Get ready to sell your kidneys” the call goes out as Apple releases a new iPhone. While that might sound a trifle extreme to some, the fact is that for a signficant segment of the tech using population, the iPhone is synonymous with expensive extravagance. In fact, there are many who hold Apple responsible for the emergence of the premium priced handset.

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Well, there’s no denying that the iPhone inevitably gets released at a price tag that would be more at home on a mid-segment notebook than a high-end handset. However, what not too many people seem to realise that the iPhone, while hardly being inexpensive, is not the sole device out there with a high price tag. The high-end price segment of the phone market has always existed and believe it or not, has always been more than able to give notebooks a run for their money in terms of pricing.

If that sounds a bit far-fetched, cast your mind back to 2007 and the first iPhone, which was released at a price of USD 499 for a 4 GB version and USD 599 for an 8 GB one. It was never released officially in India, although in the grey market, the 8 GB avatar was available for about Rs 24,000. That was the year in which the Nokia launched its N95, the “is this what computers will become” smartphone – for close to Rs 36,000. And it was by no means an aberration – Nokia launched the E90 Communicator in the same year at an even higher price: close to Rs 40,000. In fact, I clearly remember some reporters asking Nokia executives if their device was not overpriced considering the fact that the iPhone (which in spite of not being available officially in the country, had become a buzzword of sorts and was being brandished at media events) was available at a lower price! In fact, when the iPhone was officially launched in India the next year in the form of the iPhone 3G, it was priced at Rs 31,000 for the 8 GB model. A year later the iPhone 3GS was launched at Rs 35,500, both of which were lower than the launch prices of the N95 and the E90, and even the HTC HD2 which was launched at Rs 36,000 in 2008. The likes of Palm, BlackBerry and i-Mate also had devices that were priced in the vicinity.

Ever since, there have always been phones that are more expensive than or are priced in the vicinity of the iPhone. High end smartphones were expected to be expensive and close to notebook territory, even in the days of Symbian and Windows Mobile. Contrary to popular perception, the initial arrival of Android did NOT drive down smartphone prices – the Galaxy S, which was to establish Samsung as Android’s superstar was launched at Rs 31,000 in 2010 (the same as the iPhone 3G), Motorola launched its Milestone at Rs 32,990 and Sony launched the Xperia X10 at Rs 35,795.

And that has always been the case. Yes, the iPhone came with a stiff price tag in the market, but it was by no means the only device to be so. When the iPhone 5 was launched in India in 2012 at Rs 45,550, Samsung had the Galaxy S3 priced at Rs 43,180 and the Note II at Rs 42,990, while HTC had the One X+ at Rs 40,190. Fast forward to the iPhone 6 which was priced at Rs 53,500 and the 6 Plus which was launched at Rs 62,500 and the market had already witnessed the HTC One M8 at Rs 49,900, the Nokia Lumia 1020 at Rs 49,999, the Sony Xperia Z3 at Rs 51,990, the LG G3 at Rs 47,990, the Samsung Galaxy S5 at Rs 51,500 and the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 at Rs 58,300.

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Want to bring things up to date? Well, as we wait for the official prices of the iPhones 6s and 6s Plus to be revealed, and in spite of the arrival of relatively low priced and yet high-specced devices like the OnePlus 2, we have seen the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge Plus at Rs 57,900, the Sony Xperia Z3 Plus at Rs 55,990, the HTC One M9+ at Rs 52,500, the LG G4 at Rs 51,000 and most recently, the Samsung Galaxy Note 5 at Rs 53,900.

So why do so many people consider the iPhone to be the sole representative of phone extravagance?

Well, there are a number of reasons. One is the understandable tencency to evaluate the device purely in terms of tech specs. And irrespective of which iPhone we are talking of, there have always been devices that seem better specced in terms of display size, processor speed, RAM, storage, cameras and the like. This approach, however, is reminiscent of the Mac OS vs Windows debate of the late nineties and early 2000s when the Windows crowd consistently accused Apple of overpricing Macs based purely on the spec sheet. In both cases, what was forgotten was that the hardware that was being compare was actually running different platforms or software – a bit like comparing two books purely on the number of pages and quality of binding than the actual quality of content. It is not an entirely fair practice, as it seems to relegate software to the back seat, but it persists to this day. Apple’s penchant of playing up its design has also worked against it, as many people have tended to view it as a camouflage for what they perceive to be a relative modest spec sheet. “The iPhone is just about design and a logo. Nothing but packaging and marketing,” is a line that we have heard numerous Android-handset-peddling salespersons.

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Then, while other flagships do seem to get price cuts frequently – the LG G4 which was launched at Rs 51,000 a few months ago is now available for Rs 38,000 in some places, for instance – the iPhone(s) generally does not get a price reduction for a year, making the price differential between it and some other flagships look more than it actually was initially. Dealers say that other companies often cut flagship prices because they release more devices per year and ‘shift’ the premium to newer releases.

Which brings us to the little matter of Apple launching just one or two phone models a year and not releasing new devices at lower price points, unlike its competitors, many of whom have devices at different price points. So, while you can have a new Lumia or a Samsung or LG that is “affordable” or “budget,” the least expensive iPhone today costs close to Rs 15,000, and that too because of its advancing years rather than am aggressive pricing policy.

It is this combination of high design, high (and generally unchanging) price, and (perceived) not-so-special spec sheet that we think makes a lot of people outrage over the price of the iPhone.
No, we are not going to claim it is inexpensive.
We are just pointing out the fact that Apple is not the only company producing high-priced devices.
Many are.
And will continue to, as long as people are ready to pay for them. With or without kidneys.
The outrage about the pricing is justifiable.
Especially in an era when the likes of Xiaomi, OnePlus, Motorola, Asus and Meizu are driving down the prices of ‘flagship’ devices.
But accusing Apple of starting the ‘expensive smartphone’ trend is not really fair.

PHOTO CREDITS: Playtech
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Editorial Mentor

Nimish Dubey has been writing for more than a decade now (well, Windows 3.1 was around and Apple was on the verge of being finished when he started). He has been published in a number of publications including The Times of India, Mint, The Economic Times, Mid-Day and Femina on subjects that vary from tech write -ups to book reviews to music album round ups. He managed to interview Michael Schumacher once and write two books for young adults along the way.