Last year, a friend of mine who bought a perfectly good iPhone 7 a year earlier was gifted an iPhone X for Christmas. His family is pretty well off, so I wasn’t surprised he was given something exorbitantly expensive that he never asked for.
But then something interesting happened. My friend — a devout Android user before a glitchy experience with an LG G4 drove him to his iPhone 7, which he wholeheartedly loved — was all of a sudden enamored with his iPhone X. This was a guy who laughed at the price tag when the device was announced, who sneered at the notch and couldn’t suss out any tangible improvements over the phone he already had in his pocket.
If you ask me, I chalk the change in his attitude up to a good helping of ownership rationalization, as well as a dash of genuine satisfaction. But my friend isn’t the only person who’s found themselves in this cycle of snark and contentment. You’ve been there, and so have I.
Now the iPhone XS is on the horizon and, again, we’re fully immersed in the pre-release hype — and fatigue. After avoiding branding any of their less-ambitious products with the “S” suffix for a number of years, Apple seems ready to embrace it once again, probably because it couldn’t think of a better alternative.
All signs point to this being a “tick” year, as they say — a generation in which Cupertino will at best refine its previous design, without offering any groundbreaking changes. The leaked press shot of the 5.8- and 6.5-inch iPhone XS seem to confirm that.
Aside from a new gold option, it’s all but certain that on Sept. 12, we will see the iPhone X again, but faster and bigger and with cameras that probably take better shots at night.
And, as it turns out, most people are OK with that.
As the market matures, so do we
The r/iPhone subreddit is full of people reacting to Thursday’s leak with delight at the gold colorway. Many commenters say they’ve held out on upgrading over a number of generations, and they’re ready to take the plunge on an XS. Others are waiting to see what unexpected new feature Apple rolls out during the keynote. A few still lament that, regardless of what Apple does, they’re locked into the ecosystem now and getting out isn’t worth the trouble.
Maybe this is the psychological effect of the maturation of the smartphone market we’ve been hearing so much about. Smartphone sales have been down for three consecutive quarters leading up to the end of Q2, according to IDC. That translates to millions of fewer handsets shipped in 2018 compared to 2017. Once upon a time, the mere existence of these magical little devices was thrilling. Now, they’re commonplace.
But I think deep down, we all wish there was something more to get excited about.
“When the XS images leaked yesterday, I tweeted ‘XS Plus, Gold, 256, I think,’ because I want the biggest phone possible with the most space,” Tom’s Guide Senior Writer Henry T. Casey told me. “Also, the gold in the images looked pretty dang cool.”
However, earlier in the day when I asked him why he wanted one, it took him roughly 10 seconds to come up with a reason.
Like I’m willing to bet most of us do, Henry hopes Apple has something cooked up — perhaps “one more thing” to sweeten the deal. But then he also understands the iPhone is admired for its consistency and reliability, and those aren’t the most dazzling traits to advertise.
Come to the dark side
Personally, I’m not jazzed for the iPhone XS, which is why I plan to do exactly what I’ve done each and every time I’ve become bored with my current handset: Switch to the other platform.
My first smartphone was a Motorola Droid, and I loved it to pieces. Teenager that I was at the time, one of the first things I’d do every day I arrived home from school was scour Droid Life for tips on a new app, an intriguing custom ROM or perhaps news on that pesky update to Android 2.2 Froyo that was missing in action for months.
I stayed faithful to Android until a miserable experience with an HTC Thunderbolt forced me into Apple’s arms. And when I grew weary of that, I owned a Nexus 4, Sony Xperia Z3 Compact and now, an iPhone 7. (Yes, I’m a small phone devotee.)
Now, I’m eyeing the Pixel 3. No, not the one with the hideous notch and the laughably lopsided bezels, but the more minimalist, comfortably-sized and assuredly cheaper smaller model. If the leaks we’ve seen come to fruition, the 5.4-inch variant should be one of the few 2018 flagships not to cobble together a messy pastiche of Apple’s design cues. And I appreciate that.
But what I really appreciate is change. And I give myself that by periodically switching back and forth between iOS and Android. When I’m away from a platform for a while, I appreciate the improvements that have been made in my absence, from the little design tweaks to the bold new features — and I gain a deeper respect for the advantages that each offers.
Of course, I fully realize this isn’t going to work for everyone. Moving all your accounts, apps and media — basically, the entirety of your digital life — from one system to another every few years is an arduous task that most would deem simply not worth undertaking.
But if you’re desperate to feel that excitement of something new and different, and would rather not keep knocking on the same company's door to give it to you, consider giving up your iPhone for a Pixel, or your Galaxy for an iPhone. Be agnostic. I can assure you, life on the other side isn’t as scary as some might make it seem.
And if you do end up with an iPhone XS? You might be skeptical now, but there’s a decent chance you’ll be singing its praises next spring.