Do you really need a flagship smartphone?

Smartphones are very much a necessary part of the modern citizen’s life now. There’s just no way around it. Almost every service nowadays, from education to transport to even food, is based around the usage of smartphones. This has facilitated the opportunity for companies to capitalize on the growing demand for smartphones, and offer their “unique” packages to the market. Thus, flagship phones; luxurious, expensive, peerless and with a price to match the hype. But are they really necessary?

Do you really need a phone more expensive than an actual high-end camera to take photos? Is a screen bigger than your hand can hold making all that difference in your life? Are you in dire need of a bezel-less screen, animated emojis and other novel (read pointless) features?

A very personal opinion on the negative will be explored in the following paragraphs.

Market saturation and basic features

It would be relevant to mention now that the smartphone market had reached a plateau quite a while ago and continues to fall even today. This is attributed to many reasons, primary of which is oversaturation in the market. There are too many companies making smartphones now. And that is actually a good thing for consumers. Since the competition is so high, the producers are compelled to add more features to phones at any given price range to maintain their market share. This means more features for less money.

One can now get features on a mid-range phone we could only dream of just a few years ago.

The performance of basic features like the camera or CPU isn’t anything to sneer at. You don’t want to throw your phone at the wall anymore because the Facebook app is taking too long to load on a no-name CPU. You don’t need to point a torch at something to take a picture because the phone’s camera resolution and lens are worse than a built-in laptop webcam. That’s not to say there isn’t any noticeable difference in performance, quality of pictures taken and other basic attributes when it comes to flagships.

Do you really need a flagship phone?

But as mentioned before, it doesn’t add much value compared to the price hike. People in need can get a great camera and lens for 40 thousand and 8 thousand takas respectively. They don’t need to get a 60-thousand-taka camera phone. The mid-range options are perfectly viable for the rational consumer, especially in our country. This effect is evident, as local producers Symphony, famous for their low-mid budget phones are the market leaders in Bangladesh.

The durability myth

Do you really need a flagship phone? 4

A common argument flagship defenders make is that these phones are built to last longer. That is almost entirely false. Samsung phones are well known for their performance fluctuations beyond 1.5-2 years of use; they tend to get slower and consume more power. Apple is infamous for its lack of customer care. This is magnified after the launch of their new yearly device, as the previous generation becomes effectively obsolete. Moreover, to add to their aesthetic value, flagship phones tend to have glass bodies as opposed to plastic or metal. This means they tend to get damaged worse, and servicing costs for them is significantly higher. Of course, you can carry some of them into the shower, waterproof/resistant and all. But why would you carry a phone into the shower?

That’s a rhetorical question. Please don’t answer that.

Price vs Innovation: Where actually is progress being made?

Compare an iPhone X to an iPhone 7. You’ll see that they have almost the same specifications. Of course, the newer iPhone X is faster, wielding a 6 core CPU against the 7’s four cores. It has a 1gb RAM advantage, fewer bezels and a bigger screen, and it has face identification and wireless charging capability. It’s twice as good in the price department though, sporting a whopping $1000-dollar price tag against the iPhone 7’s mere $550 dollar one. Does that deal sound especially enticing? What justifies the 90% price hike?

Do you really need a flagship phone? 1
Does “innovative” features take the focus away from primary functions a phone should serve?

And that’s just one company. Try taking any company’s current flagship and compare it to the previous edition. There will be some difference, a performance increase, a slightly enhanced image processing system, better stabilization. The common point of these “innovative” new features is they are all marginal. And while performance development is minimal, the price hike is anything but. Try going back just two years in time and telling someone that a consumer smartphone is going to set them back 1000 dollars. What seemed borderline impossible so little time ago is reality today, and I am not talking about facial recognition. That is a very diminutive and honestly pretentious feature that was around a long time before it was implemented into a smartphone. Companies take these minute and showy features, put them on a device and charge you a kidney. Sounds like a good deal for half a year of showing off.

