphone internals that comes with a leading-edge camera receptor and the ability to snap my 35mm lenses to. I'm certain it's not that hard a task.

Two, however, is application development. I generally roll with the latest and greatest smartphone, as well as a handful of various vendors cheap burners, so I can have a clear impression of how my apps work across these devices.

Of course, if I wasn't a dev, I'd still fall back to point one, and still sit here bitching that every new phone release doesn't match my annoyingly specific want/need.

I was in the "$100 phone, cheapest possible carrier" camp for years before getting a Pixel 2. I was using my phone for work and really needed something with clearer reception. It doesn't seem like call quality is really affected much though. I honestly regret the decision. I don't do anything that actually requires my phone to be this quick, and I haven't noticed any change in call quality, at all.

The midrange Moto G released in 2018 is much less responsive than my old iPhone 6s from 2018 that my son “upgraded to” and it will get updates a lot longer.

Normal people have stopped using desktop and laptop computers and replaced them with smartphones (why don't we just call them PocketPC's?) and tablets for a big chunk of the population. I'd imagine HD video viewing and gaming to be a big use of the computational power of the smartphone.

Better camera is a big incentive for many people.

I'd have thought for most people it's an incentive like better car engine, they don't really need it, but they can say "I've got the latest 20Mpx" (when really it's probably the quality of the glass, flash, processing that's most important rather than raw megapixels).

I've been looking at cameras again, I want more control over focus, better ISO, but don't want to pay so much for a better phone because the glass and sensor size is limiting.

Not really - I take most photos of my kids with my smartphone - the quality has been increasing dramatically in the last 5 year and these photos are memories that will last for 50 years. So it’s definitely worth it for me.

i buy refurbished iphones. Admittedly iphones have better build than almost all and are better-lasting overall, i wish i could find a decent alternative. At the price points of current iphones, it is impossible to justify it as an upgrade. At least my region, it is either first-time phone buyers, or people wanting to show off/signal.

Exactly. I made a very good decision this time around; I wanted the cheapest phone that was fingerprint-protected and had USB Type-C, since I wanted it to last me several years and pin codes are painful.

I got my current phone for 160€ (if I'm not mistaken) 1.5 years ago and I couldn't be happier. Browses the web perfectly and runs my few apps great, I'll keep it until it breaks. I'm so happy that I'm even considering buying an extra screen to have reparaibility in the future in case they are hard to find then!

It's funny that many of my non-tech friends who spent half a month salary on an iPhone (Spain) are quite confused about me using a cheap android.

Edit: also note that my 160€ phone now is way better than those 400€ phones 6-8 years ago. And there's not even that much difference with a current 800-1000€ phone.

The oligopoly juiced prices for flagships and is shocked it affected demand.

People have substitutes.

Even if you want a niche feature like Google Fi support, you have to dig a bit but the Moto Android one entries are fine.

Internal memory is tight though. Expandable memory can't support apps or the OS, where sizes are growing...

Seems trivial to give these all 256 or 512 gb but they are stubbornly kneecapped on space and hard to expand.

Maybe space is how manufacturers are fighting back. We know with the battery scandals they aren't averse to "justifiable" planned obscelesce.

When do we get a dozen low cost Shenzhen competitors to diversify the market?

>Seems trivial to give these all 256 or 512 gb but they are stubbornly kneecapped on space and hard to expand.

Fast, durable storage is a lot more expensive than an SD card with dismal random performance a few thousand cycles of endurance. The big-name manufacturers do use storage as a segmentation feature, but many new manufacturers are happy to offer you reasonably-priced storage and microSD expansion.

>When do we get a dozen low cost Shenzhen competitors to diversify the market?

We've already got them - Xiaomi, Oppo, Vivo, Elephone, Ulefone, UMIDIGI, Cubot, Oukitel, Blackview and a whole bunch of others. Only the first three are likely to be competitive on the western market, but Xiaomi are already taking big bites of market share in many European markets. They'll sell you a perfectly serviceable mid-ranger for $150 and a flagship killer for $300.

Huawei? I've been very skeptical as to whether recent negative press is motivated [in part] by protectionism. They seem to have taken a lot of telecoms market share (in the UK at least).

I wouldn't really class Huawei in the same group. They do sell a number of reasonably-priced midrange phones, but they're a multinational telecoms behemoth with a very peculiar ownership structure. IMO they're the Chinese Samsung rather than a genuinely disruptive player.

If you have an unlimited no throttling data plan you can just put everything in the cloud.

I have nearly that and put all media I can in the cloud, but it's still complaining about space because I have apps installed, a feature the phone apparently wasn't designed for.

Being able to stream an app would be nice.

Wait a second... we have those, they are called websites.

Maybe apps themselves are the problem.

That's certainly not ideal. My connection gets dropped all the time just walking around, not to mention going into a building, and carriers aren't incentivized to upgrade their infrastructure to make it more reliable.

I plan to upgrade my phone (unless it breaks first) when I can get either 1TB or unlimited data :)

I realize it might take 3-5 years, but that's okay.

Almost nobody has these though...

> The oligopoly juiced prices for flagships and is shocked it affected demand.

> The oligopoly juiced prices for flagships and is shocked it affected demand.

It didn't affect demand, it affected market clearing quantity because demand was not (assuming, arguendo, the description of surprise is correct) what the makers involved in the “juicing” of prices thought it would be.

OTOH, if there are effectively competing alternatives to those offered by the “oligopoly”, then it is not an oligopoly.

Or just lag the smartphone cycle. I upgraded from 5C to a 6S a couple months back by snagging my friend’s used phone. It’s amazing in every way. Could not be happier. I can’t wait to see what the iPhone X has in store in 2022 or so :-)

If I could buy a new 128GB SE, I’d do it. I waited too long and now they’re only available used or in the 32GB size. I’d still be using my 5S (it still has the latest OS and works well), but I wanted to try the Apple Watch and it required an upgrade.

Why not just go used? I got mine on eBay for under $240 shipped. It was 'B' grade according to the seller, which from what I could determine meant it had literally two scratches on it instead of zero, otherwise the device was flawless. Battery health was 98%.

The real reason is I thought I had 30 days to return the XR, but it turned out to be 14 and so now I have it :-)

The theoretical reason is I trust a phone more if I know it’s direct from Apple.

Now that I have the XR + Watch combo, I’m seeing if I can get by treating the XR as a “desk phone” and the Watch as a “mobile phone”. So far that’s been working out pretty well. If I get tired of it, I may rethink things and try to get a used SE.

This is a good strategy for most consumers. I paid $150 for my iPhone 6 on swappa, and couldn’t be happier. Still going strong.

This is less possible on the Android side of things. The standard now is three years of security updates from the time of first release. And this often doesn't include device driver and some middleware updates.

Obviously people do hold on to phones for longer than the support term but that's far from ideal.

Is that in USA? I had to bypass my UK provider to install any updates. I imagine software updates limit hardware updates considerably.

>I wanted the cheapest phone that was fingerprint-protected

Just because it says "fingerprint-protected" on the tin, doesn't mean it has good fingerprint protection.

Depends on the use case of the "fingerprint-protected". For me, the fingerprint sensor is just the fastest way to open my phone.

Even with no security/pattern you have to first press the power button, then swipe up. With a fingerprint reader, you tap your finger to the sensor and the screen is not only on, but the lockscreen (swipe) was bypassed.

which phone specifically did you choose? now I am tempted to buy the same model..

Local Spanish brand so not very useful here...

I’ve just never understood the value proposition of how I’m better with a $1000 phone than a $100 phone, $500 cellular iPad, and $400 in cash left over.

I buy a $50-100 phone every 12 months though! (At the low end, specs are still rising quickly.)

The iPad doesn't fit in your pocket.

Neither does the X or any of the “plus” model face slabs.

Now I'm confused as to how I carried around my 6 Plus all that time and now the X... (and I'm not a big guy, small pants size).

...I'm legitimately not sure how you comfortably fit that thing in your pockets. I can make it go in, but it's not comfortable; I can't imagine walking around with it all day.

