I’m in Seventh Heaven…But Not the iPhone 7 Heaven

On September 7, 2016, Apple introduced the iPhone 7. A little corny, but ok. The presentation was as slick as it usually is and all geeks were riveted, as though it was 1984 all over again, mostly because this is the 10-year edition of the iPhone (June 29, 2007).

My iPhone 5 has been good to me over three+ years. I just wish I'd been good to it. I would have been happy to keep it longer if it didn't have significant "health" issues and could flatline at any time.

It’s not hard to believe there have been a billion of these sold over in under a decade—that’s not a figure of speech, there literally have been over a billion sold. It’s a device that has revolutionized what we think of as "communication". Voice calling is now nothing but a seldom-used feature for most users, one of many "apps" we use from time to time.

I’ve been a big iPhone fan for years. I got the iPhone 4 once my carrier became one of the authorized providers. Indeed, I was about the first to get one. Then, two years later, I got the iPhone 5 (pictured right).

It’s time for a new one.

These didn't cost me much. The mega battery on the left cost me $12 and the one on the right I got for free. But when you just want to grab your keys and phone and get out the door, these definitely cramp my style...especially the charging cord that goes from the my external battery to my phone.

Now, it’s time for a new one. Not out of vanity, but out of necessity. My 5 is rebooting itself regularly, freezing and the battery is functioning so poorly that I have to carry a small or large external battery pack (see right) everywhere I go if I want to be certain I'll be able to use my phone. It’s dying...a...slow...death because someone—yours truly of course—has dropped it in water twice over the last three years (luckily never in a toilet, yuck!). It’s a miracle that it still works given those two incidents. That and the fact that I drop it multiple times a week. I'm all thumbs!

Given I know this phone will die soon and that I’m doing quite a bit of business travel in the coming months, I want to get a replacement device that will carry me for another three years or more (hopefully) sooner rather than later. I feel I’d be in a bit of a pickle if it conked out on me while on the road and I lost quick access to all the apps that help me navigate my day more easily, especially when I’m away. 

I watched the entire Apple Special Event keynote on September 7th and was impressed with what Apple’s done once again. Well, maybe not so jazzed about the wireless headsets—talk about planned obsolescence! What had me pretty excited is that this latest model, iPhone 7, is water resistant (up to 30 mins in up to 3 feet of water). Hallelujah. Given my history, that has my name written all over it.

And here’s why I won’t be buying it.

All the snazzy upgrades in the world won’t make me pay $1,029 for a smartphone (or $549 for the carrier-subsidized version). That would turn it into a "dumbphone", IMHO. I mean, get real! 

For context, thousands of people pay $1,000 for a CAR, let alone a mobile device! (Yes, a beater, but I mean it's still a car and they still get you from A to B, even at that price if you pick the right one!)

But wait, there’s more…

And $1,029 is only the beginning. When you have a new phone, you want/need the accessories: case(s), screen protectors, etc. that fit the new device because even if it's from the same manufacturer, it's usually a different size and features changes to the inputs that require a new case and such. You can quickly add a few hundred dollars to your purchase, and that’s if you’re extra conservative. Add on the insurance to protect the signicant investment and you’re over $1,500 (CDN): 

  • iPhone 7: $1,029.00 (128 GB, 32 GB would be too small for my current usage),
  • Case: $45.00
  • AppleCare insurance: $169.00
  • Screen protection: $39.95
  • Wallet case: $69.95
  • Taxes: $175.88 

...for a grand total of $1,528.78.

...or $963.78 if subsidized with a 2-year contract.

And that does not include the wireless earphones or any other accessories that we can easily get suckered into buying on the spot. Wow!

Here's are the old and new phone (Can you tell the difference, other than the colour?), the shock-absorbing case and my case/wallet combo.

Here's are the old and new phone (Can you tell the difference, other than the colour?), the shock-absorbing case and my case/wallet combo.

*Note: Waiting a couple of years for any tech device is equivalent to letting other users pay the "hype tax", kind of like buying a second-hand vehicle in order to let the original owner eat most of the depreciation cost.

No, I chose to purchase the iPhone SE (black phone on the right). It’s just come down in price, thanks to Apple's release of the iPhone 7*. To boot, the SE is the same size and has the same port configuration as the iPhone 5, which means I can keep using the same shock-absorbing case and wallet/case hybrid I’ve been using for the last three years. The size is a bonus for me too in that I prefer the smaller models because I already drop them a lot as it is (see all thumbs comment above). Bigger = more fumbling for my little hands = I'll likely break it and need to pay and arm and a leg for a replacement.

The SE cost me $149 (+ tax = $168) as a subsidized device on a two-year contract (full price is $629 + tax for the 64 GB version I’m getting—less storage doesn’t suit my requirements anymore). As an aside, though I checked other options, my phone plan will cost me the same as it used to, given I'm staying with the carrier that offers the best coverage in my area.

And the math calls for self-Insurance, which means additional savings. 

I also considered that if I mess up and kill my subsidized phone within the first two years, AND my iPhone 5 can't tide me over for a bit (I'm hanging on to it for that purpose), I can still buy another one outright and be well below the cost of getting the latest model. 

Here's the comparison (taxes not included):

SE (subsidized) = $149 + replacement at $629  = $778

iPhone 7 (subsidized) = $529 + AppleCare insurance + accessories ($284) = $982

Now that's what I call being self insured, and I still have a 25% buffer! How can I justify buying the new 7 because of its water resistance when I can afford a replacement of the SE and still come out ahead?

Note: And buying a phone outright is not a stretch for me. I did that with the iPhone 5 three years ago because I didn't want a cellular contract at the time and I wanted to be able to change carriers at the drop of a hat if I chose to. Call it a case of "general contract aversion". I don't like owing anyone anything. Can you tell?

It’s crazy when I think about it. My purchase has cost me 11% of what it would have cost me to purchase the new iPhone 7 and base accessories outright ($168 vs $1529), all because I’m being thoughtful about the purchase and not letting hype and desire mess with my head—and that can be tough because I have a tendency to be a propeller head. The savings are equivalent to paying nothing for my phone plan over the next two years (cell service and all). That’s incredible!

It's a NEW Toy...To Me, and That's What Matters

And I might not have purchased the Cadillac of phones, but I’m still getting a major upgrade. The SE has a much better camera (including live photos), touch ID, Apple Pay, faster WiFi and LTE speeds, better battery life (not too difficult to achieve given my 5’s a dud right now) and a much faster 2 gig processor. It feels like I’ve made a major leap forward, because I have. Here's more info from 9to5mac.

[T]he more conspicuous a consumption opportunity is, the more difficult the corresponding self-control problem is likely to be.
— Robert H. Frank, Luxury Fever (1999), p. 185.

Yes, I know. I don't have the iPhone 7, but until I try it, I don't know what I’m missing. And that’s they key. If you don’t test drive a product when you don’t like its price tag, you keep leading with logic as opposed to getting carried away by that “new device smell”. (And don’t get me started on the Apple preferred financing rate of 19.95% for those who can’t afford the purchase AND can’t afford to wait either.)

So bring on the new, just not the latest and greatest.  My bank balance thanks me for it. 

By the time I need a replacement phone, maybe it’ll be the right one for me or, if my SE hangs in there, maybe I'll pass on it altogether.

BTW: There's something else I managed to buy for about $200. And it's a much bigger deal. Want to know what it is? You'll have to wait for my next post. Hang tight!

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