Software: Something that actually matters

It has been more apparent than ever this year. You can run the same things on a budget phone as you can on a flagship option. So much so that the development on premium options of 2018 seemed almost exclusively cosmetic. There were still companies that implemented useful features to make their product a more bang-for-you-buck option. But what actually matter on a phone, the operating system and software platform were almost the same. You will encounter some problems running newer Android and iOS versions that come with flagships on budget phones, but to me at least they seem minimal; while the price difference is almost a deal breaker for many.

So, unless you’re a very busy person who needs to be productive most of the day, or part of a very niche class of consumer, the marginal enhancement offered in flagships isn’t something you require. The budget options offer everything a normal consumer might need. Thus, a completely personal opinion (with the added benefit of having a platform to share it on), don’t buy a flagship phone unless you absolutely need to.

Everything you need to know about Apple’s latest keynote event

Apple closed off October with another Keynote event, announcing new iPad Pros, Mac Mini and MacBook Air models.

A new MacBook Air, at last

Everything you need to know about Apple's October event
The new MacBook Air 2018

Apple kicked things off by unveiling its new MacBook Air, complete with a Retina display, USB-C, Touch ID and weighing 3 pounds less than the 2010 model. Sporting 50 percent narrower bezels, the new model also has a 20 percent larger trackpad, 25 percent louder speakers and a built-in Siri. Powered by an 8th- gen Intel Core i5 processor, 8 GB RAM (upgradeable up to 16 GB) and 128 GB SSD Hard Disk (upgradeable up to 1.5 TB), the new MacBook Air starts at $1199, $200 up from the previous model.

A new Mac Mini, too

Everything you need to know about Apple's October eventEverything you need to know about Apple's October event
A new Mac Mini

Apple also unveiled a Mac Mini update. The model comes with a base quad-core processor, with the added option of a six-core configuration. It also has the memory of up to 64 GB RAM and 2 TB HDD. With four USB-C ports, HDMI, Ethernet, and two USB-A ports, the new model starts off at $799.

The iPad Pro loses the home button

Everything you need to know about Apple's October event
New iPad Pro 2018

Lastly, the company unveiled two new iPad Pro models: a new 11-inch model and an upgraded 12.9-inch model. The new models no longer feature a headphone jack or a Home button and are 15% slimmer than previous models. The bezels have also been decreased on all four sides. Powered by the new A12 Bionic chip, an 8 core CPU and a 7 core GPU, the new iPad Pros are 35 percent faster on single-core tasks and 90 percent faster on multi-core tasks.

Featuring four stereo speakers, a 12-megapixel camera (capable of 4k 60 fps video recording) and a battery with 10-hour battery life, the new iPad Pros are good additions to a product line that has shipped more than 400 million units so far.

Supporting Face ID and USB C, the 11-inch model starts at $799 while the 12.9-inch model starts at $999. Apple has also redesigned its signature iPad Pro accessories: the Smart Keyboard and Apple Pencil both “click” onto the side using magnetic connectors.

Ending on a high note and a focus on sustainability

Everything you need to know about Apple's October event

Apple also committed to its sustainability initiative, announcing that both its new Mac products used 100 percent recycled aluminum finishing for their metal bodies, reducing the devices’ carbon footprint by 50 percent.

This event capped off Apple’s slate for 2018 on a high note.

Although the previous event introduced mostly marginal upgrades for iPhones, this one unveiled some important upgrades to product lines that were ignored for many years. The new MacBook Air, for instance, makes the current MacBook a tough buy, as many don’t prefer Touch Bars.

The event, held at Brooklyn instead of the usual venue at Cupertino, was overall better and shorter than the last Keynote event in September. It introduced products that look new and exciting, announced by new presenters who were excited and got the crowd hyped up as well.

Three iPhones and a watch: everything you need to know about Apple’s Sept 12 event

It looks like the rumours were right on the money.

On Wednesday, Apple announced three new iPhones– all successors to last year’s opinion dividing smash hit, the iPhone X. It also announced a new Apple Watch and a new iOS.

Apple is about to ship their two billionth iOS device this year. This sounds like a good time to double down on success and spread the goodness around.