You're somehow either wearing very pants from me, or you have a very different comfort tolerance.

(This is very reminiscent of the discussion I have with people who tell me they can fit a Nintendo Switch in their pockets...)

The front pockets on my jeans are 8x7 inches, or 7x7 if you want some margin to keep things from poking out. Anything up to about 4 inches wide is perfectly comfortable when I'm sitting, so let's say 7x4 for a device, minus a bit for thicker devices. A switch without the joy-cons is a good example of something that's right about at the limit.

An iPhone XSMax is 6.2x3 so it fits very easily. It's only a quarter inch larger than my own phone. An iPad on the other hand is 9.4x6.6, way too big. An iPad mini is 8x5.3, which lets it be crammed into the pocket but not be comfortable while sitting.

While I agree almost all phones are to large, I don't know they are that bad.

I recently overheard a conversation where someone was amazed by a colleagues small phone and wanted to know what it was. "Wow, what is that phone its so small!" "uhh, it's just a pixel." "Aren't pixel's huge?" "Those are pixel XL, this is a normal pixel..."

The pixel 3 is 37% larger in volume than the iphone 5. It is only 15% larger than the iphone 7... gosh but I wish phones release normal+ xl + compact.

Do you never sit down or pick things up?

WhatsApp doesn’t work on the iPad. That is the one thing keeping me from the situation you describe.

> If manufacturers want people to upgrade more often they need to work on curbing the price of top end models. The more expensive they are, the longer people are going to want them to last.

While I agree that lowering the price of a phone will increase the rate of upgrades, I don't think increasing the rate of upgrades is an end in itself for anyone including the manufacturers. If I can sell you one phone for $1000, that's almost certainly going to be better than selling you two phones for $500 each. It front-loads my revenue and most likely costs me less. For the two phones to be better for the manufacturer, they'd need to be taking the lowest margins on their highest-end phones, which is weird.

Selling you a phone every several years means less upgrading compared to selling you one every year, but it also means a lot less work for me. I feel like the actual equilibrium is "manufacture fewer phones".

> Also, a bit more innovation would be nice - must every smartphone follow the exact same black rectangle design template?

I'd settle for the rectangle being available in the same form factors people used to sell. We didn't just converge on "rectangle", we converged on "rectangle so oversized it only makes sense as a laptop substitute".

I baught Xaomi Redmi 5 for $150 a year ago. I could've easily bought the latest iPhone, but when I compared them, I saw zero difference except for the camera. This phone was pretty much ideal for me for the last year, until it broke down (turns out browsing Twitter while lying in a bathtub with slippy hands isnt the best idea). And because of how cheap it is, and the fact that pretty much everything important is synced in the cloud anyway, I'm about to go and buy a new one without stressing over it at all. Out of curiosity, I compared the latest Redmi with the latest iPhone and Samsung Galaxy, and I again don't see a single reason to buy the flagship phones, even though I'm exactly their target audience in term of income.

The problem with smartphones is that they've solved all their problems and the cheap devices are just too good.

There is also rapidly declining value from smartphone as a status symbol and part of identity. People are willing to pay extra for real or imagined increase of status. It has been few years since someone asked what phone I have. Sometimes someone asks "Apple or Android?" for practical reasons.

People check out new smarphones when they are considering buying a new one. They (mostly men) are not so interested checking out new phones all the time as they used to be.

Only thing can think of that could change the trend is AR/VR (Augmented Reality/Virtual Reality) really starting to deliver.

What makes you think people buy phones as a status symbol? I usually hear this from people who don’t buy Apple products misunderstanding the motivation of those who do.

Decades of research for marketing, branding and consumer behaviour seems to indicate that signaling to others is large motivation in buying decisions. Links between status signaling behavior based on expertise, need for status, and brand prominence seem to be significant.

People are not always consciously aware of their motivations. Something just makes them feel right and they rationalize other reasons to justify it for themselves.

Interesting recent research: Coming apart? Cultural distances in the United States over time https://www.nber.org/papers/w24771

>The brand most predictive of top income in 1992 is Grey Poupon Dijon mustard. 42 By 2004, the brand most indicative of the rich is Land O’Lakes butter, followed by Kikkoman soy sauce. By the end of the sample, ownership of Apple products (iPhone and iPad) tops the list. Knowing whether someone owns an iPad in 2016 allows us to guess correctly whether the person is in the top or bottom income quartile 69 percent of the time. Across all years in our data, no individual brand is as predictive of being high-income as owning an Apple iPhone in 2016.

If you can afford it, a Mercedes is a nicer car than a Toyota. An iPhone is better than most android phones and has a whole Apple ecosystem around it which many find is worth the premium. One might not be “signaling” as much as simply being able to afford a superior product.

That doesn't at all suggest that their phone or computer is the way they do that, or that this is what people who buy Apple products are doing.

It used to be a real thing until a few years ago. Now, it's debatable.

Slightly tangential: I use my phone for the exact same things as you and I usually upgrade every 2-3 years to a high end model for a top camera.

Me and my girlfriend both own the Sony Xperia Z3, which had a cutting edge camera when it was new.

I upgraded to the Galaxy S9 a few months ago, she still has her Z3. The advancement in photos is striking. It's incredibly noticeable, especially the reaction time after pressing the button and the low light performance. To a point we explicitly use my phone to reshoot images we already did on the old phone, if we like the motive. I upgraded mostly because 16GB internal space wasn't enough for me anymore and Android keeps bloating. But if I had experienced the camera difference before, it would have been enough to make me upgrade.

From my non-professional perspective the only thing lacking to a real camera is optical zoom. Otherwise I'm positive many shots of the S9 turn out on par or even better than mid-level Canon/Nikon reflex camera shots, if taken at the right distance.

The camera market is getting more and more redudant for non-professional use cases.

I really doubt the camera is nearly as good as my DLSR, which is a few years old at this point, if nothing else because the lens is so much smaller in a phone. Second I have several (well two) lenses without optical zoom (40 and 50mm), which can achieve really low f-stops.

I wouldn't be surprised if a phone is better at reaction time, and possible for compensating for shaky hand moments. In the first case a DSLR has a mirror that has to be moved mechanically, in the second case the smart phone has much more processor power (and presumably better sensors).

And you definitely right that a better phone tend to mean a better camera.

You're wrong. The s9 photos can be passable in optimal light on a screen, but they're a mushy mess even at base iso (which is under 50). You can't make a big print, while you surely can with a midrange dslr.

I'm not a professional and not even an enthusiast, so my subjective impression might contradict objective measures.

But who is actually making big prints? I've never done a singe one and likely won't do anything bigger than a photobook page. That's exactly my point about dslr's becoming redundant for more and more users.

I own a 500€ low end dslr and it feels worse than my 500€ phone that I carry with me anyway.

This is somewhat strange. I mean, low end dslrs generally have good image quality (the d3xxx series from Nikon is excellent technically) but bad haptics (the controls are too modal, terrible menu systems, etc.) - I still think that they feel nicer than grasping a phone to take pictures, but it's debatable. The auto modes on the phone are better but they have a lot less to work with.

I used the example of big prints (big here means bigger than A4) because it's the most immediate demanding application that I could mention. With a phone you also don't have the resolution to spare to apply perspective correction to photos of buildings, dynamic range to deal with less than gentle, bright scenes, etc.

What phones do have, is heavy post processing. You can make DSLR photo look much better than for a phone, but you need to spend some time in photoshop. Phones are now doing photoshopping for you, so out of the box they tend to often look more attractive.

The sensor itself is great, but they come with budget lenses. Not just optically mediocre, but they're slow, usually starting at f/4, so you're throwing a lot of that sensor advantage away compared to a phone with f/1.8.

I have a 3 year old print on my wall of my kids, taken with an iPhone 5, cropped from a horizontal framing to vertical, and then printed at 11x14". I did a bit of post-processing on it to sharpen it up, and it looks fantastic (until you look at it from less than a foot away). I need to repeat the process with the X's camera. ;)

>Not just optically mediocre,

Modern kit lenses are optical marvels. A couple of decades ago you couldn't buy a lens with the quality and versatility of Nikon's 18-55mm kit lens.

