It’s happening again. Smartphones are getting really pricey again.
Apple tried consumers’ patience in 2017 with the world’s first $1,000 smartphone, the iPhone X, only to see sales stumble and prices start coming down again, on the entry-level phones.
But Samsung, which hasn’t seen sales rise substantially in several years on its premium Galaxy line, this week brought prices for a standard-sized smartphone to new heights: The Galaxy S20 Ultra starts at $1,399 for the standard 128 GB of storage, or $1,599.99 with 512 gigabytes.
Back in 2019, Samsung unveiled a new form factor in the Fold phone, which basically unfolds into a tablet size device, asking nearly $2,000.
The sequel, the new Galaxy Z Flip, starts at nearly $1,400 as well.
The good news: Consumers get more memory on storage on their super expensive phones than they used to. The new Galaxy phones come with 128 gigabytes of storage, up from the previous 64GB and a far cry from the days when 16 GB was standard. (Remember those? And then came all those nagging prompts to delete in order to take new photos or videos.)
The new Motorola Razr, also a flip phone, is even more expensive, starting at $1,500 with 128 GB of storage.
Consumers, if you think phone prices have gotten too high, there’s one really easy to voice your opinion: You can refuse to buy them.
That’s what happened to Apple in 2019 with the release of the XS models, which were rudely rejected by the public, forcing Apple to come up with a new strategy of offering more liberal trade-ins to get people to upgrade.
And so what’s up with the new sky-high prices?
New form factors and features like the Ultra’s 10x telephoto zoom, which brings you considerably closer to the action than Apple’s top of the line iPhone 11 Pro Max.
(Forget the hype about the “100x zoom,” on the Ultra as well. That’s marketing talk for digital zoom, which basically crops an image and blows it up, unlike optical zoom, which actually brings you closer to the action.)
But before you get all depressed and think that all phones will cost you a lot more money this year, relax. According to analyst Daniel Ives with Wedbush Securities, Apple is expected in March to release a revised version of its entry-level phone, the discontinued SE, which had sold for $350. He expects it to be priced around $399.
The SE had a 4-inch screen, which is way smaller than the lowest-priced current iPhone, the 11, which has a 6.1-inch screen and starts at $699 – or half the price of a new Galaxy S20 Ultra. (Granted, the Ultra has three camera lenses compared to two on the iPhone 11.)
And Google’s Pixel line hasn’t gone thousand-dollar crazy either. Its Google Pixel 4XL, released in late 2019, starts at $899, but Google is offering the phone for $200 off to new Verizon Wireless subscribers.
In other tech news this week
Mac software threats rose 400% in 2019, more than Windows. Are Apple computers really less secure than they used to be? That’s the assertion from a newly issued report on malware from cybersecurity company Malwarebytes. The report contradicts a long-held belief that Macs are more immune to such threats than Windows PCs.
The MWC wireless trade show (formerly Mobile World Congress) has been canceled due to concerns about the coronavirus. MWC is the largest mobile trade event in the world, and many companies this week dropped out, like Sony, Amazon, Intel and others. MWC had been set to run from Feb. 24 through Feb. 27 and draw some 100,000 attendees and more than 2,400 exhibitors.
The long-planned merger of wireless companies T-Mobile and Sprint has been approved. A federal judge approved the $26.5-billion proposed merger between the No. 3 and No. 4 wireless carriers.
This week’s Talking Tech podcasts
Follow interests instead of people on Cake.co We chat with Cake founder Chris MacAskill
Philo, for TV fans who don’t care about sports.Cable streaming alternative services don’t have to cost a fortune. Just ask Andrew McCollum, the CEO of Philo, which appeals to folks not interested in sports by offering cable services on streaming for $20 monthly.
How to get ahead on YouTube? The channel’s Barbara MacDonald has some ideas.
Follow USA TODAY’s Jefferson Graham (@jeffersongraham) on Twitter