Phone prices hit record, just as repair costs. Tired of innovatin' yet?

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.
Phone prices hit record, just as repair costs. Tired of innovatin' yet?
Does anyone have doubts that phone makers will shove foldable phones down our collective throat and in less than two years they will all have Galaxy S Gumby and Huawei Mate Bendy versions parallel to their non-flexing brethren? Is there any way that this new "disruption" won't raise the average phone prices even further, and, what's more, shoot the price of accidental damage repairs through the roof? 

The 2018/2019 crop is the most expensive one that Apple or Samsung have ever released. Granted, we no longer have to deal with plasticky construction or puny amounts of storage, yet prices seem to have steadily risen over the past decade in a slow-boiling-frog pattern until the current versions are double the price of the originals that started it all.

Remember the days when you could get any premium phone for two Benjamins with the carrier subsidy, full retail started in the $600-$650 range, and there were even "$400 flagships" from various second-tier makers? Yeah, us neither. These times are seemingly gone and might not be coming back, as ever-increasing storage, premium hardware, and unorthodox designs have become the law of the land. 

We are buying the most expensive phones ever


How did we get from the $500 OG iPhone or Galaxy S to the $1000 now asked for Apple, Samsung or Huawei flagships? Check out this Bloomberg chart of historical prices, and it is easy to see the breakout point.

US/Chinese carriers killed subsidies, Apple/Samsung went 'all screen' and all price hell broke loose in 2017

US/Chinese carriers killed subsidies, Apple/Samsung went 'all screen' and all price hell broke loose in 2017


It's right around 2017, and there are plenty of reasons for this happening then - a perfect storm of subsidies removal, industry cool-off, and ever-increasing competition that makes companies chase expensive components and technologies. Nobody asked for Face ID biometry that needed a notch cutout in an OLED display yet Apple decided to set itself apart with it. Ditto for a hole-in-display, sliding, dual-screen, pop-up and other "all-screen" designs. In-display fingerprint readers perform worse than the good ol' scanners on the back of the phone, yet they are becoming the pricey norm. 

"Just" one camera or 4GB RAM won't do now and we are at the 12GB/1TB limit, as well as hexa-camera phones like the S10 5G or Nokia 9 PureView. Expensive AMOLED displays with a monopolistic supplier have also become ubiquitous, and don't even start us on impractical curved edges. Add to these multilayer glass coatings, reverse wireless charging, ToF cameras, and whatnot, and you got yourself plenty of marginally better experience that gets shoved down our collective throat for ever-increasing amounts. 

In fact, the $400+ phone price bracket (and the $800+ one within it), was the fastest-growing segment last year, explaining why Apple and Samsung still make plenty of money from phones despite flat or declining sales, as you can see from Counterpoint's graph below.



Repair prices are hitting record levels


Adding insult to the price injury, however, are the hundreds of dollars you still have to spend when your phone hits the pavement. A cracked screen of the OLED variety in the new S10 trio is north of $200, while a split glass rear of the XS Max is $600. Compare this with the replacement of the iPhone 7 Plus metal body or LCD display at half the price.



Walk-ins welcome

Walk-ins welcome


Most of today's flagships feature some sort of water-tight certification so you are basically left with very little choice but the official replacement prices if you want your iPhone or Galaxy restored up to spec. When we probed the phone makers for the panel replacement costs of their spanking new flagships, we also asked about the turn-around-time (TAT), or how long does it usually take for the whole ordeal - shipping or bringing the phone to the designated repair service places, then diagnostics, part replacement(s), and shipping it back to the owner. 

Those quotes are also included, but, as you see, they are largely the same - a 2-day allowance for travel back and forth, and about 5-7 days for repair - so you will be without a phone for about 10 days on average if you choose to go the shipping route. Apple can swap your broken screen in a jiffy, though, just make an online appointment for the nearest Apple Store, eat lunch and stroll the mall, then come back in a few hours, and the screen should be replaced already.

