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Components, design, experience—does it all add up to a $1,000 phone?
Ever since Apple announced the iPhone X at its September media event, we’ve had one question on our minds: Is it worth the price?
The iPhone X, which launched in stores on Nov. 3, is Apple’s 10th anniversary handset. Rather than iterating on last year’s model (as the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus do), the X represents a departure, a new trajectory for the future of the iPhone. The X features an edge-to-edge display (minus that cutout at the top of the screen), no home button, advanced camera capabilities, and a new biometric identification system called Face ID.
So, we know the iPhone X touts some cutting edge features and uses different components from existing iPhone models. However, do all those pieces come together to form a phone that’s worth $1,000? Here’s what we have learned—and concluded.
The component cost
According to Reuters, the iPhone X costs Apple approximately $357.50 to make, in terms of hardware component costs.
In terms of profits, that means Apple’s making a 64 percent margin on the handset. For the also-recently-launched iPhone 8, the margin is similar, at 59 percent. For last year’s iPhone 7, Apple’s gross margin was 66 percent: the device was priced at $649 yet parts cost only $220.80. With this in mind, the price of the iPhone X is in fact in line historically with the pricing of Apple’s existing handsets. Apple didn’t just mark up the cost of the iPhone X because it’s a premium offering—it does have more expensive components inside.
To that end, DisplayMate, in its latest technology shootout, concluded that the iPhone X’s OLED display is currently the best smartphone display out there. In its extensive testing, DisplayMate found that the iPhone X offers the best color accuracy of any display to date, the highest full-screen brightness for an OLED smartphone, the highest contrast ratio, the highest full-screen contrast rating in ambient light, the smallest brightness variation with viewing angle, and the lowest screen reflectance of displays it’s tested.
For a detailed look at what is inside the iPhone X, you can check out iFixit’s teardown of the handset here.
With the except of the notch at the top of its display, which is almost universally disliked (or eventually ignored), the industrial design of the iPhone X is excellent.
“It’s the perfect form factor,” says Steve Kovach of Business Insider. “The X fits in my pocket much better than the plus-size iPhones ever did, and I still get the benefit of the larger screen, which covers almost the entire front of the phone with the exception of that controversial notch that houses the front-facing camera and other sensors.”
For Nilay Patel of the Verge, it’s his third favorite iPhone design of all time.
“At a glance, the iPhone X looks so good one of our video editors kept saying it looked fake. It’s polished and tight and clean,” Patel wrote in his review. “It’s a huge step up from the surfboard design we’ve been living with since the iPhone 6, but it definitely lacks the character of Apple’s finest work.”
In terms of outward design, if Apple hasn’t scored a home run, it’s certainly scored a triple. It’s a beautiful upgrade to the design we’ve grown accustomed to over the past few years.
Hardware is only one part of the puzzle though. While quality hardware is important, so is the overall user experience—the software that brings everything together. You can put a price tag on the screws, screens, and sensors inside a phone, but the worth of the software experience is more difficult to quantify. However, most iPhone X reviewers have tried to evaluate the phone, and whether the experience is worth the price.
“The iPhone X costs $1,000. In the scheme of things, that’s not so much more expensive than other iPhones, especially if you’re paying in monthly installments,” writes David Pierce for Wired. ”But it’s still a lot to spend on a smartphone! In most functional ways, the iPhone X isn’t life-changingly better than the 8 or 8 Plus.”
CNET also felt that, for most buyers, the cost outweighs the benefits the new handset offers.
“It’s not the choice everyone who wants an iPhone should pick. It’s an expensive top-end pick that aggressively moves design forward, but abandons some comfort zones ahead of the curve,” writes Scott Stein. “And it makes some basic everyday tasks, such as unlocking the phone and reaching for quick settings, . It introduces fascinating new tech, but I’m not sure I’m completely ready for it yet.”
Unfortunately, the iPhone X, while water resistant, may not fare well over the course of everyday use. Patel, in his review for the Verge, found that the stainless steel ring on the edge of his phone already showed signs of scratching and scuffing.
On top of that, recent drop tests show that the iPhone X is Apple’s most breakable phone ever. If you want your phone to last—especially if you’re clumsy—you’ll need to slide it into a sturdy case for extra protection.
By Apple standards, yes, the iPhone X is worth its $1,000 price tag. The hardware components, the new design, plus the software and labor involved, justify the cost of the flagship handset. This is good news for those who want to purchase the iPhone X (or own it already): You can feel satisfied that Apple hasn’t ripped you off in any way. You are using a more expensive phone.
However, if you’re looking at the overall package, including the design and the experience of using the phone, most conclude that no, it’s not worth it. Many people would be better off buying the cheaper iPhone 8 if they’re looking for a new handset this year.
On this front though, it really comes down to how much you value the new features the iPhone X offers above the iPhone 8. Does Touch ID never work right for you? Has it been three years since you upgraded your phone, and you’re ready for a major upgrade? Or do you want the top-end camera features of the iPhone 8 Plus, but in a smaller size? In these cases, the benefits of the iPhone X may more than make up for a few extra hundred dollars in price.
Christina Bonnington is a tech reporter who specializes in consumer gadgets, apps, and the trends shaping the technology industry. Her work has also appeared in Gizmodo, Wired, Refinery29, Slate, Bicycling, and Outside Magazine. She is based in the San Francisco Bay Area and has a background in electrical engineering.