Large displays get even larger

The new flagships, Apple XS and XS Max are faster, sleeker, and most importantly, larger than the iPhone X. The iPhone XS retains the 5.8-inch dimensions from last year, while the XS Max upgrades to a massive 6.5-inches, with a 2,688 x 1,242 resolution. These display panels are made of the strongest smartphone glass ever made, according to Phil Schiller.

New iPhones get bigger screens

The XS Max is also larger than even the newest Note 9, which has a 6.4-inch screen.

Not only is the XS Max larger than any iPhone before, it also feels better than any previous Plus model.

Both XS models boast better stereo speakers, faster Face ID and better water resistance. The newly announced A12 Bionic processor also gives the models a significant boost in speed, leading to an average increased efficiency of 45% among all cores. The A12 is a six-core chip, an industry-first chip to use a 7nm production process. The XS models will also support dual SIMs, which will be a massive boon to Asian markets. It will be available later in the fall, via a software upgrade.

Both the front and rear cameras got a nice boost. Like last year, the rear cameras are both 12-megapixels; but the new the wide-angle sensor creates a noticeable difference. Optical image stabilization has been added, and the True Tone sensor has been upgraded as well. The telephoto also includes a wider aperture, for better low light photography. Although the front camera is still at 7-megapixels, it’s gotten faster as well.

One big software upgrade Apple is introducing for its camera is the Smart HDR feature. Similar to the Pixel, iPhones will now take multiple images and splice them together to get the best shot.

The battery gets a modest upgrade: the XS has 30 more minutes of battery life, while the XS Max gets an hour and a half more.

The XS starts at $999, while the XS Max starts at $1,099.

The new affordable iPhone

iPhone XR the new default iPhone

The iPhone XR will be the default smartphone for many buyers this fall. It’s budget-friendly and sacrifices the dual cameras and OLED screens of its larger siblings, but it also provides newer features over last year’s iPhone 8.

The 6.1-inch screen is an LCD Display, dubbed ‘Liquid Retina’, reportedly the most advanced LCD smartphone display yet, with a 1,792 x 828 resolution. Specs-wise, the XR matches many of the XS’ upgrades – which include the A12 bionic processor and dual SIM feature – but it lacks 3D touch. The single 12-megapixel camera is still capable of taking portrait-style photos with blurred bokeh effects.

The iPhone XR starts off at $749. It’s a much more affordable alternative to the X and the XS models. However, if you are looking for dual cameras, you are better off with the XS, or even an iPhone 8 Plus instead.

The watch gets bigger, too

Apple unveiled the Apple Watch Series 4  earlier at the event, with a newly revamped, larger screen that goes nearly edge to edge. It now comes in two sizes: 40 mm and 44 mm. Sporting a new dual-core 64-bit S4 processor, the new Apple Watch is twice as fast compared to Series 3 models. Other hardware improvements include a better accelerometer and gyroscope.

Bigger Applel watches

The Watch’s most notable new feature is the ability to take an electrocardiogram (EKG).

This makes this the first consumer product to do EKGs that are sold over the counter. The Series 4 model has already been approved by the FDA for use as a medical device.

The WatchOS’ UI has also been redesigned and tweaked to take advantage of the larger display. The watch face has also been overhauled, with eight new combinations. Other additions include haptic feedback and a ring-shaped LTE red dot indicator. The battery life remains unchanged at 18 hours, although the speakers have gotten a little louder.

The GPS only version will ship at $399, while the GPS + LTE version will ship at $499. They are a safe bet on Apple’s part, who overtook Xiaomi and Fitbit in Q2 2017 as the largest seller of wearables.

So many Apple devices, so little cash

Last year, there was some scepticism that the iPhone X’s $999 price tag would limit its appeal. However, Apple revealed in its last earnings that the X has proven consistently more popular than both the iPhone 7 and 8. It also outsold most rival flagships, including the Note 8 and the Pixel 2.

Apple special event

There’s little reason at this point to upgrade to an XR or an XS from an X this year, but that has never stopped Apple loyalists before. Feel free to spend away, and make the poorer folk weep at your misfortunes. If you are poor, worry not: the iPhone 7 and 8 are now available at $449 and $549 respectively.

The iPhones XS, XS Max and XR will be available in October, while the Apple Watch Series 4 will be available in late September.