Smartphones are too expensive. There, I’ve said it. Many of you will probably end up disagreeing, and you will have many valid points about how there are quite a few low cost smartphones. Brands like iMobile and Ninetology will be brought up about. And it’s true, they do make phones for the budget conscious. But that’s not the image that we’re being sold by the people who make the shiniest toys.
More after the break
The Nokia Lumia 1020 finally arrived in Malaysia last week with a price tag that made me question just how much I’m willing to spend on a phone. I shouldn’t be surprised that people are more than happy to shell out RM2499 for the 1020. They are perhaps spurred on by the 41-megapixel Pureview camera. A fact that one cannot fault them for.
Some of us complained about how phones have been getting more expensive. We even pointed out that the price of these phones is often more than the average salary of us writers in the industry. Samsung debuted the Galaxy S4 at RM2199; while the HTC Butterfly S initially appeared at RM2399. Even the recent Samsung Galaxy Note 3 has an RRP of RM2399. We expect these things to cost more.
Admittedly, this story was conceived as an opinion against the rising prices of these smartphones. But that hasn’t happened in the last 18 months. It was a little weird to notice, but it would appear that overall prices have slipped a little over the years. For instance, the ubiquitous Korean manufacturer Samsung hasn’t changed the price of its flagship Galaxy line by much over time
HTC has similarly tried to keep prices stable, although there was a slight increase with the launch of the Butterfly S. The following table is a little misleading with how it presents the price difference.
Only Nokia has experimented with multiple price points. Probably trying to figure out how far consumers are willing to go for their phones. Oddly enough, the Lumia line has both the cheapest and most expensive phones.
If smartphones haven’t quite seen their prices skyrocket over the couple of years, why have I had this nagging feeling that manufacturers are expecting people to spend more money that common sense dictates they should? It could be the rate at which new flagship models are released these days.
In the early days of Android and iOS, it was easy to get away with a single expensive product. One that was refreshed every year. Similar to how computer electronics are updated on a yearly basis. There was no point in rushing releases because everything still obeys Moore’s law. CPU manufacturers know this. It’s why Intel only releases new architecture every other year. It keeps costs down for everyone.
And here we have smartphones refreshing every half a year. That’s not even as long as the warranty on those things.
To make matter worse, GSMArena reported on a rumour that Samsung is preparing to launch a whole new premium line of smartphones to exist alongside their Galaxy S group of products. That would essentially mean that we will be seeing a new top of the line phone every quarter. Despite any critics, this move will probably pay off and increase the bottom line.
After all, smartphone sales increased 3.6% in the second quarter of 2013. The increase in smartphone sales hasn’t corresponded with an increase in high end smartphone sales. Samsung itself has experienced dips in sales of the Galaxy Note II and S IV. HTC’s earnings have also taken a dip, despite the One doing better than its predecessors.
The only exception happens to be the iPhone. I am not surprised, and neither should you. Both the iPhone 5S and 5C sold a combined 9 million units in the first week. A success that was apparently spurred by China.
The numbers point to a growing budget and midrange market with smartphones. People might be getting wise to how these things work and realise that they don’t actually need the latest and greatest device. The phrase, “I want something that just works” is surprisingly common; yet applies more easily to the midrange phones that lack all the frills of the top-of-the-line technology does.
So maybe the price of smartphones isn’t getting too expensive. It just feels that way because there are better alternatives at lower costs. So maybe it might be time to slow down the releases and give us a break from new high end phones for a while. It would also be nice to talk about something I could actually afford.