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.
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
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?
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.