iPhone Temptation

When looking at Apple’s new iPhones, I’m tempted to buy the more expensive versions. I am lured by the upsell. The least expensive iPhone is all the smartphone you need…but the other iPhones are more shiny!

The dubious rationale behind the purchase of a $1,000 phone is explained nicely in this article on Medium: The Weird Economics of the Apple Upsell.

This year, Apple’s iPhone lineup is a huge Sarlacc pit, ready to pull you in at any point. The span of magical iPhones for 2020 is impressive indeed; there are 7!

The new top iPhone 12 Pro Max 512GB at $1,400 is a full $1,000 more than the 64GB iPhone SE at $400!

Yet both iPhones do basically the same things: make phone calls, texts, take good pictures, run apps, and surf the web. Both have NFC for wireless payments. Both are water resistant.

So what justifies the huge price difference? Fair question. What is the rationale behind buying anything over the iPhone SE?

In the Medium article I mentioned above, it talks about comparing the cheapest new iPhone to the next one in the lineup and then repeating that process each step of the way up until you’ve rationalized buying a phone for $1,400. It makes sense yet it’s kind of bonkers at the same time.

But here’s how to break that reasoning. Don’t compare the iPhone SE to the next one up the lineup chain. Compare the new $400 iPhone, which is all you really need, to the old phone you are upgrading from. That’s the only one to compare to.

If your current phone is ready for an upgrade, then you simply compare it to the least expensive iPhone and leave it at that. Don’t look at the others. Compare only your old phone with the new lowest-cost iPhone. Old phone: frown. New phone: smile. New phone only $400, yes!

It would be nice to live in a reality where we’re rational all the time and never let our emotions or impulses affect our decisions. But we don’t.

Yet it’s rational to strive for such rationality. So we do.


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Your Phone Is Your Computer

In the last few years, smartphones have become more expensive. In fact, some phones cost more than laptops. How can a phone command such a high price tag? Among many factors, I’m looking at this one idea: your phone is your computer.

Here’s one example of the higher price of a smartphone over a laptop: my own Android phone is $250. And my Chromebook, on sale, was about $200. So my phone cost more than my laptop. How can that be?

Another example of device cost disparity is found in Apple’s 2020 iPhone lineup too. With new Apple iPhones now on sale, you might be faced with choosing one that costs more than a MacBook. This is “just a phone” we’re talking about here, right?

The new iPhone 12 Pro Max with 512GB storage costs $1,400 while the entry level MacBook Air is priced at $1,000. Why does a phone cost $400 more than a computer?

Whether you’re looking at an expensive iPhone or a flagship Android phone like the Samsung Galaxy Note20, you’re likely to spend as much, if not more, than you would on your laptop or desktop computer. That sounds a bit ludicrous, but it kind of makes sense when you think about it.


The Most Personal Computer

These days, we rely on smartphones more than our computers. And although computers are productivity machines, our phones do as much or more. Since phones are pocketable, they’re more versatile than traditional computers.

Your phone is your point-n-shoot camera; it’s always with you to capture life’s moments. Then on that same phone you edit the photos or videos from the camera, much like you can edit video on a desktop PC.

Smartphones are now our wallets too. They wirelessly pay for things at the store. And they secure your identity so you can pay online. Speaking of money, you can budget finances right on your phone using a spreadsheet or a specialized app.

Our phones, using GPS and an accelerometer, record our steps and calculate our general fitness; they’re like pedometers. Try doing that with your laptop in your backpack.

And phones are now the best music playback devices. They stream wirelessly from the internet to any bluetooth speaker or headphones, at home and on-the-go.

So a phone’s utility often outclasses a productivity laptop. Smartphones changed computing life as we know it starting back in 2007 when the first iPhone debuted. Many people today couldn’t live without a smartphone; they’re as necessary as cars.

Yet when we look at a new phone that costs $1,000 or more, we wear a grimace emoji on our face. Sticker shock shows we forget how much we rely on our phones for all their many capabilities.


I tend to be budget conscious and frugal. Yet I think that since phones are the most important computer in our daily lives, it’s reasonable to pay a high price for them. And to offset that cost, we can say a laptop is our secondary computer, like a peripheral that is ancillary to our mobile phone, and thus pay less for it.

In other words, flip the script.

Instead of a low cost phone and high cost laptop, get a high cost phone and low cost laptop.

Either way, the more I think about all that I use a phone for in daily life, and how much I rely on it, the higher prices seem justified. Our smartphones are tiny marvels of modern mobile computing.

Yet novelty, hype, and marketing work hard to sell those high priced smartphones; I work hard to resist.

What’s your take on high cost phones these days? Do you feel the prices are warranted?


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Switching To 4K Video

Are you already aboard the 4K train? You know, Ultra High Definition (UHD). Despite being a tech-nerd, I’m dragging my feet, content to live with HD quality videos. Why? Because, for goodness sake, it looks great already!