Mirrorless cameras fixed most of the dSLR haptics. A newish Panasonic with a Leica or fixed Lumix lens will take better photos than any phone. The disadvantage is that you might not have it on you. Heck, my old Ricoh GRD3 takes better photos than the phone.

Depends; I don't like single-dial ones. The Sony fullframe ones are decent (but I prefer directly coupled mechanical focus and real aperture rings, most FE lenses don't have those, sadly) and have exp. comp. dials, which I find useful.

Leica M rangefinders still have the best controls for non-action photos, which is a bit sad for a design from the early fifties.

> The auto modes on the phone are better but they have a lot less to work with.

That's probably the basis for my impression. I basically only use auto and am not educated enough in photography to use manual mode in most cases.

You don't need to be especially sophisticated to enjoy some basic advantages of DSLRs - eg aperture priority (you tell the camera what aperture size you want, it works out exposure time and ISO) is an easy first step. (This controls, essentially, what bits are in focus for your shot.) Plus it's a feature few phones offer, or indeed can do much with, as they have such a tiny aperture (5mm of glass to let light in, say).

Increasingly I'm happy enough with a phone (giggle pixel 1 which has a halfway decent camera + software support) for walkabout use, but the benefits of a small DSLRs for holidays or other special events is hard to beat.

Wow, is that really necessary? It almost hurts physically to read that strong of a statement directed at another person.

You aren't even really disagreeing with the OP. You could have said: "You're right about the 99% of non professional use cases (sharing on social media and the occasional small print), but not the 1% case of big prints.

I said that op was wrong, not a bad person for being wrong or something like that. There is a significant measurable technical gulf between the capabilities of a current phone and a last gen midrange dslr.

Where did OP say they were making large prints? Who does that these days?

And for what it's worth, I made a photo book from Google photos with pictures all taken from the pixel 2. It looked great.

We probably have different standards for what makes a "great" print. Mine, which are of course very subjective and distinct from the artistic quality of the content, involve having a file that outresolves the printing method to the far corners precisely resampled to what the drivers expect (200 or 400 ppi for Lamdba c-prints, 360 or 720 for Epson inkjets, etc.). This would result in very small prints with a phone, even disregarding other more subtle issues.

Most people however probably view images on a screen, 4k is only 8Mpx.

> 4k is only 8Mpx.

It should be noted this is only true if you don't zoom in at all, since no phone camera has optical zoom :(

Everything you said and you can get an excellent phone for 200 quid without a contract in the UK (Nokia 6.1 with AndroidOne) that does anything most people would reasonably want.

I have one and it is excellent.

I think it's your latter point that's the key issue. This is something that has been able to be predicted from years ago. Most people do not use phones for many hugely intensive tasks: email, messaging, audio/visual (music, photos, videos), and a handful of generally low resource cost apps. Like you mention it's exactly what happened to PC. Phones that are now years old can perform these tasks practically just as well as new phones and will be able to do so for the foreseeable future, so why would you buy the new phone? The fact that new phones have become much more expensive is just going to accelerate a process that was already happening, rather than being a cause of that process in and of themselves.

And really this process has repeated in countless consumer hardware products besides PCs. Televisions were another example. The change from CRT to flat screen was a pretty big change. And the TV's kept getting bigger, flatter, and with better image quality. But eventually people decided that their TVs were big enough, flag enough, and looked good enough. And so TV sales have begun their extremely predictable plummet.

These are all welcome trends by a societal point of view. Living standards are increasing. Even low income have access to decent electronics such as iPhones and nicer TVs.

>>One manufacturer even threatened to stop paying for in-warranty repairs if the company offered an out-of-warranty repair service.

That is...100% illegal. Especially if we are talking about EU.

They were threatening to take their in-warranty service centre contract elsewhere because we offered to fix phones out of warranty. They weren't refusing to fix phones within the minimum warranty period, they were just trying to frustrate out of warranty repairs.

Ah. Well in that case it's just shitty, but not illegal.

Why would that be illegal?

Because the seller(in this case, the manufacturer of the device, as the carrier will be their customer) is required to repair a faulty device. They can't provide this service conditionally.

Cause 2 years warranty is required by EU law

That's not really true and is one of those myths that are repeated all the time. The EU customer law says that any defect present at the time of purchase has to be repaired by the seller if found within the 2 years of purchase(it's actually 6 years for most products).

The problem is only faults found in the first 6 months are presumed to have been present at the time of purchase by default - any fault found later has to be proven to have been present at purchase by the customer(and predictably, that can be very difficult). So no, if your iPhone breaks after 18 months in EU, Apple doesn't have to fix it unless you can demonstrate that the fault existed on the day you bought the device(that it's a manufacturing defect essentially).

And even then, it's not on the manufacturer - the law binds the seller, not the manufacturer of the devices(however, obviously whoever sold you the device can use the same law against whoever sold it to them in the first place)


Read the first sample story, exactly the opposite of what you described.

I agree with your second point even though in the case the store it received the product from a European distributor then the store has a 2 year guarantee from the distributor.

?? It's not the opposite. It's exactly what I said. Follow the links on this site for explanation of what "legal guarantee" means. Particularly read the bit under "How to get goods repaired, replaced or refunded". It's only for issues which existed at the time of purchase. If an issue appears after the initial 6 months then you have to prove that it existed from start.

The sample story:

"Carla bought a hairdryer with a 6-month seller's guarantee. When it broke after 8 months, she took it back to the shop. The shop assistant told her that her guarantee had run out and that she was not entitled to a refund.

Carla rightly pointed out that she had a full 2-year guarantee free of charge under EU consumer protection law, and that the seller's 6-month guarantee only offered additional services. The shop agreed to replace the hairdryer."

So it broke down after 8 months, meaning it was not faulty from the purchase time and it was over the 6 month period you are referring to. Either that is wrong or they are not interpreting the law correctly themselves either.

Their own story is wrong in that respect, because Carla is not entitled to a repair or replacement until she proves that the hairdryer had a factory defect. Their own FAQ says as much:


"I bought a phone just over a year ago, and it has stopped working. The trader refuses to fix it for free. Do I have a two-year legal guarantee?"

"The legal guarantee covers any defects presumed to have existed at the time of delivery and which become apparent within a period of two years."

As a software developer, people tend to assume that I’m really into hardware as well. They’re usually surprised when I tell them that I prefer to buy older hardware and keep it running for longer. I often skip multiple generations of devices.

I just bought a new TV with Roku built in. My last TV was a tube TV.

I’m writing this on a iPhone SE, which I upgraded to for $100 when my 5S stopped working. I kept the same phone case. I’ll probably buy another iPhone when they release a new one with the same size screen. I might get a new phone case then, too.

I was playing Zelda on the original Wii earlier. It’s the newest game console that I own.

Don’t get me wrong, I think new stuff is cool, too. I’d just rather go on a trip than have the newest cool thing.

Honestly people who buy new hardware every year are not "into hardware", they are into wasting their money and finding a pretense to justifying it. Most of them are probably just bored or treat it like fashion.

This is roughly what I observe. With the exception of a subset of techies, the people I know who always have the latest and greatest also tend to make very minimal use of the latest and greatest features. I'm not convinced many of them are upgrading for any purpose other than retail therapy.

A secondary hypothesis is that there is a contingent of people who buy and install smart home devices just to annoy their non-tech-inclined spouses. That one's not mine, though, I got it from one such spouse.

I know a guy who buys a spec'd out MacBook Pro each time Apple updates the line. He uses them to check his email and Facebook.

I think I can agree with this with regard to modern phones, but not universally.

For instance, in the early days on the iPhone, anyone who upgraded every year was getting a huge improvement each time. The iPhone 3G brought 3G support, so you could actually download things at a reasonable speed. The 3G S had a huge and very noticeable performance increase across the board, and the 4 was the first with a Retina screen.

