The number of iPhones that the American middle class can afford is in steady decline

The number of iPhones that the American middle class can afford is in steady decline
We've been hearing about the middle-class squeeze since the times of the Great Depression, but it's been the Great Recession of 2008 that truly put these claims front and center. News about the "working poor," or people with way above average incomes that barely pay the mortgage, the healthcare charges, and the kids' education, are constantly popping up, too.

There is one chart to put things in perspective, though, and it's the number of iPhones that Americans could afford with their median household income. We kid, but Apple, and the iPhone in particular, have become somewhat of a yardstick, so it's no coincidence that when the US does some foreign policy blunder, people in the affected countries start smashing or burning iPhones as a sign of protest.

Well, Americans themselves have something to say when it comes to the price of iPhones. It has been steadily rising to the point that in 2018, the number of top-shelf iPhones that the member of an average household could afford is now half of what it was when the OG iPhone hit the shelves at AT&T - just 17, compared to 33 in 2007. 

Granted, this is not really an apples-to-apples comparison, as the top iPhone XS Max now comes with 512GB storage, and so on and so forth, but its price still remains very high, and the median household income didn't really keep up in said period.

source: Enoch Chan

Related phones

iPhone XS Max
  • Display 6.5" 1242 x 2688 pixels
  • Camera 12 MP / 7 MP front
  • Processor Apple A12 Bionic, Hexa-core, 2490 MHz
  • Storage 512 GB
  • Battery 3179 mAh(25h talk time)



1. Luuthian

Posts: 332; Member since: Sep 09, 2011

People are getting squeezed on everything, not just iPhones. It’s true they’re out of reach more than ever though. So are all the other $900+ handsets. Good thing there’s alternatives

9. Atechguy0

Posts: 918; Member since: Aug 03, 2018

Apple isn't squeezing people's wallets anymore. They are starting to tell their customers to bend over and take it where the sun don't shine. There's a huge difference. Who knows maybe Apple will invent a new soother to help people, and they will call it the iSoother. It will be in the shape of a big dildo. They will use words again like courage and innovation..

26. Valinor

Posts: 174; Member since: Mar 26, 2013

Well this year im bending over for the Iphone Xr. I was hating on it because of the lack of oled and duo cameras, but I changed my mind yesterday. Im going back to Apple and will be their bitch forever. Why you maybe ask? Customer service. I had 2 years of warranty on my iphone 6, the last month of that warranty I went to the apple store because of a minor problem with a clicking sound when i pressed the corner of the phone. I walked out with a refurbished scratch-free iphone. Fast forward to yesterday, I dropped my LG v30 and the back glass cracked. I emailed LG, "we dont do repairs, go to the shop you bought it from" Emailed the store, got forwarded to another company that was doing their repairs and warranty. Emailed the company asking how much it would cost. "Yeah we cant tell you that, have to test the phone first" Bro its just a minor crack in the back glass. How much will it cost if thats the only repair. "We cant tell prices by email, you need to send in the phone for us to make an assesment first" Sending it in means I need to pay shipping costs, I will be without a phone for 3 weeks and If i dont agree to the repair costs after their checkup, I need to pay 40 euros of research costs to get my phone back without repairs. So im bending over hard for Apple. All the apple products we own in my household still work perfectly. Even the ones that are like 7 years old. Cant say that of the samsungs and lgs i owned. All my samsung customerservice traumas are back. I will bend over for apple as long as they provide that quality and that customer sevice.

27. Atechguy0

Posts: 918; Member since: Aug 03, 2018

So Valinor you like the service Apple will give you if you break your new iPhone XS or XS Max, right?. Apple is up front and tells you what the their service charges are so that is good for you. The XS glass back will cost $550, and the XS Max will cost you $600 without Apples Care program. You can buy a brand new LG V30 for that price, and still use the other LG V30 with a broken glass back as well. If you purchase Apple Care on top of the price of the iPhone 64 GB XS, it will cost you an additional $199 USD. If the off chance you break the XS, then you have to pay $130 to fix the glass back, and that is with Apple Care. So you will be paying a total of $330 to fix the glass back. To tell me you can't find anyone to fix the glass back on your LG V30 for half that price? Then clearly you haven't been looking. So you sound like the type of person that it's okay to be screwed up the @$$, just as long as you know in advance. Each to his own, I guess. Enjoy your iSoother.

19. worldpeace

Posts: 3127; Member since: Apr 15, 2016

"Good thing there’s alternatives" Not if you're stuck in "Apple's ecosystem".

20. Vokilam

Posts: 1181; Member since: Mar 15, 2018

There’s no such thing is stuck in an Apple ecosystem. Everything is transferable, including game saves an IAP purchases (just sign into any app or game with your android and it’s there. The only thing that you may not transfer are app data for apps that don’t exist on android. I’ve been doing this every three years. You don’t lose s**t going back and forth. People are with iOS because they like it - not because they’re stuck. Stop lying. There are millions that switch back and forth - no one is complaining.

25. TechNeck

Posts: 649; Member since: Aug 29, 2014

People stay with Apple just for the ecosystem at least 90% of the time.

2. Luuthian

Posts: 332; Member since: Sep 09, 2011

People are getting squeezed on everything, not just iPhones. It’s true they’re out of reach more than ever though. So are all the other $900+ handsets. Good thing there’s alternatives

3. Damo579

Posts: 264; Member since: May 18, 2013

Practically everyone that has an iPhone can't afford one, they don't hear payment plan because few people can afford a 1000 dollar phone upfront.

