What is the point of paying R30,000 for a smartphone?

Before you all start chanting and thrashing your torches and pitchforks around, this is not aimed at Apple and its new iPhones – it is a look at all the latest flagship smartphones on the market.

The question was raised by a journalist in the office, after several minutes of us going on about how powerful the iPhone Xs and Xs Max are, and all the new features they pack.

“But what is the point, if you are paying R30,000?” he asked.

It’s a good question, considering the most demanding task most of our smartphones face is watching YouTube videos, taking photos on the weekend, and being used to order food through UberEats.

His statement was not just talk – he said this having just unwrapped his new smartphone, a R4,000 Xiaomi 5 Plus.

The device packs a Snapdragon 625 processor, a 4,000mAh battery, a 5.99-inch FHD+ display, 4GB of RAM, and runs Android 8.1 – all while costing a fraction of new Android flagship devices.

Expensive smartphones

For iOS fans, you do not have much say in the matter when it comes to new smartphones.

The cheapest iPhone Apple launched this year is the iPhone Xr – which is an incredibly powerful device that packs the same processor as the Xs and Xs Max.

It starts at $749 in the US, which means you will end up paying close to R15,000 for it when it lands in SA.

But as stated earlier, this is not aimed at Apple.

Android’s biggest players Samsung and Huawei have their own top-end flagships which sell for a pretty penny.

Samsung’s Galaxy Note 9 sells for R18,499 locally, while the S9 and S9+ are currently available for R14,500 and R17,299 respectively.

Huawei’s P20 Pro is R17,299, while the P20 retails for R12,599.

If you are prepared to pay over R12,000 for a smartphone, are you taking full advantage of what it has to offer?

Yes, smartphones are among the most-used items we own. It is in your hand or in your pocket almost every hour of the day – and must be ready to perform any task you give it instantly.

But there are many options which can perform this role at a fraction of the price.

Examples are the Huawei Mate 20 Lite, which is a powerful Android 8.1 device set to launch in October for R8,999.

R9,000 is not as cheap as it goes, though, and you can pick up a Samsung Galaxy A8 – which packs a 5.6-inch display, 4GB of RAM, and comes with Android 7.0 – for around R7,000.

Apple fans can also pick up older models which provide good power at discounted prices. The iPhone 8, for example, is now R11,999.

Apple smartphones also come with a good software support model, and the company’s latest mobile operating system – iOS 12 – is supported all the way back to the iPhone 5s, a smartphone released in 2013.

If these amounts are still not justifiable, then you can go down to a Huawei Y7 or Xiaomi Redmi 5A – available for under R3,000 or R2,000 respectively.

Research the manufacturer’s history of Android security and OS updates, however, as cheaper devices are often left behind come the latest relase of Android.

Nothing wrong with paying R30,000

That being said, there is nothing wrong with wanting a 512GB iPhone Xs Max, being able to afford it, and buying it – even if it is over R30,000.

This could be because you want to transcode a two-minute 4K clip to 1080p in 39 seconds, or because you want to have the latest smartphone as it adds to your status.

The reasons are irrelevant. This type of purchase behaviour is evident in other industries, too, akin to someone buying a Porsche 911 instead of a Toyota Corolla.

If you are justifying your high-end flagship purchase because you “need” the power the device offers, however, conduct an assessment of what capabilities are on offer in cheaper devices first.

There’s no point in buying a phone that costs more than a laptop if you are only going to post photos on Facebook.

This is an opinion piece.

Now read: Google Chrome getting a dark theme – Report

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What is the point of paying R30,000 for a smartphone?