Associated costs: Who’s really paying?

Macalope

Apple has done something and therefore we must figure out what’s wrong with it.

The Verge, which spends its time talking about technology, entertainment and the ongoing efforts of billionaires to leave the rest of us rubes and get off this lousy rock, has had enough! The Apple rent is too damned high!

“$40 too far: the real cost of the iPhone 7’s missing headphone jack.” (Tip o’ the antlers to @TheLeeBase.)

The premise is this: Lower income individuals live off their smartphones, and having to charge separately from using headphones puts yet another burden on the kind of people who can take it the least.

You know what? The Macalope agrees that’s a problem. But is the scenario The Verge builds that common?

Last year, Kat Ascharya of 2machines interviewed Kelly, a 19-year-old community college student and intern who is fully dependent on her smartphone to access the internet.

But, hey, The Verge. What kind of smartphone does Kelly use? Oddly, they never mention that. Very strange. It’s probably an iPhone, though, right? Sure. Probably. Right? Yeaaah.

And for those who think people who can’t afford a dongle should switch to Android, that carries a second set of enormous costs…

Sure, that’s a problem. Only it’s not a problem for the student 2machines interviewed because she’s already using a Samsung phone. Not a problem, apparently? Giving ticking time bombs to low-income people.

It’s a fair knock on Apple that they don’t make low-priced gear that’s easily accessible to low-income consumers. But if you’re unable to afford a $40 dongle or unable to afford the time it will take for the price of peripherals to adjust, you’re probably not an Apple customer in the first place.

The Macalope would argue that iPhones are a better investment than other phones if only for their high resale value, but not everyone can afford the cost up front.

The belief that killing the most popular port in the world on the most popular smartphone in the world would have no consequences is wholly shortsighted.

Did anyone say that? It will definitely have consequences. But not necessarily lasting ones. Currently, cheap wireless headphones start at about $20 and come with the inconvenience of having to be charged. Cheap wired headphones with a 3.5mm jack start at just a few dollars. But the price of wireless headphones is not a fixed quantity, nor is the price of dongles. As these proliferate, their cost will go down.

Apple claims that very few people charge and listen to music at the same time, but I’d be willing to bet the people who do so are also likely to be the ones with no other computer in their homes.

Apple gets criticized for not making cheap phones that low income people can buy. Then Apple gets criticized for ruining the phones of the people who supposedly can’t afford their phones. Buh? Have we stepped into some kind of Escher-esque causality conundrum?

The Macalope’s not going to say not being able to charge and listen at the same time is not a problem. It is. It’s particularly a problem if, as one can easily assume, other smartphone manufacturers follow suit and also remove the headphone jack. At the same time, we can’t expect technology to not move forward so that some people won’t ever have to shell out a few dollars. Most cell phones didn’t even have a 3.5mm headphone jack until Apple started shipping the iPhone. Apple created the device that allowed people to have the more cost-effective lifestyle the student in the 2machines piece takes advantage of. Certainly nobody needs to thank them, they made a bit of money doing it, but c’mon.

The Macalope can think of things that cost more than a $40 dongle that The Verge didn’t mention in this piece. Water damage is one and one that removing the headphone jack helps prevent. Just a guess, but exploding phones are probably also expensive. Seems like that would be a non-controversial statement and yet here we are blaming Apple when The Verge’s canonical patient zero for not being able to afford a $40 Lightning splitter actually owns a Samsung. Things like crapware and advertising and poor privacy and bad security also represent costs but, of course, they’re less easy to identify than just running with the earliest possible cost for that danged dongle.

Apple can be maddeningly myopic sometimes about socio-economic issues. There’s nothing wrong with making a premium product and pricing it at a premium price. But giving a bunch of millionaire baseball players your products for free and strapping your high-priced smartwatches onto the arms of celebrities before the regulars can even buy one doesn’t exactly send the message that you’re looking out for Josephine Average.

While the issues The Verge discusses aren’t manufactured out of whole cloth, they might be trying to make them appear bigger problem than they are.

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