Switching to the iPhone: What’s the True Cost?

Smartphone cost comparison for iPhone 4 and othersI’m not going to lie:  I’ve always been opposed to iPhones in the past.  My feelings even confuse me bit, as my tech-saviness is definitely above average (must be my “keep things simple” mentality kicking in).  I’ve always been skeptical of the high cost and necessity of owning one.

iPhones are not cheap. The cost of owning an iPhone is around $85 per month.  This is at least $35 more each month than what I’m currently paying. I’m certainly not alone in considering all the costs when switching phones.

Secondly, while I definitely feel there are a lot of great uses for them and there are many people who can utilize them for work and productivity, I also think the majority of people that own them don’t really need them. Personally, I’m on the borderline between needing one to do my work and owning one just because they’re cool.  I anticipate that I’ll be on the move more often starting later this year, and, with online ventures, I’ll need to access the web more often.  However, I already spend 10+ hours a day in front of a computer between work, emailing, and blogging.

Despite these reasons, I’m considering purchasing an iPhone (or other smartphone) sometime this year.  Before I make the switch, I’ll have to clear up some of my reservations and questions (hopefully with your help!)

Here are my concerns about “costs” of owning an iPhone, above and beyond what’s paid for monthly service:

1. Will I actually get more work done? Or will I waste more time? The potential is definitely there to get more done with increased access to the internet.  I can respond to emails and comments, read other blogs, and do other things that I would normally only do on my laptop.  But there’s also the temptation to spend time playing games or surfing the web.  I don’t want to get an iPhone just to goof around on it.

2. Will my life be more convenient to a degree that justifies cost? This goes with point #1.  While I might get more work done, there are other iPhone applications that can help me, too, like GPS when I’m lost or Yelp when I’m looking for a good restaurant.  It’s difficult to really quantify benefits like these, but I think they are important to consider.  I know iPhone users will argue with me that they use their phone all the time to find places and things.  But is this always necessary or could they get by without an iPhone in some of these cases?  While I’m sure there would be plenty of times I’m glad I have an iPhone, I’m not sure if that’s often enough.

3. Will I spend more with other purchases, too? On top of the $85 per month price tag, there are other costs associated with owning a smart phone. Some are one-time costs, like a case and charging accessories.  But what about online purchases? I’m mostly concerned that an iPhone will give lead to more impulse buys, either through the iTunes store, Apps, or other online purchases.  Amazon.com even has its own iPhone app.  While I’d definitely be careful, I think a lot of these purchases will be inevitable from time to time.

4.  Will I utilize all the features? First off, I don’t talk a lot of my phone currently, and I don’t use 450 minutes each month.  With my heavy computer usage as it is, I’m not always sure how often I’d be away from my laptop and need to access email or internet.  In fact, I often enjoy escaping my computer for a few days when I’m camping or simply away from home.  On the plus side, I would like to take more photos, and I think I would do that if I had a better cellphone camera than I do currently.

5. Will I be more removed from the world? This is somewhat of a fear of mine.  I’ve noticed the power that an iPhone has to isolate people by distracting them from everything going on around them.  I don’t want to be on an iPhone constantly, especially when I could be interacting with others instead.  Plus, my girlfriend can tell you how glued I can get to a computer already.

A lot of this post is negative towards iPhones but reflects my true feelings.  But the fact that so many people own them makes me wonder: Am I simply missing the point of smart phones? However, part of me still worries that it’s a poor financial choice.  I don’t want to get an iPhone simply because it’s popular.

What are you reasons for owning or not owning a smart phone?

Does your iPhone help you with any money-making or savings goals?

Are my concerns valid?  Share in the comments below.




  1. Dollarstoshop says

    I have always wanted an iPhone(or Android phone) to check my email when I’m away from my laptop(which is 8 hours at work). One case for owning one came up last week when someone cancelled a meeting with me at 2pm for a 7pm appointment BY EMAIL.
    Of course I drove out after work and wasted 1 hour of my time. They told me they thought I got their email! Everyone now assumes we ALL have them and can access email instantly. Annoyed…I pointed out to them that we ALL don’t have iPhones, Androids, or Blackberry’s.
    But did I ever feel so unprofessional saying that!
    I’m am now seriously wavering the benefits!