Another example... for PC games, I really wish I could upgrade my GPU each gen. Especially when you're in charge of adjusting your own performance settings, the extra headroom you get from a new card always feels super nice. (Whether the increase is really all that noticeable is perhaps debatable, which I suppose would go to your point...)

Well, you are into hardware, so you only use stable products :-D

As industrial engineer I know what it takes to develop any new product. The real world is enormous and you will always face the unexpected when releasing something new. People is going to buy your product and travel to Siberia or the Sahara desert, or to the beach, and discover things about your product you could not plan.

The fact is that early adopters usually are "long tail beta testers".

So when I buy a product is 2 years or so after it was first released and never have the problems that my friends that are early adopters have.

The problem for me is that the iPhone SE suits me much better than new generation phones.

Maybe if they made an SE-like phone with a better camera, I would buy it: but instead they discontinued the SE.

I was really surprised Apple discontinued the SE. I'd expected them to quietly update the internals again.

The people who own SE's all seem to love owning an SE.

I was in this camp too, but bought iPhone X and very satisfied. Bigger screen and easier to read. It’s interesting that iPhone XR has some other virtual resolution, so text on the default settings is actually smaller than on iPhone SE. Don’t tell me about font settings and accessibility controls, it looks awful. :(

I use a separate Roku box from the TV so the TV can't spy on me with their frackin' microphone. I don't plug the TV into the internet. Haha, take that, N SA!

At least in the case of a Roku TV, it's the exact same Roku hardware just strapped onto the board of an off-the-shelf flat panel display. The only real difference is that the UI has selections for the TV's inputs. There's no microphone unless you use the phone app to yell at the TV or buy a different remote than the one supplied.

That's why I have a Roku TV (well that, and I like the Roku software better) versus one of the other smart TVs. I'd have a Roku anyway so this just frees up an HDMI port.

Same. For me I think part of the reason is that the more I get to know the intimate inner-workings of technology, the more I realize how incredibly brittle and unreliable new technologies can be. So if I have something that is reliable and working great after a year or two, I'm very hesitant to part with it. Plus these days what's passing for 'cool new features' is pretty underwhelming. I'll keep my stuff that works for now, thanks.

If its about saving money I wonder how much you wasted on powering that tube tv.

$5/year or something like that.

It’s about efficiency too - I love skipping generations but usually I go for the max every time I skip, so that I have peak performance for a couple of years. How does an iPhone se even work efficiently? I could not stand my 6+ because it has become too slow to do anything, and just got rid of it this month for an xs.

As a software developer at startup I don’t have time to go on a trip. :-(

I've been where you are... I hope you get more than a salary. "Time-for-money" only scales for the very top ! (Beyonce, Brad Pitt and some NetFlix engineers). Takes this time to skill up in everything! (full stack and the business) so when you get out you can build a business.

Be very careful with this, work-life balance is more important than any startup

I'm a little different, but same result. I buy the best thing out at the time, then use it till it dies. It's because it's a tool, and these modern tools take a while to set up, and that's a task. Had a nexus 6, rooted, custom rom with unneeded crap disabled. It died last year when I finally broke the screen. It was running fine, and the battery got me through the day w/o a top-off.

I picked the max config pixel2xl for over thousand bucks, put a custom rom on it w/o google crap, and that's going to last me till it physically dies.

My boss on the other hand, gets both the pixel and the iphone refresh every year, and fiddles with each for an hour each day for weeks. Screw that. End result though - both you and me aren't as good a customer as companies want - they want my boss.

To address your point, which I cannot relate to. If money is the limiting factor and you still think the new stuff is cool - why not just buy a $200 phone every 3 years? the top of the line stuff is overpriced, but the margins are close to zero on everything else, and specs and features, at least for android, are pretty much the same.

I would gladly buy a new phone if they stopped taking away features. I currently use an iPhone SE, and I treat my phone as an extension of my brain - I use it 5 hours / day. For me, the pros/cons of an upgrade to an iPhone XS are:

Pros: better camera, faster processor, water resistant

Cons: no headphone jack, too large for my hands

It's not obvious that upgrading would make my life better - it's more likely to make things worse, actually. I'm not paying $1000 for that.

They’re also making phones that are less comfortable to hold. But taking away the headphone jack is a non-starter for me. The FaceID “only” thing is a deal breaker for professional reasons. I also can’t stand the notch. They clearly don’t like the notch, either, since they hide it in all of their marketing. I’d rather they removed the selfie camera and relocate the speaker to the top of the phone.

Love my SE. The size is crazy portable. It’s even a little too thin for my comfort. But it’s so thin that a battery case isn’t a problem.

> I also can’t stand the notch....I’d rather they removed the selfie camera and relocate the speaker to the top of the phone.

I agree, although note that on many phones the proximity sensory, ambient light sensors, and/or face-recognition sensors are also located in the notch. Moving those to the edges of the phone, or putting them below the display, introduces additional engineering headaches.

I'd rather they just cut off the display about 5 mm from the top of the phone and put whatever sensors they need in that narrow strip. Turning ~60% of that 5mm strip into display is pointless, ugly, and adds significant software complications. Hopefully it's just a fad like the rounded display edges.

I think that’s what they will eventually do. I saw somewhere a paint had been patented that matches the black of the edge of the case but that lets the camera see out (or something like that). I do understand that there are legitimate uses for the front of the phone real estate. But I think they’re already willing to experiment with removing features for design so a perfectly edge to edge display sans sensors and camera makes sense-if only as an option amongst a couple options.

> I saw somewhere a paint had been patented that matches the black of the edge of the case but that lets the camera see out (or something like that)

Note that iPads already have some sensors behind the seemingly opaque white paint. (Purely for style reasons, I think.) And it's already pretty hard to see the front-facing camera on a black cell phone.

> Hopefully it's just a fad like the rounded display edges.

Edges or corners? I doubt rounded corners are a fad - if you think about the geometry of corners, assuming you need some minimum distance between the edge and the display, and your physical corners aren't a perfect 90°, you need rounded screen corners to maintain the minimum physical bezel size around the entire display.

I meant edges, not corners. They are sometimes called "edge displays" because they go "edge to edge"


(The silly part is the curve in the display, not per se that there is no bezel.)

In the SE boat as well. Great chassis - durable and fits in small pockets. Wish they'd keep squeezing newer gen parts into it. Every time someone sees it they're astounded at its tiny size, but I have no trouble reading on it.

I’ve had male relatives comment on the size of my phone like it’s an extension of my ego. Totally bizarre.

I think it’d be awesome to have the same form factor with an actual edge to edge display.

That's bizarre. I have a feeling that anyone who would make that connection and feel the need to say it out loud is projecting their own insecurities.

One of the things that frustrated me about the notch was the general public so deeply offended about the use of the top and bottom of a screen? The whole universe had to adapt to this weird non rectangular design for some dumb reason but I liked when speakers pointed at me and weren't muffled by my hand.

I think it’s just that compared side by side bezels look like unused space. Going full bezel-free is an extreme reaction. People easily leap from “too much X is less attractive” to “any X is too much.” It also seems the only trick Apple design is capable of these days.

The headphone jack is the biggest thing for me that comes up in the comparison shopping. I appreciate that some people enjoy their wireless headphones but to get 100% coverage for me I would need two or three pairs to charge on rotation. Or I could have one set that lasts me in every situation basically forever

I was hoping that one plus would have kept their jack but it feels like 2018 is the last year to buy a flagship grade phone with headphone jack? I have an HTC One from a while ago that recently got patched to android 5 which is good enough for today.

It's absolutely impossible to find a "small" phone -- ~4" screen -- with a high-quality camera. (I say "small" because even these phones still dwarf the easy-to-hold, easy-to-carry dumb phones.)

Plus, any phone that size would have a good shot at improving battery life without being too bulky. I'd love for someone to take my money another good 4" phone, but there's no options regardless of budget.

That goes for either Android or iOS.

As a user of wireless noise cancelling headphones for half a decade I couldnt subscribe to this criticism

There is also a lightning adapter to use aux cables, thats not supposed to sway you just letting you know thats its not a real limitation

Wireless headphones are great in a lot of situations (I have some) but they have latency issues that make them unacceptable in others.

