The iPhone has taken over a larger percentage of the cell phone market share with each passing year, and fans of the iconic device have benefited from leaps forward in technology with each new iteration. What was once seen as a luxury device for the hungriest of tech junkies is now a staple around the world; iPhone and iOS represent about 42 percent of the market share in America, a staggering number for a single line of devices competing against a multitude of Android phones.
But if you’re a loyal Apple customer, there’s some bad news on the way. The price of the upcoming iPhone 8 is rumored to be trending upward after years of costs remaining relatively stable thanks to price drops in manufacturing. And these aren’t cheap devices as it is—the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus currently cost between $649 for the cheapest version and $969 for the high-end version of the Plus.
Nobody likes to hear that a device they need to replace every few years will now cost in the neighborhood of $1,000, even if cell phones are a fixture in your life. So why is the cost of your favorite cell phone going up?
New screens don’t come cheap
3D Touch has been a welcome addition to the iOS universe since it was implemented for iPhone models from the 6S onward. A lot of actions that were previously tied to the home button are now able to be accessed through a variety of touch sequences on your screen, and you can conveniently pull up quick options for individual apps by long-pressing on the icon.
Unfortunately, the magic of 3D Touch—and most of what your favorite devices are capable of—is made possible through help from third parties and tech developers who work alongside giants like Apple. 3D Touch specifically goes through a firm called TPK Holdings, who previously charged between $7-9 per phone to attach 3D Touch sensors to the LCD display panels iPhones use, which kept the cost of the parts manageable.
Apple is making the switch to OLED displays in the 10th anniversary version of their phone, and that makes the manufacturing process a lot more delicate for the companies they work with. Despite some of their advantages over LCD display panels, OLED screens are more fragile, and thus have to be treated differently in the mass production lines. Glass panels will now be necessary on either side of the display in order to implement the 3D Touch sensors, and that extra step will necessitate a price hike.
Here’s the kicker—while the solution for the new display will only cost about 50 percent more for the manufacturers, experts believe the cost will rise about 150 percent on the consumer end. Each set of 3D Touch sensors will now cost between $18-22.
Independent of the implementation of 3D Touch, new OLED screens are expected to add about $35 in costs, based on analysis from investors at Goldman Sachs. Screen sizes in the standard version and the “Plus” will reportedly go up, and more territory to tweet and text on will come with a cost.
The addition of wireless charging
Many of the features of the iPhone’s anniversary addition have yet to be confirmed, but there has been one constant in the build-up: wireless charging. The technology has been available for some time now, but Apple has resisted making it a key feature.
If you believe the leaks about the device, however, it looks like that’s the direction they’re headed. Reports from Reuters and staffing changes at Apple have hinted at their desire to modify the charging capabilities of the iPhone. Even the smallest editions of the new iPhones appear to have glass backs, which makes it possible to integrate wireless charging. Since iPhone users lost the headphone jack and now rely solely on the Lightning port for their connectivity, the ability to charge your phone without using the valuable port space should be a hit with consumers.
Though the technology itself isn’t particularly expensive, it is a new feature iPhones have not previously had. The ability to charge your phone a different way will free up space for use of other devices, but you can’t get new things without adding parts and cost.
Low storage options are likely gone
Nobody likes to run out of space on their iPhone, but consumers often don’t want to pay “extra” for the version of the iPhone that has a higher storage capacity. The cost of capacity has dropped a ton over the last decade, which helped stabilize costs as Apple continued to add more and more features to their devices.
But the iPhone 8 is expected to eliminate the lowest storage option, and the 128 GB model that is currently the mid-tier edition will now represent the base phone. In the three current versions of the iPhone 7, the price jump from each model to the next is currently another $100 each time you go up a tier. Even if that pricing structure for space simply holds in the iPhone 8, the elimination of the 32 GB model—which Apple already got rid of entirely in the Jet Black version of the iPhone 7—represents a major jump in price for the standard edition compared to the phones many of their customers are using.
This jump in price will be a little more palatable for iPhone users, since the elimination of low-capacity options should help curb the need for users to constantly clear out storage space on their phones. A 2014 survey found 91 percent of iPhone users in the U.K. had the smallest capacity device, so while storage is a big piece of the jump in price, at least you’ll have plenty of space on your new iPhone if you get the cheapest version.
One thing to note, because consumers often get the two things confused—storage is a separate entity from memory, which is also being tweaked in the iPhone 8. Apple is expected to upgrade to better, faster memory in the next edition of their phones, and that’s expected to cost somewhere between $16 and $29. Part of this is a problem that extends beyond Apple, however—costs for mobile DRAM chips have risen, and in many cases this has prevented manufacturers from upgrading RAM (and subsequently, speed) in their phones.
Possible dual cameras for selfies
Front-facing cameras have been a point of emphasis for phone companies the last few years, as the selfie has become a phenomenon so big even your grandmother has probably taken one or two. From the looks of things, this could mean adding an additional camera to the front of your phone, with leaked images of the phone showing off what looks like a second camera on the front of the phone:
Apple already implemented this feature in the primary camera for the iPhone 7 Plus in order to improve picture quality for consumers, particularly when zooming. Although you probably don’t need to zoom more when you’re taking a selfie, the new iPhones look like they’re going to factor your Snapchat game into the new design. And as always, progress and pulling off a fire pose comes at a cost.
Why you shouldn’t panic
Though all of this sounds gloomy from a consumer perspective—I certainly don’t want to pay an extra $100-200 whenever I have to upgrade—the silver lining is the jump in price coming attached to a boatload of upgraded features for the phone. You would definitely sign up if someone told you your current phone was going to add wireless charging, better and bigger displays, faster memory, and more storage.
Smart phones have become a massive part of how the average person interacts with the world around them, replacing other devices as they’ve added features over time. It used to be that you could simply call in a reservation to a restaurant on your phone. Now you can use your iPhone to match with someone on a dating app, set a reservation for dinner, read hundreds of reviews on the place, call a car to take you there, and then find an after-dinner spot in the area if the date goes well, all without having to speak a word out loud.
Apple knows how beholden you are to your phone, and they’re all-in on the expensive design for the next iPhone as a result. “Apple usually explores multiple designs in parallel,” said an analyst for Goldman Sachs. “However, with only four months left until launch, we believe Apple has now locked down the design.”
But if you don’t want to pony up for the latest and greatest iPhone when it drops, you always have the option to grab one of the older models once the iPhone 8 hits stores. You’ll still be close to the cutting edge if you decide to buy an iPhone one or two generations behind the current model, and no one will fault you for refusing to pay a small fortune for a new cell phone as soon as it hits the market.
What once was an experimental product is now an annual fixture, which helps bring prices down quicker than you might think. You may not feel as cool if you don’t get the iPhone 8 on release day, but the only thing as inevitable as the next iPhone is the next iPhone’s eventual price drop.