Marginal added value, highest prices, record repairs - circa '17


As you can see, while repairs may look bearable at a fraction (or a half in the case of Apple) of the retail price for a new phone, they are also the highest flagship repair costs in history if you crack your iPhone XS Max or Galaxy S10+. Accompanied by the highest ever phone prices, this dynamic duo should make you think twice what phone you are getting and how long will you keep it. 

Did you ask for Face ID? Hole-in-display? In-screen fingerprints? Six cameras? We didn't think so, but you are still getting them and will pay top dollar for the privilege to watch what's essentially a shareholder-friendly pissing contest in a flatlining market. What do you think?

Is all phone innovation since 2017 worth the record phone and repair prices?

Yes
12.21%
No
87.79%

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70 Comments

1. Tipus

Posts: 792; Member since: Sep 30, 2016

Apple didn't have to innovate to jack up prices :))

4. TheOracle1

Posts: 2027; Member since: May 04, 2015

True. What the article fails to emphasize is that the manufacturing costs haven't increased that much to justify the extortionate prices. What they also fail to point out is the rise of the Chinese companies has been due to excellent mid-rangers at reasonable prices. Consumers are beginning to realize that something like a Pocophone is just as capable as any high-end phone.

5. Leo_MC

Posts: 6615; Member since: Dec 02, 2011

The manufacturing costs have doubled for iPhones while the final prices grew with "only" 40% ($200 vs. $400 - costs; $700 vs. $1000 price).

20. oldskool50

Posts: 711; Member since: Mar 29, 2019

yeah he was completely wrong on this one. Good catch!

29. wickedwilly

Posts: 572; Member since: Sep 19, 2018

Comparing cost and retail is not really a good metric when looking at value. You have to compare what you are getting for your money. Take your iPhone XR against the Samsung Se. The Samsung is better in virtually every area, in some by a long way. It packs way more into the phone with a better screen to body ratio and supplies more in the box. Yet the iPhone at best costs the same, in most parts of the world more and costs more to repair. I should also add you can get a non-OEM approved repair done the same day to the same or better quality for an even lesser cost. That is the true measure of value.

32. mrochester

Posts: 947; Member since: Aug 17, 2014

You also have to consider the OS and ecosystem, which are by far the most important aspects of buying a smartphone. If you can’t stand android then a Samsung s10e is going to be poor value for money. Even though the iPhone XS would cost you more money, it’ll be better value because it actually has the OS and ecosystem you want.

36. wickedwilly

Posts: 572; Member since: Sep 19, 2018

Just because you prefer an operating system does not make a phone good value. The S10e does the majority of things better than an XR and Android is a far more flexible and functional OS, so as generally you pay less than an XR, that is value. Paying extra for less is a personal choice, but not a value choice.

48. oldskool50

Posts: 711; Member since: Mar 29, 2019

No! It has what YOU want. The S10e is far and away better than the iPhone XR and the XS too, since the main difference between them is the display and size. The S10e offers better display, cameras and design. The One UI blows the iPhone Ui to shreds The fact you continue to look at Android as some cheap option vs iOS, when Android has far and away more premium options vs what Apple offers and are overall better as they all have lots of better features vs Apple, including batteries that are bigger and last long; to continue to claim Android is cheap is just plain stupidity. if you like IOS, use it and enjoy it. That doesn't mean we all have too like it equally. Many Android users have had iPhone's. We stopped buying them for various reason. None of those reasons effect you. So stop acting like they do.

34. Leo_MC

Posts: 6615; Member since: Dec 02, 2011

S10e can't access Apple ecosystem. Remember: none of us are buying a piece of hardware, we're buying a key to an ecosystem.