They also move the problem of "using headphones" from "just plug them in" to "are the headphones charged, and can I pair."

Dongles move the problem from "just plug them in" to "do I have the dongle, does it fit my current phone."

None of these things are insurmountable obstacles, but they're an unnecessary annoyance.

The latency has been seamless for my use case for headphones on a phone

And as you already know, it was also already how I was using these devices

I am very content with the quality of my particular headphones but for the nuance you highlighted are you listening to sound or listening to your sound system

When they cost as much as they do, is it really a surprise that a good portion of people don't want to replace them every other year? I would like to be one of the people replacing theirs every year or every other year and while I could afford it, I can't justify the expenditure. Add to that the fact that most phones purchased within the past couple of years remain performant enough for most people.


at this point phones cost about the same as laptops and laptops have a ~3-4 year replacement cycle.

I won't be surprised if the same starts applying to phones, now that the improvements between generations are mainly cosmetic.

Top reason for me to even consider upgrading from my Galaxy S5: Google maps has gotten so overloaded with "features" that opening it takes about a minute and unloads everything else including music player. Similar for Twitter. I don't complain about fb messenger because I took its bloat as a nudge to ditch it years ago already. Luckily, Osmand is getting better and better, and Twitter less and less relevant. \o/

Seems easy to justify to me. You use it constantly, a small increase in joy or functionality multiplied by many hours = worth the cost of a speeding ticket.

3% faster is just going to be 3% faster, and nowhere near bringing me actual joy.

Having to pay $100 a month for a difference barely measurable in real world performance however... That will cause me real-world dissatisfaction.

You're kidding about those numbers, right?

An optimistic but realistic scenario is something like 40% faster and $20 a month, where the phone is used a lot and the speed translates into saving multiple hours a month. Definitely worth it there.

40% faster at what? Games that you aren't going to play? The vast majority of users aren't going to notice a speed increase in their daily tasks. It's like claiming the latest Intel desktop processor is X% faster than last year's when the bottleneck outside of a few applications is not the processor.

You never wait for your phone's processor? I certainly do. It doesn't benefit all the time, but it definitely benefits outside of games.

I regret not elaborating on how X% processor benefit would only be Y% real life benefit, but I thought my point was clear enough. I would have been making a much stronger claim about hours saved if I actually thought the total use of the phone would go 40% faster...

I run a 3 year old phone and no, I have never waited due to the phone's processor. Any lags have typically been the result of memory shuffling or lengthy app bootup times that have noting to do with processor speed. I'm fairly confident saying phone processors haven't been a bottleneck for most people since probably 2015.

If the phone is a flagship or Apple-priced that’s at least $1200. $100 a month if you buy a new one every year.

If the webpages I browse today load fast on my existing phone, network being the speed barrier... will I actually experience a 40% speed-up on a new phone? No way.

The value is just not there. And that’s not my opinion. That’s the market speaking. Figures are down for phones everywhere.

Every other year. $2400. And that's if you throw your old phone in the garbage.

$20-25 a month lets you trade up to a new $700-900 phone every other year.

You won't benefit from that 40% all the time, sure. But if you get 8%, and you use your phone two hours a day, that's almost five hours saved! Processing is not a negligible amount of waiting. Plus new phones tend to have better radios.

What's interesting about these numbers is that few people seem to apply the same analysis to the $50/month or more they are giving to the mobile network provider. I use a prepaid SIM without any data plan and spending about $50/year for phone calls and SMS. I currently pay my home cable-modem ISP about $70/month, and it provides a service that I don't think can be effectively replaced by mobile network plans at this time (perhaps with coming 5G services, that might change).

My smartphone only sees data via wifi, and it is definitely not at the center of my life. I get more than enough internet exposure through my home and office computers and wifi networks. Being disconnected outside is one of my guilty pleasures. My main use of my phone outside work is for offline GPS and casual camera use in the wilderness, where there is no phone service even if I wanted it. As a result, I value a small and light phone since it is mostly a passive burden in my pocket. But, the battery needs to last a whole camping trip away from the electrical grid.

My current phone is an aging Moto G4 Play which can still go 5+ days with many hours per day GPS logging. I am starting to see reduced GPS reliability that I think may be physical antenna damage. So, I may replace it with a fresh mid-range phone, rather than replacing its user-serviceable battery and looking into non-OEM firmware updates to extend its life.

I don’t care. The value is just not there for me.

There’s a million things I’d rather spend $1000+ on that will get me real joy, rather than incremental improvements to a yet another generic product in an increasingly stale (and increasingly locked down) product-line.

Smartphones is just not a “it thing” anymore. Get over it. The market certainly says. (As in it’s not just my opinion.)

It's not all about you. You can't get any major benefit from a new phone. That's fine. Don't pretend that nobody can so you can lord your better decision making over the world.

The market says that somewhat fewer people are seeing the need to buy new phones. It hasn't dropped to nearly zero.

To be more specific the market says an increasing amount of people (as in a trend) has decided that new phones are not worth it year after year for a good while now.

Project that trend into the future and you’ll see just what happened in the PC market: ever decreasing sales.

Unless you’re prepared, that’s going to get ugly.

I think the higher prices are in anticipation of slowing sales, the root cause of which is the end of Moore's law etc.

I‘m not sure you can blame Moore‘s law here with iPhone CPUs getting 20-30% performance bumps every year.

Since 28nm, successive nodes cost more per transistor, instead of cheapening exponentially as they had formerly. Strictly speaking, this is one of the Moores-related laws, falling under the "etc" of my comment.

tl;dr the performance bumps cost more.

For a while it was alright. I was willing to upgrade every tick of the iPhone cycle and hand down my old iPhones.

I even handed down a couple of iPads.

The last few years has been different though. The devices have been good enough. And the prices on the lastest iPhone has kept going up. Had the prices been cheaper I’d have upgraded. My parents are on 4+ year old phones (I use for 2, then they use for 2 before another hand down) and even older spares that are just used for travel and the get a local sim. The incremental improvement is worth it if I can pass down.

As it is, I think they’ll have to get new phones when they just stop being supported. I’m not upgrading.

I have a pixel one; I see no reason to upgrade. What feature do new phones offer that I can't do with the pixel one.

Waterproofing is worth it IMO.

In ten years of smartphone ownership, I've never killed a phone with water damage. I've actually never lost one to any damage at all. Waterproofing is a gimmick (to me).

So upgrade when/if you drop your old phone in water? That's actually the only time I've upgraded to a newer phone, the two times I ruined my old phone with water. If my next phone is waterproof, it might be 10 years before I upgrade. (Right now I'm on a Galaxy Note 4, which I got after accidentally running my Note 2 through the laundry a few years ago; it's more than adequate for what I use it for.)

Cellphones have reached the state of performance surplus that desktops have reached years ago. There's simply no reason to upgrade. I'm still using the desktop I built in 2013 w i7-3770 & 32GB RAM for $600. There's been no reason to get a new one.

As phones are becoming commodities like computers, I wonder if Apple will meet the same fate in mobile as it did in computers: being marginalized as a niche player in the market it pioneered as most people flock to the mainstream choice (Windows for computer, Android for phone)

> I'm still using the desktop I built in 2013 w i7-3770 & 32GB RAM for $600

Did you steal half the hardware? I'm trying to do the math in my head and I'm pretty sure the RAM alone cost at least $600. I know I paid significantly more for my i7-2600k w/ 16GB in 2012.

I bought used CPU & RAM. And no discrete GPU.

Could be lower clock rate on the RAM. But agree that those specs at $600 sounds tight.

Apple is already in this position globally and has never been a majority even in the US. I think the difference is that the phone market is MUCH bigger, and combined with fragmentation issues across Android, that makes iPhone still a really attractive developer target.

But also remember that Apple has never cared about dominating market share. They think of themselves like BMW or similar, they don’t care that not everyone buys Apple, they just want to make the “best” devices and to have happy customers.

