Tue. Oct 26th, 2021
The iPhone is not as expensive as you think

The most important point in all price discussions is actually not the purchase price at all. As we mentioned: Of course, the price is an initial deterrent for anyone to fork out more than $1,000 for a smartphone. But the more pressing question is: What do I actually get for my money? And for how long?

Effective price ≠ purchase price

Despite all the recently improved software update promises by Samsung and other Android manufacturers, iPhones continue to receive software updates for the longest period among all other smartphones. In addition to the build quality, brand name, and a long-term stable selling price, this is probably an important point to consider when it comes to the resale value of iPhones which is significantly higher than that of the competition.

iphone vs samsung update policy
There is a tiny error in the graph: Even the 2015 iPhone 6s is still on the receiving end of the
iOS 15 update! / © Wimpires via Reddit

Smartphone retailer BankMyCell, for example, has presented statistics on this matter. According to their statistics, those who bought their Galaxy S20 Ultra upon its launch at the recommended retail price will only receive 35.29% of the price they paid for it nine months down the road, selling it as a used handset. In the case of the iPhone 11 Pro Max, it retained 67.78% of its purchase price within the same time period. You can check out the details below for yourself.

  • iPhone 11 Pro Max
    • Introductory price: $1,099.
    • Value after nine months: $744.90.
    • Effective cost: $354.10.
  • Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra
    • Introductory price: $1,399.
    • Value after nine months: $493.70.
    • Effective cost: $905.30.

Of course, this is just an example, and depending on when you sell it, this comparison may tip more one way or the other. Also, Android smartphones are less stable in terms of prices when it comes to new purchases compared to iPhones, so you can save even more by being a little bit patient. Here’s a quick example with prices as of 21 September 2021, each determined via price comparison at reputable online stores for the smallest storage version:

  • iPhone 12 Pro Max
    • Introductory price: $1,099.
    • Price in September 2021: $999.
    • Savings: $100.
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra
    • Introductory price: $1,299.
    • Price in September 2021: $674.99.
    • Savings: $624.01.

If you wait long enough, you can also save more money. However, the faster price drop for Android smartphones do not make up for the sinking resale value by far. If you were to compare the effective cost of the top iPhone with the entire Android lineup, you do not end up in the S-Ultra bracket, but rather, in the upper mid-range segment of around $600.

iphone android price drop
Important: This chart shows the price drop starting from the earliest resale value. The cheaper the Android smartphones are, the faster it depreciates / © BankMyCell

Incidentally, the worst performer out of the iPhone lineup, according to BankMyCell, is the iPhone SE (2020). It lost 38.32% in value within eight months of its launch. By the way, our colleague Antoine has dealt in detail with how and where you can best sell your old iPhone:

Price comparison is the second factor

Ben had brought me with a thought experiment still on an alternative way of looking at it. What if I don’t want to sell or discard my smartphone, but use it until it dies? I could theoretically buy an iPhone 13 for $799 and probably use it for six years with the number of operating system updates it receives.

Or I could buy three Android smartphones for $300 each during the same period. A current example would be the Redmi Note 10 Pro which is already really very well-equipped with plenty of megapixels in its camera and fast charging capability, what more compared to the iPhone 13 in the years to come. However, Apple continues to roll out iOS updates for a long time, making sure older iPhones are supported.

And let’s not forget: You’ll “consume” three phones within the same period of time, having accumulated triple the manufacturing, packaging, and transportation costs on your carbon footprint account. But we’ll revisit the topic of sustainability in a moment.

Of course, a four-digit price tag sounds like a lot. But there is also the possibility to finance the iPhone or to purchase it via a service provider on a contract. How much do you have to pay once or monthly for which iPhone 13 model? Talk to your local service provider to find out. 

What is the reason for a low price?

Even if the effective cost is lower overall, there is still the question of how the lower price is achieved, apart from, of course, fewer or worse features. This could be, for instance, a liberal amount of advertising in the operating system, lack of data security, or selling your user data. But social or ecological effects also play a role.

iPhone Keynote 37
If you always protect your smartphone in a case, you are doing something positive for its resale value. / © Apple / Screenshot: NextPit

Privacy & data security

“How secure is my data?” is a legitimate question in light of ever new data breaches and spying scandals. Even the security experts at Norton cannot give a clear answer to the question of whether iOS or Android is better, especially since user behavior itself also plays an important role. What is certain, however, is that manufacturers like Apple (especially since iOS 14.5) and Samsung (with Knox) do more for data security than others.

Advertising in the interface

Another trend in recent years is the cross-financing of hardware by displaying advertising in the user interface or in their own apps. So if you were to buy a cheap smartphone, you might have to put up with this annoyance. At least some manufacturers are now backing down, such as Samsung. Other manufacturers also have ads of their own, so here’s how you can remove them on Xiaomi handsets.

Working conditions

There is no question about it: Apple’s production line is in the Far East, and there have been horrendous reports about the working conditions at Foxconn, Pegatron, and similar places in the past. However, you have to give Apple credit for at least being committed to rectify the issue. Apple publishes an annual progress report (2021, PDF) regarding working conditions of its suppliers. Of course, there’s a lot of PR involved here, but at least there is a commitment.

Environmental Protection

Apple has announced in 2019 that it intends to be carbon-neutral. However, this only affects Apple itself, not the supply chains that are responsible for around three-quarters of an iPhone’s carbon footprint. However, Apple has promised to offset this part as well by 2030, for example, through reforestation. This decade will show whether that goal will ultimately succeed or not. At the very least, there is a plan in doing so.

Conclusion: Is the iPhone better than Android?

Finally, then, this is a very loaded question. But don’t get me wrong: Of course, all of these points don’t apply across the board for all Android manufacturers. Apple is by no means a saint, and there are certainly Android manufacturers that are better off on one or more of the above points. But for the most part, if the product is too cheap, people will pay in other ways. In other words, someone will still need to pay.

Whether the iPhone is the better smartphone, only you can answer that for yourself. Of course, you’re welcome to discuss it in the comments. In any case, iPhones are not the most expensive smartphones overall.

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