35. wickedwilly

Posts: 572; Member since: Sep 19, 2018

No Leo excuse me for stating the obvious but we buy a phone not a key. The phone comes with an OS which is part of an ecosystem, which may be of benefit or not. I have an iPad, it was not bought to be in the Apple ecosystem I moved away from that many years ago, but because the hardware suited my needs best. I do not use any of the Apple Apps, they are poor compared to their peers, I use Google and Microsoft apps, they are superior.

42. Leo_MC

Posts: 6615; Member since: Dec 02, 2011

Your logic is very different. I don't give a f**k about the internals of a device, I only care about the things is able to do and for me that's where the value lies. If you use an iPad without Apple's services, you picked the wrong tool, because you're missing some important features. Sure, Google apps work good, but they nowhere near what Apple apps offer on Apple hardware.

61. wickedwilly

Posts: 572; Member since: Sep 19, 2018

If you care about the things a phone is able to do for you, you care about the internals, because if they are poor they would not do the things you want. That is why the Se is better value, it does virtually everything the XR can do and more it cannot mostly in a superior way, yet costs less. Why is my iPad the wrong tool for me if I do not use Apples services? I have cloud access a superior one to iCloud, same for mail, contacts, calendar, browser and most things. Google apps are in the main superior to Apples. Maps, Calendar, Email, cloud service, keyboard for example. Even the non-Google equivalents that still integrate into the Android ecosystem like WhatsApp, Spotify and Tidal, for example, are superior to iMessage, Facetime and Music.

65. Leo_MC

Posts: 6615; Member since: Dec 02, 2011

As long as the phone does what I need it to do, I don't care that the soc is dual or octa core. For me, 6s is a better value than se and XR is the best value iPhone. Windows is a better os for Google apps than iOS and a surface is cheaper than a iPad pro. You don't know how iCloud works, if you say other cloud is better (on iPad); I give you the email (as app, as security and privacy iCloud is the best), Calendar (which is better only when you want compatibility with non-Apple devices) and Maps. iMessage is the best im (I'm not going into detail, just try to send a full res picture and see what happens, try to send a message when you don't have internet; do you care about e2e encryption for video calls?). I give you Spotify - it sure has a better integration. Do you understand the difference between objective analysis and subjective bias?

68. wickedwilly

Posts: 572; Member since: Sep 19, 2018

You do care about the internals because they are what is required to do the things you need. I know very well how iCloud works and have used it extensively along with Google's and Microsoft's equivalents. the latter 2 are superior and better value if you want to go beyond the basics. That is not just my opinion, read around and see. Add to the fact that Apples software, Numbers vs Excel, Pages vs Word etc are not industry standard and leagues below in terms of functionality. One of the most touted, but basically flawed statements is "iMessage is the best messaging system". It is only good for use with others with Apple products, therefore is basically flawed when looked at worldwide. Apps like Whatsapp are far more compatible and works directly with many, many more devices than iMessage. I do not know one person outside of the US that uses iMessage, everyone uses Whatsapp! Yes I understand the difference between objective analysis and subjective bias do you?

69. Leo_MC

Posts: 6615; Member since: Dec 02, 2011

Remember when a quad-core chip was better than any octa-core? How about when a 3GB of RAM device kept more apps opened than a 4 GB device? Maybe you know of a 3k mAh battery that outperforms a 3.5-4k one? Oh, wait, all that are happening now. So, no, I don't give a f**k about the internals as long as the device performs the tasks I need it to perform. Putting Google cloud service next to Microsoft's is like putting a carriage next to a car. Ecosystem also means the way 3rd party apps work on a platform and Microsoft office apps work flawlessly on iOS, so I don't have to use either Pages or those horrible Google apps. WeChat has more users than any other im app; does that make it better? I live outside US and half of the persons I know are using iMessage (we also use WhatsApp - which I will kill the very next day my carrier adopts RCS, just like I killed Waze after GM adopted some of its features - to communicate with Android users).

