“By far the most expensive phone in the marketplace,” was how the new iPhone was described by one of Apple’s competitors, who cast doubt on the smartphone’s chances in an increasingly competitive market.
Not the iPhone X, of course. The Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer was talking about the original iPhone, first launched 10 years ago. But people didn’t mind paying extra for the revolutionary smartphone, which went on to become perhaps the most profitable consumer device in history.
However, the US$999 price tag of the iPhone X, unveiled in California late on Wednesday, has once again raised the question of what a reasonable price for a smartphone is - and how long Apple can get away with charging premium prices.
Unlike 10 years ago, Apple doesn’t have a clear lead on smartphone innovation any more. The iPhone X’s OLED edge-to-edge display, augmented reality wireless charging and facial recognition system are all readily available on other very accomplished smartphones from Samsung and others.
But the pull of Apple’s brand for millions of smartphone users around the world continues to more than compensate for any perceived narrowing of the innovation gap.
Last year’s iPhone 7 was criticised in some circles for being a minor update, most notable for the disappearance of the headphone jack, but was still responsible for sending iPhone sales to their highest ever level in the fourth quarter of the year.
What’s more, while $999 may sound like a lot of money for a smartphone (okay, let’s face it, it is a lot of money), it’s less than $100 more than Samsung’s new Galaxy Note 8, due to hit UAE stores this month, and only marginally more expensive than current deals on last year’s iPhone 7 Plus.
Apple lovers are therefore unlikely to be perturbed by the slightly higher price tag for the iPhone X, due to go on sale in November, just in time for the holidays.
Sure, you could buy three or four perfectly good smartphones for the same money. But the bond that Apple has forged with its customers means that $999 is still a price that most of its customers will be happy to pay.