Why the iPhone 8 probably won’t be worth the $999 price tag

Apple's upcoming iPhone 8, expected to debut Sept. 12, might have people thinking twice about buying it.

How much are we really willing to shell out for an iPhone? That’s the loyalty test Apple is expected to deliver during the iPhone 8 product launch on Sept. 12.

With a price tag that will likely be a dollar short of $1,000, the iPhone 8 will use a screen technology called OLED — currently used by Samsung and others but a first for Apple. It will look brighter and clearer, and it may stretch almost to the edge of the enclosure.

The problem? It had better make waffles. And talk to the dead. Or offer a warm towel in the morning.

[ Also on Computerworld: What that weird bump on the iPhone 8 means for enterprise users ]

At the $999 price, a smartphone becomes more expensive than many televisions at Walmart. It’s a much higher price than the laptops I just purchased for my kids. (In fact, I bought two Lenovo models with a fast processor for $500 each.) Worse, we already have smartphones. We use them constantly, and we like how they operate — for the most part.

A new screen technology is nice, but it doesn’t really change our perception of the apps we use, which is typically the same small group each day. I flip over to Flipboard, fire up Sprout Social and Facebook, check an analytics app, and use Chrome over and over again. A $999 phone won’t change any of that. In fact, if anything, it will remind me all over again that my current phone works just fine. The new iPhone 8 might make movies pop on the screen and might make photos look a bit more colorful, but will it be enough?

I doubt it. The rumor with the new iPhone is that Apple will really emphasize the new screen tech but might not emphasize much else. As is the norm, the new model will probably use a faster chip, might last a little longer, and could include a few iOS tweaks. Yet from what I’ve noticed with Apple lately, they usually have one major new draw, and this time it’s the screen.

If you don't need to upgrade, will you buy the iPhone 8?

From a consumer perspective, if you need an upgrade, you get the benefit. More and more, though, if you don’t really need that new technology, it becomes a tough decision.

And, about that price. The higher the price, the less likely it is that people will upgrade. There will be a point where a new iPhone sort of lands with a thud. And it will be price related. The decision point will be — is this new feature really worth this new price? Historically, we still shell out the big bucks. Apple says jump, and we jump.

As a recent report noted, however, iPhone sales finally started to dip last year. Oops. And, we’re getting sick of apps. We want something a little easier and more manageable — something more like Alexa or Siri to do the hard work for us, no swiping required.

That presents a huge hardware dilemma because the bots and AI we’re craving are software related (for the most part — powerful AI does need powerful hardware). It explains why Apple is making a speaker called the HomePod. It’s a new way to house AI software. We may even see more hardware products from Apple — a doorbell or something in the car — because it’s a way to move beyond the upgrade path of buying more and more expensive smartphones in a saturated market.

It means for $999, Apple might finally release a smartphone that makes people think twice. Hopefully, at least for Apple, that's not the case in September.

Copyright © 2017 IDG Communications, Inc.

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