Maybe it’s because I come from a time when the best we had was VHS, which I think displayed something like 320×240 (or 640×480?) resolution on an interlaced TV. It was yuck! Yet it was color TV!

Then we evolved to the awesome DVD format. And today I live with 720p or 1080p HD. It’s superb!

My family was late to the HD party by several years. The advantage: by then, HD was ubiquitous and easy to adopt. And it had dropped in price, becoming affordable.

That’s basically where I stand now with 4K. Sure, it looks stellar. But the costs are also sky high. Well, they are coming down I think.

The trouble is once you’ve invested in a blu-ray player, a new HDTV, and movies on blu-ray, you kind of want technology to stand still long enough to enjoy your investment.

Oh, and let me interject: the 3D movie fad…yeah, I never even considered it.

The next thing you know, marketers are telling you that you might as well be rubbing sandpaper on your eyeballs if you’re not watching glorious 4K stuff.

Now all of the sudden, you’ve got to buy another new TV. And a new movie playback machine. And new more expensive movies.

This is where things get more tricky than usual! Besides contemplating an upgrade to 4K, you must decide whether you’re gonna stick with physical discs or just go all digital. Either way, you’re gonna spend more money.

So I’ve resisted 4K for a few years now. I might hold out at least one more. 

But.

Switch To 4K

I recently realized a new factor. I enjoy video gaming on my Nintendo Switch. There are rumors that Nintendo is planning an upgrade for the Switch to play games in 4K! And, okay, I admit: I am much more interested in jumping on the 4K bandwagon with that prospect.

Just think about it! Mario, Zelda, Metroid, new RPGs…in 4K!!

My digital wallet is starting to feel lighter already.


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Apple iPhone Lineup 2020

Apple spilled the sauce this week. The mobile devices company revealed its newest iPhone(s). There are 4 new ones for 2020. They’re similar to each other, and they’re familiar, being basically the same as last year’s iPhone. They are, after all, iPhones. And that’s not a bad thing.

Watch Apple announce the new iPhone 12 and more.

iPhone 12

For 2020, the four new iPhones are all twelves. You have two tiers; each tier has two versions that differ mainly by size. In fact, when you compare them by specs, you see they have very little difference between them.

The lower tier of iPhone(s) 12 is, I guess, the “normal” one. The upper tier is called “Pro.” Although there are 4 new iPhones, there are only three sizes: small, medium, and large.

SmalliPhone 12 mini5.4” screen
MediumiPhone 12, iPhone 12 Pro6.1” screen
LargeiPhone 12 Pro Max6.7” screen

This year, the iPhone 12-es do not offer any major new features; they simply iterate current abilities. Basically, they’re all a little bit faster, nicer, or better than before. If you have an iPhone 11 from last year, I don’t see why you’d need to upgrade.

But do the new iPhones need to make great new advancements? No, not really. They’re already excellent mobile devices, firmly established at the leading edge of mobile computing. This year, they keep that solid stance, moving forward just enough with the march of time.

Well, the cameras are improved, especially on the most expensive model. But I dare say that most people’s phone cameras are good enough these days. So why shell out so much money for a phone that costs $1,000?

The real updates to the 2020 iPhones is the all-new-retro industrial design we first saw with the wonderful iPhone 4 back in 2010. That’s right, the greatest thing about the latest iPhones appears to be their appearance – a 10 year old squared-edge design.

Plus, new colors.

Yes, the iPhone(s) 12 do look as super sleek as ever. It would be travesty to encase them. But nobody wants to drop their fancy expensive mobile computer on the concrete. Heck, I put my “budget” $250 Android phone in a $20 case with a glass shield on it.

I would have bought a vibranium case, but Walmart was all out. And the adamantium cases cost too much. So, they’re really unobtanium. But I digress for fun.

Here’s the full starting price comparison of all the current iPhones Apple now sells:

iPhone SE$400
iPhone XR$500
iPhone 11$600
iPhone 12 mini$729*
iPhone 12$829*
iPhone 12 Pro$1000
iPhone 12 Pro Max$1100
*Depends on carrier…

It should be noted that the $400 iPhone SE can do all the same basic things as the $1100 iPhone 12 Pro Max. The differences, costing $700 more, are enhancements and preferences.

For this year’s iPhones, Apple also announced new MagSafe accessories. Cases, wallets, and chargers, for example, magnetically attach to iPhone 12. The video demos make MagSafe look compelling.

As an aside, Apple has talked about Augmented Reality (AR) in its product announcements for years, touting it as the future or as innovative. It looks cool in demos, but is anyone actually using AR? It doesn’t seem to be a real thing, or maybe it remains niche. I keep thinking that, after years of advancing AR tech, a compelling use case would appear. /Crickets.