Apple has always cared about dominating market share. It gives them extreme negotiation power when dealing with suppliers, giving them a good price and quality. Apple usually is the first to choose the best quality components from dealers and the rest of manufacturers have to live with the left overs.

In fact, Apple has dominated the portable music player for a long time.

They also dominate the laptops market, making the biggest seller models of all the world. They make them in Aluminum(extremely expensive to make for small productions) and the big quantity they sell make extremely hard for others to compete.

They dominate the smartphones also. Other manufacturers have more market share but divided in lots of models, and several manufacturers.

The Ipads had been selling fro hundreds of millions per year. There is no sophisticated product in the world that have been sold at those massive numbers in the entire history of mankind.

This is something that Steve Jobs understood very well. The current CEO was the boss of manufacturing for a long time, so he knows it.

But if they continue raising prices, they will lose the mass production.

From what I found around 160 mln laptops were sold last year. Apple sold around 18 mln, in other words around 11%. HP, Lenovo and Dell sold each around 2 to 3.5 times that. Can you say then that Apple dominates laptop market? Rather that they are a big player.

I understand that you said that they sold the most per a model. But does it count all that much when others sell PC hardware in such a big quantities? They sell more models, but they likely share many many parts.

> Apple has always cared about dominating market share.

Apple dominates profits, but not market share. Occasionally, this happens to drive their competitors out of the market, as is what happened with iPod, iPad, and Apple Watch; however, Mac and iPhone, while quite profitable, are not even close to "dominating" the market.

> The Ipads had been selling fro hundreds of millions per year.

This is not true at all. Apple sells significantly fewer than a hundred million iPads each year.

> Apple sells significantly fewer than a hundred million iPads each year.

For those curious, here's their non computer sales by year (peak iPad was 2013, with 71 million units).

2002: 381k iPods | 2003: 939k iPods | 2004: 4.4m iPods | 2005: 22.5m iPods | 2006: 39.4m iPods

2007: 51.6m iPods, 1.4m iPhones | 2008: 54.8m iPods, 11.6m iPhones | 2009: 54.1m iPods, 20.7m iPhones

2010: 50.3m iPods, 40m iPhones, 7.5m iPads | 2011: 42.6m iPods, 72.3m iPhones, 32.3m iPads | 2012: 35m iPods, 125m iPhones, 58.3m iPads | 2013: 26m iPods, 150m iPhones, 71m iPads | 2014: 14m iPods, 169m iPhones, 68m iPads

2015: 231m iPhones, 54m iPads | 2016: 211m iPhones, 45.5m iPads | 2017: 216m iPhones, 43.7m iPads | 2018: 217m iPhones, 43.5m iPads

> There is no sophisticated product in the world that have been sold at those massive numbers

PC sales peaked in 2011 at 365 million units.

They are still over 200 million per year.

> They are still over 200 million per year.

The argument, which you may be able to but have not refuted, is that “PC sales” is not a singular product or even a singular form factor like the iPad.

There’s no point in upgrading anymore aside from ditching the feeling that your phone is slow (which is likely fixed with a factory reset).

Camera is infinitesimally better. Processor is better in a way you can’t measure. Oh now you can push anywhere to use your fingerprint!

There’s no more cash cow cuz phones aren’t getting noticeably better. Get back to me when I can stop using my thumbs to type or when the world becomes my monitor. Maybe I sound entitled but some day the bullions these companies keep expecting has to be justified.

> Camera is infinitesimally better.

The camera difference is actually huge compared to 2-3 year older top models, if you experience it first hand. I posted my experience in another comment here [1].

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18896617

I suspect that this trend might be slowing down. Starting with the Pixel 2, Google started really pushing the idea that image processing in your camera can make up for a lack of better hardware, using it as an excuse not to improve the camera that much from the original Pixel. Anecdotally, I even think my friend's original Pixel takes much better photos than my Pixel 2. (but maybe he's just a better photographer!)

Some of the image processing that goes on for Pixel 2 & 3 is done in a special ASIC.


Apple probably has a similar block built into their SoCs directly. Computational photography will require more and better HW to handle the compute, so I wouldn't bank on camera improvements stalling out for some time.

As an example of runway, look at the Light L16 (which the Nokia 9 Pureview is rumored to use their tech). It takes medium format DSLR quality photos that you can adjust depth of view in post processing. That will filter out to Android & Apple phones eventually.

The thing that would get me excited about mobile devices is the ability to run my own programs and access a real file system like a general purpose computer. That would be a real improvement in capability along the lines of the first true smartphone with a touchscreen, browser, and GPS for turn-by-turn navigation.

It’s probably not something that will happen. Computers got commoditized. Just how these things goes I guess.

But I do agree. It’s sad to see the PC-era, and the free software ideals, die-off. Slowly the idea of running your own software on your own devices is becoing arcane.

>Slowly the idea of running your own software on your own devices is becoing arcane.

Ever since I've been using computers (late 90's onward), my experience has been that running your own software has always been arcane. I can count on one hand people I've known in the flesh who've done this. Peoples' eyes get wide as if you're about to empty their bank account with your mind if you tell them you wrote a script or a program to do even the simplest of things.

Joe and Jane Phonetypical of today wouldn't have been the proprietary software-creating types of yesterday, they would've been the AOL, Microsoft Word and solitaire-using types.

In my mind I included software of your own free choosing. As in, not only what’s in the app-store of your device, but that software the kid down the street hacked together for you.

But yeah, I see your point. Of course my memory is somewhat clouded by the circle of people I choose to surround me with.

(Edit: But even the 90s has started the downward slope. There was a time before that, and in first half when systems booted into a BASIC-interpreter)

An interesting case to exemplify: Minecraft started out as java application. You downloaded a set of jar-files an ran. The software was proprietary, but it was yours to run, and java being what it is, was fairly simple to modify and extend. A large community of tinkeres and hackers grew up around this capability of modding the software in various ways.

Then commoditization happens, Microsoft bought it, rewrite it in c++ and started selling it as a service with an app-store. Modding is still part of the echosystem, but the barrier to entry is sufficiently high that I have hard time imagine any new generations of hackers growing up as Minecraft modders.

Ah I was wondering how Minecraft got so big (I also always thought it was just an open-source thing). Microsoft seems to be really good at hand-holding the masses and sitting them in front of things they didn't know they would've liked.

Android is Linux: it has a real file system that you can access. You can run your own programs on it as well.

Running programs inside a sandbox is not what the OP is talking about. If you can't reinstall your own OS and get root permission* to talk to the hardware, you're not really in control of whats going on.

*Im of course aware you can root Android phones and jailbreak iPhones, again this isnt what OP is talking about - they void warranties and are challenging/time consuming even for tech people.

Some phones can be unblocked officially:


However, I agree that OP is talking about document centered interface instead of application centered.

Back when I first installed Linux on a PC it was much more challenging than putting LineageOS on a phone. Especially getting full hardware support on a laptop took a lot of fiddling.

Nowadays, Lineage will work perfectly OOTB 99% of the time. And 100% of the time if you buy a phone which is already compatible.

Why do you need root access to the hardware for it to be considered a general purpose computing device? If someone provides you an account on a server where you don't have root access, would you not describe that a general purpose computer device with a real filesystem where you can run your own programs?

> Why do you need root access to the hardware for it to be considered a general purpose computing device?

Unless you have root access someone else gets to define what “general purpose” is.

Someone else gets to tell you “no, that’s off limits”.

That’s doesn’t sound like being in control of your own device to me.

The manufacturer gets to decide if they're manufacturing a general purpose computing device or not, but they don't get to define what general purpose is. Either it executes arbitrary code or it doesn't, which my Android device does just fine without root access. So I would call it a general purpose computing device.

Root access is just a platform specific construct, and it doesn't necessarily have an important purpose on every platform. Furthermore there are lots of ways that a platform could take away your control even if you had root access, such as through binary firmware blobs (which I'm sure you're running dozens right now, as am I probably).

> Root access is just a platform specific construct

Root access is the machine never being permitted to tell the human owner “no”.

Nothing platform-specific about that what so ever.

