It’s finally real, and it is more or less as expected. iPhone 8 body, A13 chipset. The back camera seems to be from the iPhone XR, which means substantial improvements but no Night Mode, and surprisingly it does feature a dual-with-eSIM capability which would be a lot more enticing if it felt like I was ever going to go abroad again at this rate. $449 for a 128 GB model, order Friday and available next Friday (presumably for home delivery or curbside at Best Buy only).
So there’s a couple of question marks here.
One, what does it offer me that my work-provided phone does not? Well, it’s a more powerful processor and a smaller body, and a slightly more capable main camera. No night mode hurts, though. But it is a hair smaller, and given that the X and the heirs of its body have always been a hair too big to be a hair too big, it’s a consideration. So is 1:1 compatibility with all the other things in the house, up to and including all accessories for my wife’s iPhone 8. Chargers, cases, everything. It also means TouchID, which isn’t inconsiderable in a world where you never take your mask off outside the house any more. It’s easier to hold, it’s more pocketable, it’s probably going to be just about right.
Two, am I going to want the notional iPhone 12? Well, first of all, jet back to my caveats about the first gen of a Jony Ive design and whether they’re still going to privilege thin over battery. Secondly, the Great Mentioner seems to think that the iPhone 12 lineup will be four phones: an iPhone 12 Pro in 6.7 and 6.1 inch sizes, and an iPhone 12 (not pro) in 6.1 and 5.4 inch sizes. All of a sudden, the iPhone 12 might not be as much of a hop up as we thought, might not have three lenses or a Time of Flight sensor or all the fancy AR stuff. And if it doesn’t…how great is the value proposition over the iPhone SE 2020? Will a smaller AMOLED screen draw less enough power to make up for a presumably smaller battery? Will I still be as fixated on AMOLED as I was in 2013, now that the power savings are not what we were promised?
And the kicker in all of this is: I’m at home. I spend more time on the laptop at home than I have in years now. The phone is mostly for looking at Instagram and playing back podcasts. The only reason the personally-owned iPhone SE wasn’t enough is because it’s mostly slow, and the body of the 8 isn’t that much smaller than the X I’ve been carrying for two and a half years now. Still, it would be nice, especially at this particular moment in history, to have an iPhone that’s current-capable and belongs to me. Not to put too fine a point on it, but the events of the last year have left me less than sanguine about the stability of my employment, and if the bastards come for me again, it would be nice to be able to pluck out the SIM, flick it at them, switch to eSIM and walk away with my own phone in hand.
There’s a certain bird-in-hand quality to it. A smaller iPhone 12, so-called, would still probably run somewhere around $700 for the 128 GB model, if any (which would get it back in the range where iPhones used to be priced before the X came to stand in for “that’s how many hundreds you’ll have to lay out for this phone”). But lately, your choices are 64 or 256, and if that continues, you’re probably looking at $800 for the 256 GB model. And at that point, you have to ask yourself if it’s worth $350 for night mode, a slightly larger display, more storage you don’t need and an extra year of updates. And the answer is…maybe? With the caveat that you’re going to be taking the first ride on a completely new design, which has been…problematic in the past? The iPhone 3G felt like a step back, the iPhone 4 had the famous antenna issues (even if they were never as bad as intimated), the iPhone 5 famously went to shit on Verizon as soon as the OS was updated and never recovered…
Do I *need* it? Probably not. Do I want it? I kinda do, yeah. Will I feel like I have a little more agency in a world where agency is tough to come by these days? Probably.
I guess we’re doing this.