Oh, and the iPhone 12-s now have 5G.


HomePod mini

One other thing that Apple announced is their new $99 HomePod mini. Notice that I prefaced the product’s name with its price, because that, to me, is what’s most “magical” about this Apple product.

Despite being a “Mobile Devices Company,” Apple is pushing into the home devices market. A sub-$100 price point is like a magical barrier. Given the cost and the capabilities of the HomePod mini, Apple is banking on each household buying multiple mini HomePods.

Even I, an Apple-deviceless nerd, am tempted.

Besides being affordable (for an Apple product), the HomePod mini is said to play good quality music in a 360 degree spatial way, so it should sound good from any direction. Nice.

And if you have two ($198!) HomePod minis in the same room, they will auto-magically pair together to play audio in stereo. Nice-Nice!

Also, you can play music throughout the entire house from all available HomePod minis.

Plus, with multiple mini HomePods, you can use a feature called “Intercom.” It does what you think and sounds useful. You can announce to your household anything you want. Siri plays back your voice, not the Siri voice, to share your announcement. And you can speak it from anywhere: your Apple Watch, your iPhone, your other HomePod mini.

From what I’ve read online, though, Amazon’s Echo speakers with Alexa have the same functions, more or less, and they come with even lower price tags. But Apple is known to make devices work together better than any other company. And since iPhones are common in many households, a $99 Apple smart speaker should be an easy sell.


Apple Aspirations

Apple has made incremental moves in the mobile device area with the new iPhone 12 while it has made a big step in the home device area. But add to that Apple’s product launches last month, the new Apple Watch and iPads; you see overall progress for its mobile devices business. And more is on the way.

Next month, Apple is said to be revealing another of its biggest leaps forward for mobile computing with new laptops featuring its own custom CPUs. As usual, we’ll wait and see.

I admit, since my wife and kids use iPhones, I’ve been thinking about switching back. And these Apple announcements draw me. Even when you look past the marketing hype, there’s no doubt that Apple devices have high-quality and reliability. Plus, they have privacy and security. And now iPhones have widgets like Android.

So…


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Spotify Plays Game Music

Let’s talk music streaming for a bit. I bet you already have your go-to place for tunes. Me, well, I’ve jumped around, tried a few things.

It took a long time for me to break from the iTunes a-la-carte model. That ability to purchase one song rather than a whole album was liberating; I came from a time of cassettes and CD’s. If I wanted that-one-hit-song, I ran to the radio and mashed the record button – and groaned when the tape wasn’t queued.

Fast forward to streaming music services. Their monthly subscription fees seemed like too much commitment, but I started to try them out.

First, I sampled Apple Music. It was nice… Then I dove into Spotify; I loved it! Part of the reason I bothered looking into it was knowing that Google Play Music would soon be killed off by Google, but I digress.

Well, despite loving Spotify, I wanted to later try YouTube Music Premium. I did, I liked it, and most of all I enjoyed the perk of ad-free YouTube Premium for only $2 more a month.

But then something happened.

When I first opened up to YouTube Music, I realized quickly that I’d have to give up some official soundtracks; Spotify had them, YouTube Music didn’t. I thought I was willing to live with that.

Turns out, I wasn’t.

Towards the end of Summer, when I got back into playing video games, I wanted the soundtracks to the games! The official soundtracks for all the Final Fantasy games are on Spotify! There’s even the album for Octopath Traveler!

There were a few other albums I missed too. So, there was no choice. I had to have my tunes!

Despite the benefits of YouTube Music, I couldn’t resist the greatest feature of Spotify, the most important reason for choosing it: my songs. Like, music by Nobuo Uematsu!

Aside: Why video game music? When you play certain games, like role-playing ones, the music sets the atmosphere and draws you emotionally into the story. Those tunes stick with you. And you feel sonically obliged to immerse in them.

So, all that to explain why I switched something again. I’m back on Spotify and am loving it!

Ah, but there’s one more thing.

I’m now also trying something else again: Apple Music…on Android!? Yes, it’s true. I’d always thought Apple Music on Android was bad due to poor reviews. But now that I’m in an actual free one-month trial, I’m surprised at how well it works! It looks and feels just like it did on my old iPhone 7!

Not only that, I discovered Apple does, in fact, make a cloud based web player for Apple Music. And it’s working well on my Chromebook!

I love Spotify, so why am I trying Apple Music after leaving Apple devices behind? Long story short, my wife is an iPhone user and likes Apple Music. If she doesn’t switch to Spotify, then I may switch to Apple Music so we can save money with a family share plan.

And yes, the first thing I did was check to see if Apple Music has all my video game soundtracks; it does! Moreover, to my surprise, Apple Music also has a particular game soundtrack that Spotify lacks: Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch!

What’s your gotta-have music? Care to share a sample of your library? Comment below.


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