On the contrary I’d rather say it’s so detached from platform it’s more like a fundamental principle than anything else, a technological ism of sorts.

But there are lots of situations where you can't do things even with root access on a unix-like machine. I gave one example already -- root access doesn't give you control over the operation of system firmware. But there are others, too. For example, root access doesn't let you write to kernel memory, it doesn't let you bypass SELinux policies, etc. The way you are defining root access here essentially doesn't apply to any modern computing system.

I would call it a general purpose computing device and also would say you're not in control of what's going on.

Isn't your software the thing that's really "going on"? Who cares about the intricacies of how the hardware works? I understand being interested for hobbyist reasons, but is there a practical reason?

EDIT: Here's another example. Let's say you have a VPS on which you have root, but you don't have ring 0 access on the machine where it's running. Are you in control then?

if the remote server has better IO and net access, but if you chose to use your own software, the vendor decides to cap you access (or force an inferior api on to you), then you have an equivalent analogy.

How does android cap TCP/IP access for the user?

I m talking about the camera features, the radio, and any other hardware features etc.

So if a general purpose computing device comes with a camera, but the camera is restricted, then it's not a general purpose computing device anymore? What if it didn't come with a camera in the first place? Plus, there is no restriction against connecting your own camera peripheral which you do control.

The first time I rooted a phone and installed a custom ROM completely over the air while riding a bus I felt like a hacker god, but that was like 2012 or something. I'm honestly surprised everyone doesn't root their phone because at least on Android it really is trivial these days and fixes so many problems with the phone ecosystem. There's no excuse at all for someone honestly interested in running their own programs not bothering to figure this out.

Android kernel is Linux, userspace is a mix of Java Frameworks hosted within ART, ISO C, ISO C++ and a couple of native APIs.

Nowhere are Linux syscalls part of the official stable APIs.

My Nokia N900 has real file system and can run any program that runs on Debian since 2009. Still my day to day mobile device because of that.

This is why the librem-5 is exciting to me.

There are always going to be muscle car enthusiast mechanics.

However, needing tinkering is not generally a desirable capability from an everyday appliance.

Ford is now down to a single gasoline car.

This already exist it's called Android. I left IOS several years ago for the exact same reason

Unfortunately, it seems like Android is moving in the direction of restricting access to these very things, either through preventing access to the bootloader or by preventing "rooting" :(

If I buy a 100 dollar phone new each year I save 900 dollars and get 80% of the features of that 1000 dollar phone. Each year my new phone starts to get as good, or better than the phone I was getting 80% of a few years back. This also works for cars.

I use a pair of wired headphones nearly daily, not only are the advantages small but the overall item is worse.

i m entitled too. for the amounts of golden eggs they make, where is the novelty? At least add some new sensors, or some weird new radio tricks, i mean, i know shiny things sell, but they have tons of cash to invest under the hood.

The Jobs-era strategy at Apple was pretty straightforward. From what I recall around 2000-2010 the Apple strategy was:

1) Decided on a minimum acceptable functionality for a device

2) Set up uncompromising logistics chains to support creating a device (eg, famously, touchscreens)

3) Price at a rate that was extremely competitive when considering the device components

4) Crush competitors who could only offer cheap goods that didn't really do what Apple's could, or expensive goods that could match functionality but not price - recall the iPad's original differentiation was it was cheaper than expected, given what it did. It looked very cheap compared to the preemptive tablet releases of the time trying to head its success off at the pass.

They've made a lot of money over the last few years, but that strategy doesn't seem to match the modern Apple's approach. The price gap between an iPod Touch and the cheapest iPhone is not something I'd have expected of 2010 Apple.

EDIT I looked for a source - https://www.videogamesblogger.com/2010/03/29/ipod-touch-vs-i... - initial iPhone was extremely comparable to an expensive iPod.

> The price gap between an iPod Touch and the cheapest iPhone is not something I'd have expected of 2010 Apple.

Just to confirm, up until a couple of months ago, the difference between the low-end iPod Touch and the cheapest iPhone was $150, and today this is $250. I don't recall there ever being a time that this was significantly lower.

The original iPad was a potato. Came out with 256MB RAM in 2010 and could only run one app at a time. Sure, everything else about it was very good, but it was not cheap for what it could do. Like the iPod with "less space than a Nomad", haha.

A proud owner of Nexus-5 for five years waves hi. It's still in top-notch condition; only had to replace the screen protector once, and did a small surgery to replace the "irreplaceable" battery. I keep telling my friends that I am planning to use this for 10 years.

/me hopes that the fine community of LineageOS provides at least security patches for Nexus-5 for the upcoming five years.

Nexus 5 is expected to be the flagship device for PostmarketOS, running on a mainline kernel, even. So, it will be in very good shape for the foreseeable future, even after it's no longer able to run a supported version of Android.

(Besides, I don't buy the notion that current phones are more expensive than in the past. A good baseline-to-midrange device, costing around $300, can do everything that the N5 could and more. The Xiaomi A line is very good, or you can pick Asus or BQ if you're concerned about Xiaomi being from China. Really, just pick something that's trivially unlocked and has good support by the modding community, and you're good to go.)

Oh, very interesting information on "postmarketOS"; didn't come across it before. I'll need to do some research about what that community's goals are (although, the name implies some), how sustainable they are in the long-term, etc.

Apparently it's based on Alpine Linux. And from a quick reading, it sounds very promising:

"... postmarketOS is developed in the spirit of regular Linux distributions ... Furthermore postmarketOS will not impose arbitrary restrictions on you. Use the apps from any ecosystem you want (even desktop software). With Alpine's simple package format, you do not need more than a bit of Linux knowledge to package your favorite programs (assuming that they run on Linux already)."

I would still be using my Nexus 5, if it hadn't developed an issue with the power button (which caused it to constantly boot cycle - purely due to a physical defect with the button). I'm using a Samsung S7 now, which is definitely a superior device to the Nexus 5, but the Nexus 5 was absolutely fine.

I assume you are using Lineageos on it. Are you using Gapps as well?

Afraid, I'm still in the process of switching to LineageOS :-( I am first doing my homework by reading related forums, etc. On the current Android OS, I don't use much of GApps. All the applications I use are: Keep 'notes', Maps, Google Translator, Spotify, LifeReminders, Dutch–English dictionary, an OTP generator, SMS, WhatsApp, Signal, Firefox, and from time-to-time the camera; that's it. No native email apps, no "social media" (I don't even have any accounts) or such. And of course, everything and everyone is on mute, except one person; so no notifications.

From a recent IRC chat on #lineagos (on Freenode), folks there said I should be totally fine switching Nexus-5 to Lineage. I'm just being cautious before I pull the trigger.

I'm still enjoying my 2013 Nexus 5. The first replacement battery (2015) was a winner, but last year's was a dud. I wonder if the batteries sold by ifixit are any good? It began boot looping a few months ago, which I fixed with a factory reset.

I just got a battery from them for my 6p. It was the same model, but looked different. It was also sightly too large compared to the old one, and the circuit board was sticking out. I had to really cram it in there for it to work.

It's frustrating that there's no trusted source of supply for device batteries, at least for the DIY market.

I wanted my Nexus 5 to do that. But alas, the wifi chip died, and replacing the whole logic board didn't make sense for a $200 phone.

Are consumers rallying against the excess of the smartphone market or is this just a product of the quality of new devices? The yearly improvements feel more incremental than ever, so I'm inclined to think it's a little of both.

The other factor, besides the two that you mentioned, would be that smartphones are a “mature” product category and new models are not introducing significant improvements compared to last year’s. I still remember when I upgraded from an old Symbian-based Nokia to my first “modern” smartphone (an iPhone 3GS): it was a big change! My latest update (from an Android Moto G 3rd gen to an iPhone 7 Plus) was just an incremental improvement.

