SK Babu


The ‘Wait & Buy’ Apple Game

The 2018 iPhones are officially out. My current iPhone 6S+, is now three generations old. So there’s a lot of stuff the new phones can do that my phone can’t. Not surprisingly, I found myself drooling over the reviews until the out of world prices brought me back down to earth.

This is especially true if you live in India, which is one of the most expensive places in the world to buy an iPhone. The 64GB model iPhone XS Max will cost ₹1,10,000 ($1527). This in a country, where a ₹15,000 ($200) phone is considered an expensive, mid range phone. I’m sure US customers too would think twice before shelling out $1527 for the iPhone XS Max base model.

This is what makes buying an iPhone in India a different game. The price is just too high for a phone, and seems needlessly extravagant as compared to the cost of living in India. For instance, I sold my five year old car for ₹100000 ($1388) just a while ago.

So what exactly do I want in my next phone?

The answer wasn’t hard to figure out. A couple of months ago, I had managed to replace my 3rd generation iPad 3 with the 6th gen iPad (2018 model). Sure, it didn’t have all the latest features of the iPad Pro. But it has the A10 processor which is more advanced than the A9 in my iPhone 6S+, and it even has Apple Pencil compatibility. And at ₹24,500 ($340), it was a real bargain.

To sum up, if I don’t get a good bang for my buck, I’d rather hold on to my buck. It certainly seemed time to take a hard look at my options.

Continue with existing phone

My three year old iPhone 6S Plus is a decent phone but its age is showing. The old battery and hardware just isn’t up to the demands of newer software. Like the battery runs out of juice the moment I turn on the camera or any other processor intensive tasks. Besides, I’m already beginning to run into apps that are not fully compatible with the phone.

Get a new battery

My iPhone 6S+ is eligible for a discounted battery replacement program (around ₹2000 or $27 as against the usual $79 or something) as it’s among the phones affected by the throttling issue. Sadly, I can’t take advantage of the offer as my phone has a tiny crack on one corner of the screen.

It seems that unlike the iPhone 6, the iPhone 6S+ uses adhesive to hold the touchscreen down. To replace the battery, the Apple engineer said she would need to use suction force to lift up the touchscreen, and there’s a good chance of it cracking. So she informed me that my bill for fixing the battery might include the cost of a touchscreen replacement, which could take the total cost up to ₹18000 ($250). My iPhone 6S + is the first ever phone of mine to have a cracked screen. I did have an armour case on, but the thing got pushed aside when the phone hit the ground. Just one of those things!

Go Android

Having owned an iPhone for the last nine years, I find it hard to switch to an Android. I did try it once, and even tried carrying two phones. But I eventually switched back probably because I’m used to iOS. I still own a Redmi Note 4, which is a two generation old Android. It can do most of what my iPhone does, but I just don’t get any kicks out of using it, like I do with my iPhone.

Go down in size to 4"

If I add ₹1000 to my ‘battery replacement’ cost, I can get the smaller iPhone SE for around ₹19000 ($264). The phone is made in India, and so is exempt from import taxes, which is why it’s so affordable. That iPhone has almost the same hardware as my iPhone 6S+. But going down to that 4" size after having lived with the relatively massive 5.5" iPhone 6S+ for three years, just isn’t practical.

Go for the iPhone XR

The iPhone XR will cost ₹77,000 ($1,069) which is almost the price of the iPhone XS Max in the US. If I’m going to be spending that kind of money, I’m not going to accept compromises. And the iPhone XR is definitely a compromise for the budget conscious. One camera at the back instead of two, a relatively low resolution LCD screen screen instead of hi resolution OLED, one SIM instead of a the dual SIM, 3GB RAM instead of 4GB.

It doesn’t even have 3D touch, which I admit I don’t use too much. But the only reason I bought my iPhone 6S+ for around ₹55,000 ($763) three years ago, was because it had all top end features. To spend ₹77000 on a phone without the 3D Touch that came on my 3 year old phone, is hard to accept.

Import cheaper iPhones

The Indian customs generally doesn’t enforce the import duties rigorously on non-resident Indians who bring in an extra phone while visiting India. Even in a country like UAE, where millions of Indians work, the price difference will be substantial. The iPhone XS Max for instance will cost AED 4,649 (₹91,000 / $1266) as compared to the Indian price of ₹1,10,000 ($1527). But with the dollar recently rising up in value against the Indian rupee, Indians are going to be lining up to ask their friends and relatives who are based abroad to get them an iPhone. So the Indian customs may tighten up, and this may not be viable.

Get a battery pack

Since my biggest issue with my iPhone 6S+ is the battery, one solution may be to get a battery pack. I do have an old 5000 mAH Sony powerbank, and a six inch lightning cable from Amazon. But even so, this is a cumbersome solution, not to mention the daily headache of charging two devices instead of one. Though I suppose I can charge just the battery pack, and simultaneously connect the phone to the pack.

Play the waiting game

Actually, I faced a similar issue when my iPad 3 grew old and slow. I didn’t want to spend too much on a new iPad. So I waited, and waited, for two long years. And then like I mentioned earlier, I managed to get the 6th gen iPad (2018 model) for ₹24,500 ($340) a few months ago. Sure it misses some features but I was okay with that, as its price was reasonable.

The thing is Apple knows that its extra-high priced iPhones will never sell in India. In fact, Apple’s market share in India recently fell to a miserable 1%. That’s why Apple decided to make the iPhone SE in India. They admit being surprised by its sales despite being a 4" phone. I suppose it appeals to many Indians (including my wife), who love the the iPhone SE’s perfect blend of compact size, decent performance, affordable price and Apple quality.

So I’m betting that somewhere in the next year or two, Apple may come out with an equivalent of the iPhone SE for India. Basically an iPhone that has a better combination of price and features than the iPhone XR. This means that if I can drag out a year or more life out of my iPhone 6S+, Apple may come up with a solution for me. Something like the 6th gen iPad was to the iPad Pro.

But two years is a long time to go with a bum battery on my iPhone 6S+. Maybe I’ll go back to the Apple dealer, and ask them to change the battery, and write off the extra screen replacement cost as just a bit of bad luck.

At least, I’ll have 3D Touch. Who cares if I rarely use it? Just knowing I have a feature the iPhone XR doesn’t have, makes me feel a lot better!

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