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Why I'm not getting a $999 iPhone

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Great is good enough

I think Apple did a good job with its new phone. It puts a big screen in a small body. Bezels? Gone. And the Face ID hardware conveniently powers the most adorable thing ever: Animoji. Plus, Nilay said the iPhone X feels like "the future of the smartphone," and I love the future.

I'm due for an upgrade: My iPhone 7 has a broken screen, and I already feel the battery fading. I typically buy one phone a year, and it's been a year. The insatiable consumer in me feels an urge to buy something, and the technologist in me feels the urge to buy one of the most advanced phones on the planet.

But I think I'm good, actually.

I might buy an iPhone 8 if I get a good trade-in deal through my carrier. Wireless charging would be nice to have, and I always enjoy a nice bump in processor speed. But I don't think I'm really the sort of person the iPhone X was built for. I like my phone. I use it a lot. But I guess I'm not a phone person, and apparently it required a $999 iPhone to prove it to me.

It's sort of like with cars. If I bought a car, I would try and find one that's really reliable and convenient, with good gas mileage and a nice resale value. I'm not a car person. It's not that I can't appreciate a car that goes fast, or looks amazing. It's just that those things aren't very central to my identity, or high on my priority list.

The iPhone X is a Ferrari but all I want is a Honda, is what I'm saying. Am I doing this car analogy thing right?

If the iPhone X was the only new iPhone available, and if it was available for a typical iPhone price, I would be overjoyed. Design-wise it's everything I want in a phone. But the iPhone 8 is good enough for me. Great, even. And it's $300 cheaper.

These are the obvious economic considerations that people all over the world make when buying all kinds of products. But Apple has only had one flagship iPhone until now, so the choice was always fairly simple: do I need a new phone, or no?

Now I have to decide if I want a great phone or a greater phone, and I'm realizing that I have no desire to pay extra for a greater phone.

For me, the phone is primarily a consumption device. I listen to podcasts and Audiobooks, watch YouTube videos, and play Egg, Inc. on my commute. Among those activities, only YouTube would be slightly improved by the iPhone X. As for communication, I'd be just as good at responding to Slack messages and texting my friends with any iPhone built in the past four years.

And while the camera is always the best reason to buy any new iPhone, the iPhone X’s dual camera setup is barely different than that of the iPhone 8 Plus. Also, I've already forgone the camera improvements available on the iPhone 7 Plus in order to keep my phone small and relatively cheap. I don't use my phone camera very often, and while I'd love to have Portrait mode and the iPhone X's smart front-facing camera, those features aren't worth hundreds of dollars to me.

In fact, to get down to the real economics of the situation, I've been saving my money for a real camera and lenses. I'd rather put $999 towards something that was designed for filmmaking, not designed for Snapchat. I feel best about spending money when it's a tool designed for my creativity. Phone photography is a true art, but it's not my chosen artform. If I got an iPhone X, I would be getting it for sheer luxury, not creative empowerment.

If the new strategy from Apple is to build a normal phone for people who like normal phones, a big phone for people who like big phones, and a premium phone for people who like premium phones, I think I'm going to pick the normal phone every time. I love my iPhone, but I don't need the best iPhone.