4. JCASS889

Posts: 504; Member since: May 18, 2018

how can people not afford 1000$ devices, i make plenty and im 26 years old and one paycheck and i can go out a buy a top line phone outright. are people really that poor?

5. Valdomero

Posts: 666; Member since: Nov 13, 2012

I hope you're being sarcastic, many countries believe it or not are 3rd world countries compared to 1st world countries like USA, Germany, Britain, etc., many citizens either pay their bills or eat, many doesn't even have the chance to eat 3 times a day. Owning an iPhone in said countries is a luxury rather than a need.

12. Atechguy0

Posts: 918; Member since: Aug 03, 2018

You do realize that Android has well over 85% of the smartphone market? If Apple was so affordable, then don't you think after 10 years Apple would have grown much larger by now?

23. kiko007

Posts: 7493; Member since: Feb 17, 2016

He didn’t say they were affordable for everyone. Naturally dudes in India and the like aren’t gonna be able to pay a band for a phone. That’s probably more than the average person makes in a six month span there.

32. Atechguy0

Posts: 918; Member since: Aug 03, 2018

I guess that's why Apples new plant in India is failing, because Apple only assembled iPhone SE's in India. Now that Apple has stopped selling iPhone SE's, I wonder if they are going to continue to still make those SE devices. Or is Apple going to retool that new plant they built India? Anyway Apples market share in India fell to around 1%. I guess that's proof enough. iPhones in China have fallen as well. They also fell in the entire content of South America, and Africa as well. But I guess that is another story.

18. worldpeace

Posts: 3127; Member since: Apr 15, 2016

That's probably because you're an "26 years old". Sure, most adult got way more than $1000 each month, but they also need to feed their family, paying, car/house payment/rent, plus all kind of monthly bill. Most of them barely got any money left to save each money. Here's some reading for you.

24. L0n3n1nja

Posts: 1548; Member since: Jul 12, 2016

Many Americans are employed in the retail/food industry. The majority of them are not full time, and are lucky to make $12/hour. They struggle to feed themselves and keep a roof over their heads when they don't have children. Walmart is America's largest employer, and many of their employees qualify for government assistance programs due to poverty. Many who went to college and have decent jobs, are buried in student loan debt. In essence, our middle class is quickly vanishing.

6. JCASS889

Posts: 504; Member since: May 18, 2018

I am, just seems like everyone has an iPhone, yet all complain about the price, then still buy them, why cant people stay within there own means. its really sad that a phone is seen as a status symbol.

8. Alcyone

Posts: 304; Member since: May 10, 2018

The iPhone has pretty much been a status symbol since it was introduced. And its good to hear that you can outright pay that upfront. See how much you have to retire too. You'll need more than you expect. A Roth 401k and 401k would be a start, and even that isn't enough when maxed contributed.

10. JCASS889

Posts: 504; Member since: May 18, 2018

got all that stuff already going

11. JCASS889

Posts: 504; Member since: May 18, 2018

im single so i save alot of money every paycheck

15. Fred3

Posts: 494; Member since: Jan 16, 2018

The way Apple slows slows the 6-7 (which are the main phones kids and people who aren't wealthy have) it's hard to not want or try not to upgrade. It's Apple's way of forcing you to buy a new one which is why there is a lawsuit out for this now.

22. Valdomero

Posts: 666; Member since: Nov 13, 2012

I own an iPhone 6 with iOS 12 and it's quite smooth, not as lightning-fast as the Xs, but for me at the moment it's fine. I should've bought a bigger phone though, 4.7" has grown small for me since now I watch a lot of youtube videos and the screen size is not good for media consumption. Since it's my first iPhone I went the "cheap" route and got this one. I'll wait until the launch of the Xr to see if its 6.1" screen is worth the money or I'll go for a 2nd hand X.

7. MarvzIsFallen

Posts: 646; Member since: Aug 11, 2017

Nowadays there are many phones in different price range. Just get the phone within your means. Plain and simple.

16. L0n3n1nja

Posts: 1548; Member since: Jul 12, 2016

True, even most of the entry level phones are decent these days.

13. Rigmaster

Posts: 234; Member since: Jan 22, 2018

This doesn't jive with the fact that tens if not a hundred million new phones are bought in the US alone each year. I see people running around with new phones and designer clothes all the time. What we have is a disconnect with how to manage money and periods where it's less available than others. Anyone has to pay attention to that regardless of income. Phonemakers aren't making them more expensive for any other reason than people continue to buy the more expensive models.

14. Sakeem

Posts: 857; Member since: Sep 05, 2012

It's hard to have sympathy for anyone that can't afford something, but still manages to go out and buy it anyway. It's a lack of self-control. I beleive if people really thought Iphones were too expensive, and stopped buying them in droves, things would change. $1500 for any phone is insane, but as long as you have people buying them, prices will continue to go up. Can't wait to see what next years prices will be like.

21. irossdrummer

Posts: 366; Member since: Jan 17, 2015

Probably because to get the main line phone from them you gotta pay at LEAST $999 plus tax

29. aodmisery

Posts: 26; Member since: Apr 18, 2016

Not to worry welfare will increase the amount they give out. So every mom with ten kids can afford one

33. mixedfish

Posts: 1551; Member since: Nov 17, 2013

Just put it on a payment plan, woohooo debt for a poorly built phone with inbuilt obsolescence! What a way to get ahead in life.

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