I already knew what was going to happen before the iPhone event started. Apple was going announce this new phone I’d reported on for months, and it was going to feature all the cool new stuff I’d read about for months. And for every time I said “Oh wow that’s cool” during the big reveal, Apple would gently extract a one hundred dollar bill from my pocket. I said “Oh wow that’s cool” ten times during the event, and do you know what that means? I’m buying the iPhone X next month.
This fate will cost me over $1,000. The iPhone X offers fun new things like the edge-to-edge Super Retina display, the best camera system Apple’s ever made, some facial recognition shit that sort of scares me, and the wonderfully named A11 Bionic chip. It also looks cool as hell.
If you want to know the truth, I want the iPhone X because I want that camera. I wanted the camera on the iPhone 7 Plus but don’t like the giant size. The iPhone X is about the same size as my current iPhone 7, but thanks to the missing bezel, the screen is actually larger than the iPhone 7 Plus screen. The camera is also better. So I’m going to buy the iPhone X.
Still, the iPhone X is going to cost me more money than anything I’ve purchased since my last MacBook. When I sit back and consider the gravity of that price tag, images of reasonably priced pants, bags of groceries, plane tickets to vacation destinations, and other sensible things one might spend money on float through my mind. It’s a fleeting vision, because as soon as I come to terms with the prospect of buying an overpriced smartphone I don’t need, I remember how easy Apple makes it to buy a new iPhone these days. The Apple payment plan makes it deceptively simple, and here I am, willingly deceived.
Nearly a year ago, I retired a shattered iPhone 6 for a sparkling jet black iPhone 7. It wasn’t an impulse decision. It took me two months of research and deliberation to decide that Apple’s payment plan made sense for me. It meant that I’d spend an additional $35 a month on a brand new device, but I’d also get AppleCare, so that when—and it’s always when—I dropped the phone on the sidewalk again, I could trade it for a new one. For nearly a decade, as long as I’d owned an iPhone, the cycle of breaking a phone and then looking for a new one on eBay, paying for a screen repair, or hilariously trying to repair the screen myself had grown tired. This iPhone payment plan was convenient and cost as much as takeout for two every month.
So I did it, and I never dropped my phone again. I never benefited from the AppleCare deal that talked me into this weird rent-to-own agreement. Still, the payment plan offered another benefit as well: a new phone every year. In the past, I’d cherrypicked the right moment in an upgrade cycle when I could get the biggest jump in functionality for the least amount of money. That was the smart thing to do, but it wasn’t nearly as handy as it would be to walk into the Apple Store this fall and trade in my iPhone 7 for the new thing.
I could still do that. On Tuesday, Apple announced the iPhone 8 and that awfully expensive iPhone X. The iPhone 8 looks just like the phone that I have. If I wanted the iPhone 8, I could just turn in my iPhone, keep paying my $35 a month, and get a new phone. The iPhone X will cost me.
For an extra $15 a month, I can do the same deal but get an iPhone X. Just $15 a month! If I want to justify that extra bread, I could just cancel my Netflix and drink one fewer beers at just one happy hour, and I’d break even. I could buy cheap yogurt instead of that Greek shit I like at the grocery story for one week. And I will.
You think I’m an idiot. That’s fine, I do too. These sorts of mind games are exactly how and why companies like Apple design product launches. “Look here’s the new thing!” these events scream. “It’s more expensive and you don’t need it but you want it and we’re going to make it easy for you to get it!” But aside from the idiot stuff, I hate myself for buying into things like the iPhone payment plan. It’s a scam in its own regard, and I know that I’m spending more on my phone than I need to. Now that I’ve signed up for it, though, the whole rigamarole of keeping the most functional phone in my pocket is just easier.
At the end of the day, I think, my iPhone is the gadget I use most. I depend on it, as much as I’d like to deny that fact. So if I’m going to spend a little extra money every month and enjoy that experience just a little bit more, that’s worth it to me. Self-loathing be damned.