Every year, major smartphone makers release their latest and greatest ahead of the holiday season—when as much as 40-45 percent of all smartphones are sold.This is especially the case for smartphone behemoths Apple and Samsung. We saw the Galaxy Note 8 last month, which Samsung hopes will make up for the Note 7 debacle. It appears consumers are willing to forgive; Samsung owned up to the mistakes it made with the Note 7’s battery, and consumers are eager to snap up the Note 8.
Later today, Apple will introduce its newest iPhones; rumors tip an iPhone 8, 8 Plus, and 10th-anniversary iPhone X edition, which is expected to have some major new features, from facial recognition to wireless charging.
Phones from both companies compete in what we call the “premium” market for smartphones, and that’s reflected in their price tags. Samsung’s Note 8 will be around $989 while Apple’s iPhone X is rumored to be priced somewhere between $999 and $1,099 depending on configuration.
While people may flinch at these higher price points, I think we need to start looking at premium smartphones in a different light than models from the early days of the smartphone.
The power of the iPhone has evolved dramatically since it debuted in 2007. Its CPUs are more than 10-15x the speed of the first smartphone processors, while GPUs have improved by as much as 15x in the last decade. Displays are larger and more durable, and color is brighter. Phone cameras have improved enough that most people no longer have a separate device for snapping pics.
These premium phones also include much better speakers, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth radios, and higher-speed LTE modems. We are at 4G speeds today but are moving toward a 5G, 1Gbps future. Add fingerprint sensors and other biometrics like face and eye scanning, longer battery life, and more memory, and you can see why prices have increased over the years.
Essentially, these premium smartphones are now personal computers that fit in our pockets—with an emphasis on personal. Laptops can be shared with others, but smartphones are largely used by just one person, making them the most important personal computing tool we have.
When someone asks me what smartphone they should buy, I always tell them to buy one they can afford, with as much power and memory as possible. A $1,000 smartphone will be too much for most to afford up front, but carriers these days have monthly purchase/leasing plans that could put it within reach; perhaps just $10-$15 more per month.
The good news is that even midrange smartphones with lower prices have advanced processors, cameras, and radios. But if you can swing it, premium gadgets from Apple and Samsung are the best.