I think at this point the only real reason to upgrade is the camera. I have a iPhone 6S and couldn't see any reason to upgrade especially given that I prefer smaller phones. My wife's Nexus broke and we bought her the iPhone XR Max shortly before a trip to Iceland. I frequently going myself borrowing her phone whenever I had a shot I really wanted to take because it looked so much better with her camera(s). And that was before I discovered the phones incredible portrait mode. That said, how much longer can they do big leaps on the camera without the price going completely bonkers? The iPhone XR Max with Apple Care already clocked in at $1500!

To me the real innovation in looking for with phones is that they can connect to an external screen and keyboard and in that case just give me something very close to regular macOS. To me that will lock off another wave of valuable phone upgrades for a few years because we again need more computation power to drive that setup. Maybe we could do something where the screen includes the GPU...?

Gotta say, I could afford to upgrade my iPhone X to the shiny new version. And I usually do. But each time I'm stopping in the middle of the process because I just can't find the justification, and at that price too...

My old iphone6 does everything I want in a phone.

Still rocking an iPhone 6 here as well. I just can’t lose the jack... :P

My battery life isn’t what it used to be, but I can still make it a full day with slightly less usage (restricted to browser/text based mediums). Should have taken advantage of the battery upgrade. Meanwhile my sibling’s 6S(?) Plus drains charge like someone is bloodletting it.

I have a 6s plus, and had the battery replaced, and still drains the battery like that. I’ve tried all the obvious tricks. I’m befuddled by this, it’s the worst battery life of any phone I’ve had. I thought the bigger case would have helped, but maybe the bigger screen out weighs it.

What I find mystifying is why as an average user it’s impossible to figure out why it happens, is it normal, is your phone broken?

Apple docs and support provide no insight into one of the primary usability issues.

Other than that, it’s quite a nice phone. I picked it up cheap on Craigslist and it’s going strong for two years.

Does the battery breakdown in Settings help? Try comparing your apps to the built-in ones.

IIRC that phone had a worse battery life than the regular sized device due to the screen.

You should have availed of the $29 battery replacement which was available until the end of 2018. My 7 is like new and I’ll keep it for two more years.

I am happy to say that my desktop from 2004 is still alive and kicking. Some websites are a drag, but some on-board replacements have kept the old warrior running. I hope one day we can keep our smartphones on life support for a long time.

A lesson for my next mothership is to not skimp on the case, it's the single factor that keeps my current 2009-era desktop from being a real ship of Theseus. Over the decade I've upgraded RAM, GPUs, added a network card (mobo's jack died), more storage... but I can't get a pair of the beefy GPUs I want for lack of space for the cards themselves and a beefier power supply, plus I'd need to upgrade the mobo. Might as well do it all at once for a new rig and start fresh.

I am actually going the other direction, I used to build my own, went to laptops-only for a while but then got a mini-tower prebuilt. That one died after about 18 months so I recently ordered an even smaller Gigabyte Brix, with a 10W CPU (Celeron J4105) instead of 65W, but better I/O, and compatible with my existing RAM and storage options. Small enough to mount on the back of the new monitor I'm also getting. I have gone smaller with every desktop I built.

Basically, I now use laptops for games and the desktop for storage/office tasks. The single board desktops are quickly growing out of the RPi-type niche and look increasingly competitive with the traditional ATX platform for this role, and opting for them means that I define my system around the storage and RAM, rather than the multitude of PSU/motherboard/CPU/GPU/case combinations, which is both easier for me and eliminates most instances where components push each other out of their tolerance range. So long as I'm on the same memory and storage, I can replace everything else in the case for <$200. This is really what sold me on the idea; since my existing system fell out of warranty after one year, repair would be the cost of a new board. But if the whole system is the board, then a failure is a forced upgrade.

I tried the super minis but cost & availability start to get unreasonable. I've settled on ITX, usually a tower, and LP cards.

Same here, I got tired of building PCs and got a Zotac EN1070K. It runs modern AAA games smoothly and is small enough to carry in a backpack.

You still use a desktop? The portability of a laptop is something I couldn't do without.

There's nothing that precludes you from having both. My computing needs are adequately met by my laptop, desktop, and personal server at work. Without the laptop, I definitely wouldn't be anywhere near as productive but the same goes for the desktop.

My laptop is always ssh-ed (mosh provides the "always" aspect) into one of the others anyway. It's stuck with 8GB of RAM which is often a bottleneck, especially since Docker holds onto a couple gigs and Chrome tries its hardest to get the rest. Portability is necessary but not sufficient to addrrss my computing needs.

It's impossible for me to write code on the weenie screen of a laptop. Plus I hate the laptop chicklet keyboards and the touchpad that my palm is always accidentally brushing against.

If I could, I'd have a 4x8 foot display with no decrease in pixel density. I.e. an incredible number of pixels.

Heck, why stop there. Give me a wall sized display! Phooey on laptops.

I am completely in favor of having a work station (better performance per Euro than a laptop). However, nothing holds you from using a nice screen and keyboard with a laptop.

I have my MacBook Pro hooked up to a 4k external display, Microsoft Natural Keyboard (or whatever they are called today), and a nice big Magic Trackpad 2. I can undock it and have exactly the same system on the go. the MacBook Pro can drive multiple screens (2x4k on 13", 4x4k on 15"). You also use an external GPU over Thunderbolt 3.

> nothing holds you from using a nice screen and keyboard with a laptop.

What's the point of having a laptop if you can only use it with an external monitor, keyboard, and mouse? A powerful desktop is much cheaper, and you can stuff huge disk drives in it.

When I'm on the go, I bring a cheap laptop (in case of loss, theft, or damage) that doesn't have my whole life on it and mainly take a vacation from working. (And I'll use the time to catch up on my professional reading.)

My wall of pixels is a 42" 60hz 4k display I bought on Amazon for $200 3 years ago. Best purchase ever, it's basically like having four 21" 1080p monitors stuck together with no gap.

Really hard to get myself to code on my laptop now.

> If I could, I'd have a 4x8 foot display with no decrease in pixel density. I.e. an incredible number of pixels.

i think you would find this setup to be really poor.

you need be within ~2ft viewing to appreciate the difference between 1080p and 4k at 24" diagonal display size.

sitting 2ft from an 8ft wide display will give you very poor viewing angles for the majority of the content. at greater distances than 2ft, the pixel density of a 4k 24" display become nothing more than waste of gpu, cpu and electricity.

Maybe. I know I could easily make use of one double (in both x and y) the size I currently have.

As for discerning pixels, I know that the retina display is distinctly easier to read than non-retina (both from Apple) even though I could not see the pixelation on the latter. Watching video does not make much difference, but reading text sure does.

PDF’s are a good example of things that look terrible on non-Retina displays

I have a 5x1 monitor wall and it's great for coding, but it curves around through 90° so all the screens are equidistant. Portrait mode is so much better for coding (for me) and I can see multiple source files, application, documentation and reference material all at once. It's great!

Depending on your requirements you could make it work with a powerful desktop and small and lightweight (but obviously not powerful) laptop, at least I found that’s what works for me rather than those giant and heavy “desktop-replacement” laptops. It gives me the best of both worlds.

I'm running that configuration with a somewhat powerful desktop and an el-cheapo 10.1″ 2-in-1 (worth ~$200, I bought an used one for ~$120). I was initially saving up to replace the latter with a powerful small laptop, but over the past couple of months necessity made me learn to work more over SSH. So today, I can do 90% of my work somewhat comfortably on that small 2-in-1 via SSH-ing to my desktop and running an extra Emacs frame in terminal. Since that's just a "view" of the same instance I have running in GUI mode on my desktop, I can switch between the two machines almost completely seamlessly. This fits my current needs so well that I actually refrained from buying new hardware right now, and will just keep the money in a "hardware fund" until the poor little 2-in-1 dies.

Yes this is very similar to my workflow. I have pretty much given up on finding a "powerful but small" laptop because I realised that this type of machine is also guaranteed to suffer from thermal throttling

Each of my two 1080Ti GPUs is about half the size of a laptop.

I have 1 desktop and 3 laptops. Sometimes it's good to have a large screen and a comfortable (ergonomic) keyboard. Rigging these to a MacBook with a USB-C can be done, but sometimes it's better to use a desktop.


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