One strange thing I never quite understood about the smartphone market, as saturated as it is: why hasn’t anyone ever made a super-premium, super-expensive phone for the celebrities to enjoy and for the plebs to envy?
After all, I’m sure Kim Kardashian finds it a supreme injustice she must use the same phone with which to take selfies, as her fans. She has clothes, cars, real estate, and a husband on a level that are forever unattainable to both her Instagram followers and her haters. Why should her phone be any different?
Apple has taken the first step to correct this appalling, socialist equal footing in phones. The new Apple Watch comes in three flavors, depending on the material used to make it: $349 for the aluminum model, $549 for stainless steel, and a cool $10,000 for the gold — just for its baseline model. (The top-drawer watches run for $17k. No joke!)
In other words, a single VIP-edition Apple Watch costs the same as almost 30 of the version reserved for middle-class Olive Garden fans. It costs about 20% of the median annual income of Amerian households — before tax — putting it in the same range as traditional luxury wristwatches favored by people who are wealthier, and therefore better, than you. (Expect one or two to be sent to Kim K, gratis. A few selfies of her wearing the thing would represent the most cost-effective advertising Apple could buy.)
So there is clearly a market for this sort of thing. Apple wouldn’t be putting this out there if it thought differently. So what would a $10k iPhone look like? (Or Android?)
Replacing the aluminum case with solid gold, possibly with embedded jewels, is an obvious move. But like the ridiculous gold casing of the high-end Apple Watch, it doesn’t actually serve any useful purpose besides drawing in thieves like a magnet. And it would be pretty silly if you had to hide your luxury iPhone skin behind a common plastic case.
How about if we upgraded the innards of the phone instead? I bet $10k can buy a lot of fancy high-end tech that not even Tim Cook would even dream of putting in a regular iPhone.
For instance, it is not hard to imagine stuffing such a phone the size of the 6 or especially the 6 Plus with enough hardware to comfortably run Mac OSX. Throw on a miniature AMD graphics controller and that thing can convert into a desktop computer if you have the monitor and bluetooth keyboard and mouse.
Of course, battery life would be an issue. Apple would have to turn to experimental models such as the lithium-air battery, which holds 5 to 15 times as much power as a comparable, conventional battery. These sorts of things have the downside of not technically existing just yet. But the great force of the world’s most valuable corporation pushing research, combined with the potential market of one-percenters eager to grab up such a phone, could produce results fairly quickly, I would imagine. And if Apple manages to patent the battery… one can only imagine that revenue stream. Do they force stiff royalties from competitors, or do they simply shut them out of the market of Li-Air phones? This would be one of those “good problems” to have!
There are all kinds of other Star Trek toys ten grand could buy a phone. Hologram projectors. Satellite links. Flexible screens. Augmented or virtual reality. Any of which would make the great unwashed want to start saving up for their own when they see J.Lo with one.
I do think we will see the super-premium phone sooner or later, and if Apple doesn’t bite, Samsung surely will.