70. wickedwilly

Posts: 572; Member since: Sep 19, 2018

You may not care about the type of internals, but you care about the results, therefore you do care about the internals. How does a phone perform the tasks you need it to perform ...... in a large part due to the internals! Googles Cloud is better than Apples so where does that leave Apple? Apple uses Google and Microsoft servers . WeChat is mainly Chinese and the third largest, just to correct you. Whatsapp is first with 1.5b, Facebook second. iMessage not even in the list of top used messaging apps.

71. Leo_MC

Posts: 6615; Member since: Dec 02, 2011

No, I don't care that i only have a quad-core, when it is the best chip (for me). Sure it is; let me know when you'll be able to backup all the apps data in Google cloud and restore it on any other phone or when your calls get pushed on any cloud connected device. You're right about both whatsapp and messenger: they have the most users. But iMessage is on every Apple device so, if we take out Apple TV out of the equation (I have no idea, if you get it there), there are still 700 mil - 1 billion devices, with an average of 500 mil users.

38. TheOracle1

Posts: 2027; Member since: May 04, 2015

I've been thinking about this ecosystem argument and it's bit exaggerated. IOS users always talk about how seamless everything is and they can pick up where they left off on any device. The same is true for my Google apps on Android so what exactly is the advantage of the IOS ecosystem?

43. Leo_MC

Posts: 6615; Member since: Dec 02, 2011

I use both ecosystems and both have their strong points and weak ones. Android cloud backup and restore is nowhere near iOSs functionality, updates, continuity. It is a few times easier to develop for ios (more expensive but easier) and, once published, your app is compatible with 80% of iPhones/iPads. You have access to 60-80% of paying apps market share (depending on the market). It's cheaper to buy iPhones for corporate use (by at least 50%). If that's not enough, nothing is.

44. TheOracle1

Posts: 2027; Member since: May 04, 2015

The only point you make regarding ecosystem for the user, cloud backup, is debatable. My photos, videos, messages, documents and emails are all seamlessly available across all my devices. The rest of the stuff you cite is completely irrelevant to users.

57. Leo_MC

Posts: 6615; Member since: Dec 02, 2011

Do you understand what continuity does? You just have to work with 2 Apple devices to understand the iCloud integration (I just scan a document with my phone and it's in my Mac; with Windows, I have to open it from Adobe - it's the app I like and trust; I could do it through OneDrive, but for now it lacks an essential feature both Apple and Adobe have). Why do you think iOS users have the best apps and they have them faster than Android users? Don't you think my company is a USER too? How about my employees? I tried to talk about MDM until I understood that the person I talked to has no clue and he just wastes my time; I won't bring it up again, just know that Gsuite or BB UEM are not there yet. I'm not saying Google or Microsoft ecosystems are bad - quite the contrary, they have some great features that I use - I'm just saying that Apple managed to create a better experience, that's why I gladly pay the same price for a phone with half the storage (I use 1/3 of that half anyway) that gives me access to that ecosystem.

62. wickedwilly

Posts: 572; Member since: Sep 19, 2018

I can scan a document to Google Drive or Microsoft One Drive and it is on all my devices too. The difference is Google and Microsofts Clouds are better overall. You can go from app to app and some will be better on IOS others on Android. For most there is little difference. Some apps are excllusive to IOS, others Android. IOS users do not have all the best apps, as I have said some are better others worse. Does IOS have them faster, sometimes, but for many, many, many Android gets them first. It is why functionality comes to Android user most of the time long before Apple users and one big reason I prefer Android over IOS. You think Apple managed a better experience, I say you are wrong. Take Apples productivity suite, spreadsheet/word processor, presentation, for example, they are far less functional, accepted, used and are poorly supported than Microsoft. Remember when Apple went backward in functionality on Numbers and Pages, how can anyone rely on them when they do that? Paying the same price for a phone with half the storage is getting less value. If you say that because you think Android users do not have access to Cloud storage then you are stupid, they do and it's better and more economical.

