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From the time I started earning a paycheck as an assistant to a Devil Wears Prada-type publishing exec, making big tech purchases has been difficult for me. Even now when I can afford it, slapping down several hundred dollars for cutting-edge technology that will be obsolete faster than you can say “Google Glass” never sat well with me.
And yet, I’ve found paying big bucks for tech to be increasingly unavoidable — especially when it comes to smartphones. Yes, there was a time in the early aughts when I didn’t rely on my phone for everything from work email to taking pictures to navigating from point A to point B. Now, I rely on my iPhone SE to do all that and then some. (Yes, you read right. I purposely skipped iPhones 6, 6s and 7 because, with my precious two-year-contract discount gone the way of the dodo, their price tags were too much for me to bear.)
Well, you can imagine my anxiety when the iPhone 8 and the iPhone X were unveiled at the same time. Now, I have to do double the due diligence to decide whether to drop $699 to $799 for the iPhone 8 or 8 Plus, or $999 for the X. And unfortunately, I can’t put off getting a big-girl iPhone because the SE has become inadequate for my needs — not the least of which is my failing eyesight. Somehow, since I got my SE last spring, my font has gradually increased from the default size to “take Grandma’s car keys away” levels.
And so it begins — reading tech blogger reviews, watching any “first look” videos I can find, embarking on fruitless visits to the Apple store.
The Pros/Cons of Getting the iPhone 8
Pro: Anything is better than what I have. No disrespect to the SE, but jumping from that to the 8 will feel like a vast improvement no matter what, just because my current tech bar is set so low — or so say my coworkers during a morning meeting. I’ve already received a big thumbs up on the camera quality from a friend who graduated from the 6 Plus to the 8 Plus. Maybe, for once in my life, having low expectations will actually be helpful?
Pro: I’m saving $200 to $300 by going with the iPhone 8. I can put that saved money toward accessories to really customize my iPhone the way I want.
Con: I actually hate iPhone accessories. This goes double for the headphones. The original iPhone EarPods never fit properly in my ears and even made them hurt after a while. A coworker assures me that the new AirPods — the wireless headphones that make you look like you got your ears pierced in the wrong place — fit comfortably and won’t fall out, even when jogging. I hate jogging and refuse to pay $159. I try my coworker’s AirPods out anyway and, lo and behold, my left ear seems to fit the Apple-sanctioned sizing for ear holes, but my right one does not.
Con: The design isn’t different enough for me. I go to the Apple store to get my hands on an iPhone 8. I can’t tell which display phones are the 8s and which are the 7s until I get close enough to feel the glass body. Yes, I realize it’s what’s on the inside that counts, but I’m a sucker for design — and if I’d wanted a 7, I would have bought the damn 7.
The Pros/Cons of Getting the iPhone X
Pro: I will use this phone more than anything else, so that may make it worth the value. That $999 price tag is a lot to swallow, but think about it: We use our smartphones for everything: emails, calls, texts, photos, watching Hulu/Netflix/Amazon videos, FaceTiming, avoiding eye contact with strangers on the subway. That price tag may not actually seem so bad considering we use these devices pretty much every hour of the day, for better or worse.
Pro: It may actually be cheaper than the 8 in the long run. When I bought my SE, it was primarily a price-driven decision — but less than two years later, I need to upgrade. If I pay a little bit more for the X’s extras now, I’m wondering if it will last me longer. If I bought the cheaper iPhone 8, I’m guessing I’d want to upgrade in two years; that means I’m paying $350 per year for use. If I have the X for three years, which is entirely possible considering my average length of ownership, I’m paying $333 per year.
Pro-ish: That design though. I was a big fan of the bleeding-edge screen seen in the Samsung S7 edge, and always thought, “Why can’t I get that, but with the Apple iOS?” Well, now it’s here. The reason this is a *pro-ish* is because I can’t actually touch and feel it in all its glory, seeing as the X won’t be in stores until November 3. (Also, Apple wants you to pre-order a $1,000 purchase before you can test drive it? No thank you.)
Con: You’re still paying four figures for a phone. This isn’t the grocery store; no one’s fooled by that whole “end your prices in 9” trick, Apple. Just admit this is a four-figure phone. And even with the rationalization above, I don’t feel emotionally ready to say that I bought a $1,000 phone. Seriously, many people’s rents are less than this, and I’m feeling shame over this very first-world problem.
Con: It has weird technology that freaks me out. If something is going to scan my face, it better be reducing fine lines and crow’s feet. Plus, I’ve been warned by all my techie friends to never use the first generation of any technology. Right now, my thumbprint only works 50% of the time to unlock my phone, which makes me wonder if I have defective thumbs. If Face ID doesn’t unlock my iPhone X half the time, I’m going to feel very sorely judged by Apple.
So there’s one other recent development that throws a wrench into this whole process. Last week, I had a fever dream in which I was stranded on a deserted island, and a giant Google Pixel 2 landed on the shore to rescue me. The phone initially got rave reviews, although customers are reporting a number of early defects. Despite the shade I threw at Google Glass, I use pretty much all things Google now, so why not the phone, too? Once the all-powerful company fixes these bugs, which I’m sure it will, dare I revert to an Android phone and party like it’s 2007?