Elgan: Why expensive mobile phones are worth it

Saving a few bucks on a cheaper handset is almost always a bad idea

The price of the new iPhone 3G dropped by $200 in the US. Although the phone bills necessary to take advantage of the phone's faster data speeds rose beyond handset savings, many hailed the lower price as an important development. Finally, the price is within the range of what people are willing to pay.

I've seen many people, including friends and family, agonize over whether to buy a phone they prefer, or one that's $200, $100 or even $50 cheaper. And with the economy in the doldrums, the impulse to economize is stronger than ever.

I believe this price sensitivity over handset prices is misplaced. My advice to everyone is to buy the phone you want, regardless of price, within reason.

Let's say you really want a smart phone that costs $400 but are tempted to save money by buying a $200 phone you don't like as much. Wow! Half the price! How could you possibly justify paying double for a phone you like only a little bit more?

Here's how to justify it.

1. Phones are worth more than you pay. Far more.

The low price and small size of handsets has fooled us into thinking that phones aren't as valuable to us as they really are. In fact, surveys show that mobile phones are among the most valuable possessions we own.

A survey conducted earlier this year by the Pew Internet and American Life Project found that most Americans would rather give up the Internet itself than their mobile phones. Assuming a two-year life for your mobile phone, and for purposes of comparison, how much do you pay for two years of Internet access? (By definition, the amount you pay is what you believe it's worth.) So if you pay, say, $50 per month for your Internet connection, then you're paying $1,200 for two years. So to the average American, his or her mobile phone is worth more than that.

Another survey conducted in the UK about a year ago called the Mobile Life 2007 report found that one in three people in Britain say they wouldn't give up their mobile phones for a million pounds (that's about 2 million US dollars).

Of course, nobody was waving cash, so the proposition was hypothetical. But the fact is that people really do love, need and highly value their mobile phones.

A researcher in human behavior, Jan Chipcase, expressed this eloquently in a Ted Conference talk. Chipcase studies the behavior of mobile phone users worldwide, of which there are now some 3 billion.

He makes the point that people own many things and choose to carry a variety of objects with them whenever they leave their homes. Of these, just three objects are universally claimed to be most important to people when they're out and about: keys, money and mobile phones. And among these, the one object people are most likely to use is the mobile phone. (A study published in May found that one third of Americans said that if they had to leave the house for 24 hours and could take only one object, they would choose their mobile phones over keys, wallet and all other possessions.)

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Mike Elgan

Computerworld
Show Comments

Father’s Day Gift Guide

Brand Post

PC World Evaluation Team Review - MSI GT75 TITAN

"I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it."

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Laura Johnston

MSI GS65 Stealth Thin

If you can afford the price tag, it is well worth the money. It out performs any other laptop I have tried for gaming, and the transportable design and incredible display also make it ideal for work.

Andrew Teoh

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

Touch screen visibility and operation was great and easy to navigate. Each menu and sub-menu was in an understandable order and category

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?