66. Leo_MC

Posts: 6615; Member since: Dec 02, 2011

If you compare iPhone-Mac integration of scanning with what you get on Android, it's clear to me that you are just clueless about how the things are on Apple. Almost all the important apps - core and 3rd party - are better on iOS - way better, both in look and functionality. Give me a name and I will tell you how it's better. Almost all of them get the functions first on iOS, because they get to all the users (even Google released features on iOS first) - that's a result of the fragmentation. The office tools developed by Apple are abysmal (the same as those of Google), that's why we have Microsoft. I would like an iPhone with 32GB storage, because for me anything over is a waste; so I don't care that my phone has 64 GB or 64 TB.

49. oldskool50

Posts: 711; Member since: Mar 29, 2019

And that actually a good thing. if we wanted an iPhone we would buy one.

59. wickedwilly

Posts: 572; Member since: Sep 19, 2018

Of course the S10e can access the Apple ecosystem, yet another of your incorrect statements. I can access iCloud, iTunes, Apple Mail sync with an Apple calendar and contacts for example. I used to have an iMac, iPad, iPod Touch and Apple TV along with various generations of Notes and S series Samsungs and I was able to use the Apple ecosystem. Wrong yet again. All of us are buying into a piece of hardware, would you buy a phone that is so slow despite an uber-efficient OS, that had a screen so bad it was difficult to use; a battery so long you had to charge 2 times a time and take 4 hours to recharge; one with a modem so bad using the internet was impractical, a camera that took crap photos, and on and on. No, we buy the whole package hardware and OS. You are wrong again.

67. Leo_MC

Posts: 6615; Member since: Dec 02, 2011

If you can pick up a phone call on your Mac, than you are right; maybe you can get the 2 step authentication codes, or you can pick up the email on the phone. You are right: all stupid or uninformed people are buying pieces of hardware.

18. oldskool50

Posts: 711; Member since: Mar 29, 2019

How much does it cost to replace a $1000 laptop? Here let me show you these prices are not totally insane. HP charges $275 for 1 year of accidental breakage coverage which also extends the mfr's warranty an extra year. with it, the OEm will repair or replace your PC. I used it because i carcked my touch display on my 17" Envy. HP didn't have a display to replace it with because my a laptop now 2 years old. so they gave me $2000 in gift cards so I can buy a new one. which is their warranty to repair or replace. Now I have a new Envy and display for $275. When you consider a $1000 phone, which is basically a pocket sized laptop, $200-$250 to replace it is cheap. because you could be paying the full $1000 again or more. Just like paying the deducible on car insurance of $250-$5000 is still cheaper than paying $40,000 to replace it. Mfr'ing costs have increase. the Note use to cost Samsung only slightly more than the S model. The Note 9 for example cost over $400 to make. So $200 to replace is cheap.

25. eli577

Posts: 142; Member since: Jun 29, 2010

What a stupid argument you made there. You paid insurance fee for your laptop, and got lucky, because they couldn't fix it, rather replace it with a new one. Repairing is not the same as insurance for a product.

50. oldskool50

Posts: 711; Member since: Mar 29, 2019

When you buy the carriers insurance, yes someone repairs the phone, but it isn;'t them. They ship the broke hardware to someone for the repair. Apple doesn't repair your phone, they replace it with a refurb. Its the same thing ALL insurance do. if you total yoru car. Your insurance gets you a replacement if it can't be fix. How is it any different bruh? You know ZERO about insurance. if you don't know what you are talking about, then don't try to counter anyone's argument.

64. eli577

Posts: 142; Member since: Jun 29, 2010

I think you are the one who has no clue at all. How can you not differentiate between insurance and repairs? For insurance you pay a fee and in certain cases you do get a replacement. But if you are just average Joe and don't have insurance on your gadget, then you must pay the full amount of price for the repair (supposing its not under warranty repair). So as I said before repairing is not the same as getting a replacement under insurance. I'm not talking about insurance policies, I'm just differentiateing it from repairs BRUH.

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