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It makes more sense to buy a $1,000 Apple iPhone than a $1,000 Apple MacBook



iPhone XS Phil Schiller
Apple’s new iPhone XS will
carry the torch for the $1,000 flagship

Justin Sullivan/Getty

  • With the iPhone X, Apple normalized the $1,000
    smartphone. The just-announced iPhone XS and XS Max will take
    that torch and run with it, starting at that same
  • The thing is that it actually makes sense to buy an
    iPhone X, or other high-end smartphones. After all, you use
    your smartphone all day, every day, so it almost never makes
    sense to cheap out. 
  • The same can’t be said for laptops and desktop PC — as
    smartphones and tablets get better, we use our phones less.
    It’s harder to justify splashing out on a ritzy, powerful

It’s fairly common for Apple’s new iPhones to have an outsized
impact on the rest of the smartphone market. The original iPhone
normalized multitouch screens; the iPhone 7 accelerated the
premature demise of the headphone jack. 

With last year’s iPhone X, Apple made two big splashes, both of
dubious outcome: First, it popularized the dreaded camera “notch”
at the top of an otherwise edge-to-edge display, a design choice
that many Android manufacturers have since copied for their own

Second, and far more troubling to many, the success of
the iPhone X normalized a $1,000 price tag for a smartphone

a price point to which Apple seems committed, given that the
iPhone XS
will start at the exact same price, and the larger

iPhone XS Max
will be pricier still, at $1,099. 

I agree it’s not great that smartphones are getting
so expensive. Honestly, though, at this moment in time, I feel a
lot better about paying $1,000 for a high-end Apple iPhone than I
do for the $1,000 Apple MacBook — or, honestly, any other
laptop. (But especially Apple’s.)

As my
former colleague Steve Kovach pointed out
when the iPhone X
was first announced, it almost always makes sense to buy the most
powerful phone you can afford. Given how much time most of us
spend with our smartphones, all day every day, you’re way more
likely to regret going for a cheaper option. 

And, honestly, the iPhone X (and its
forthcoming successor, the iPhone XS
) make a good case for
being worth the money. The camera is great, the battery life is
very good, and it has a kickin’ OLED display with more screen
real estate than any of its predecessors. 

The PC gets less relevant every year

Meanwhile, I can’t say I feel as great about Apple’s MacBooks.

It’s not necessarily a referendum on Apple’s industrial design,
its software, or the power of its hardware. It’s just that,
unless you’re a gamer, a creative professional, or a high-powered
user, the excuses for buying an expensive laptop are

As smartphones get better and more powerful, with ever-larger
screens, there become ever-fewer things you can’t do with them. A
sufficiently dedicated student could (and probably has) banged
out a 10-page paper on an iPhone keyboard, and games like
“Fortnite” show that the smartphone is getting almost on a par
with dedicated gaming consoles and PCs. 

And if you really need a larger screen, tablets — which are often
cheaper, and almost always offer superior portability and battery
life — are getting better, too. The iPad Pro can’t replace a
laptop for those high-powered users just yet, but each new
release inches closer to that dream. Microsoft’s $400 Surface Go
tablet/laptop hybrid isn’t as powerful as a more expensive
device, but it runs the full gamut of Windows 10 software. 

MacBook ProFeng
Li/Getty Images

Finally, for those times when you really, truly do need a laptop
for whatever reason, it’s become harder to justify paying the
so-called “Apple tax”; the premium you pay to get an Apple laptop
or desktop PC, no matter the specifications. 

The more time we spend on our phones, the less attention we give
to our computers — which is at least one major reason why

PC sales are in a slow-and-steady decline
. That trend is only
set to accelerate, by the same token: As smartphones get better
and more capable, there are fewer reasons every day to crack open
that laptop.

At the same time, Windows PCs have generally gotten pretty good;
even the cheaper ones. If you’re not absolutely attached to the
Apple brand or ecosystem, it’s more reasonable than ever to get a
lower-priced Windows 10 machine. Even if the specs are lower,
hey, you’re probably only using it a few times a week. 

All of which is to say that Apple has made a pretty compelling
case for why we should drop $1,000 for a phone. It’s the one
thing we can’t live without, and for many, it’s both important
and necessary to have one that’s powerful and super-capable. The
problem is that it hasn’t, and can’t, make a sufficiently strong
case for why most people need its most powerful laptops,

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