Ctrl: Expensive Phones

Caio Brighenti, Maroon-News Staff

We have a phone problem. And no, I don’t mean we have an anti-social generation, on-the-phone-too-much problem. I mean a real, tangible, problem.

Phones are getting ridiculously expensive, and we’re just letting it happen. Maybe you’re on one of those confusing Verizon plans where you just kind of get a new phone every once in a while for “free” and you haven’t noticed. Or, let’s be honest, if you’re a Colgate student reading this, there’s a solid chance you don’t really care. But if you’ve been paying any attention, then it’ll be impossible to miss that phone prices are increasing fast.

Usually, with consumer technology, we like to think that prices go down over time. When some fancy new product comes out, it’s really expensive, and then eventually companies figure out how to bring the price down and it gets cheaper and cheaper. With smartphones, this rule certainly seemed like it applied—mobile cell phones first cost thousands of dollars when they hit the market. This decline continued until we hit what seemed to be a few constant price points around 2015. Flagship phones, like the Motorola Moto X or the OnePlus, sat around $400 USD, top-tier premium phones like the iPhone or latest Samsung Galaxy were around $650, and finally, budget phones went for some- times as low as a few hundred dollars. But, in recent years, any sense of stable prices has been blown out of the water.

Three years ago, the top tier iPhone would cost you about $770 USD. Then, the iPhone X got bumped up to $1000. Now, with the Xs Max, you’ll be paying anywhere from $1,100 to $1,500 USD. And this isn’t just classic Apple price gouging either—Google’s, OnePlus’ and Samsung’s phone prices have all ballooned several hundred dollars in the last few years.

When I first came to college in 2016, I purchased Google’s top-tier Pixel XL for just

about $850 USD. This year, the top-tier Pixel 3 XL would’ve cost me $1000 USD. At this point, anyone who wants a premium device has to shell out laptop-level money, which is just ridiculous. So how in the world did we get to this point?

Well, if I’m being honest it’s entirely our fault. Okay, maybe it’s also the companies’ fault a little bit, but can we blame them? Year-in-year-out, we keep buying their phones almost no matter what happens. Samsung phones start exploding due to poor battery quality control? Who cares! Apple is revealed to have been intentionally slowing down users’ phones without their consent or knowledge? Guess I’ll just buy the new one! Google admits to having been tracking user location regardless of whether the location services were turned on? Oh well, I guess that happens! We are such irresponsible customers, sending a loud and clear message that we have no intention of jumping ship.

Interestingly enough, while these brands have been pushing prices up as far as they can, budget phones have only been getting better and better. Did you know that for just about $230 USD, you could get the Nokia 6.1, a pretty killer phone? Or, you could get the $400 Moto Z play, which is still a great phone. Maybe you’re just a sucker for sleek, premium-feeling phones. Well, then you could shell out a little over $500 for the LG G7, which is still less than half the price of an iPhone XS.

We need to start accepting that there are more companies making phones out there than just Apple and Samsung and start making it clear to the big companies that we’re happy to switch if their prices keep rising. Right now, we’re seeing exactly what happens if we don’t. Unless you want the next iPhone you buy to cost double the price of the one you have now, you should probably consider checking out a budget brand.

Contact Caio Brighenti at [email protected].