    • Anonymous says

      Good point, although I think it’s a bit ridiculous for that other person to have assumed your got an email. Nonetheless, it’s a good example of when an iPhone would’ve saved you some time and hassle.

  2. Jeffrey's Cousin says

    Some honest reaction to your points/questions from a very happy iPhone customer:

    1. Definite combination of the two. I am much better at responding to email now than I was before – the 12 seconds it took to log into gmail was apparently too much for me in the old days, but now I’m constantly checking in and getting back to people (though you can invariably expect a more concise response). Furthermore, I’m able to constantly monitor my finances, check weather, and manage my fantasy football team (hey, I can count that, because it’s an iPhone-independent activity to which I devote a lot of time anyway!). You also screw around a lot, but if you’re like me, you’ll always be wasting time with one thing or another – might as well be your iPhone.
    2. For me, yes. I use the GPS when I get lost. I program my TiVo when I get stuck out of town on Sunday and realize forgot to record the Pats. I can even find out, to the minute, when the next subway train is coming by so I know if I need to run.
    3. I think if you’re a spender anyway, then yes. I still rarely, if ever, buy music on my phone. I still like to browse the iTunes store on my laptop. Also, 99% of the apps I’ve purchased were free (some were $.99). Purchase costs, accessories and the monthly bill are all real, but beyond that, I don’t think you should be concerned if you’re someone who generally exercises financial restraint.
    4. This is a bit of a combination of the past couple points, but yes, there are many features, and you will use them. You won’t use them all, but you’ll use enough to feel like you’re more-or-less taking full advantage of the device. And I agree – I never come close to 450 mins…the minimum plan from AT&T.
    5. No…well, maybe…yeah, probably a little. Still, I say there are plenty of other devices/modern technologies to share the blame, though.

    • Anonymous says

      Thank you for the very thoughtful comments, sir! It’s interesting for me to see you are a happy iPhone user yet admit there are some shortcomings as to how it improves your life. I would assume that’s true for a lot of those with iPhones. I will definitely consider all of these things in the future.

  3. Margo Mosher says

    The smart phone debate is a big one and as an owner of an iphone I often feel torn about having one. However, aside from the costs, I think if you have some self-control an iphone is a great purchase that will save you time, frustration, and help foster business and personal matters. Some of the most helpful aspects of an iphone:

    1. Skyping when you’re abroad and don’t have a computer! Keeping up with family and friends when you’re in Peru, Spain, or any other wonderful place is priceless (literally with skype, minus the cost of the iphone of course..)

    2. Google maps/GPS when you’re lost. This happens at least every 2 days if you’re me, so, yeah that’s says it all. Also, when you’re traveling for business to cities (D.C., NYC) it’s super helpful for walking to meetings.

    3. Taking higher quality photos even when you don’t have your camera. I can’t wait to get a new iphone just for the camera upgrade – you never know when that awesome scene or life time memory is about to unfold!

    4. Map my run. Increase motivation to run and stay in shape and feel healthy – that’s a money maker.

    5. Keeping up with emails while you’re away, away from the office, etc. Having a smart phone and being able to keep up with business emails while away on weekend trips is huge and builds your rep at your business.

    Sure, I don’t utilize all the features on my iphone. I’ve gone in and out of many apps and at this point in my grad school life I only use a few critical ones. Sure, I’ve dropped the $1.29 on itunes songs more times than I’d like to count. And, sure I’ve occasionally gotten sucked into my phone while at a public place (brewery tour..) and missed out on a lifetime moment — though I try really hard to keep my phone in my purse to avoid missing out on life! So there are a number of downfalls of the smart phones. However, the upsides are pretty good too. I think if it comes to the point that your business life and needs are starting to be harmed by your lack of being in touch while away on trips or away from a computers, then it may be time to get a smart phone. Or if you find yourself getting lost every two days, you may need a smart phone to navigate you out of your own neighborhood like me.

    • Anonymous says

      Wow, you definitely tailored your 5 points exactly to what I would use it for, Margo! I know you’re somewhat of an iPhone-lite user, but there are definitely times when you rely on it (and I rely on it, too!)

  4. 1. No – you will not get more work done.
    2. Probably not – I wouldn’t say my life is any more convenient. Those times when I really need the iPhone are pretty comical how everyone with me whips out the iPhone and we all find the answer together. I guess I’m rarely alone…
    3. Yes you will spend a lot more money. I spend so much now on the groupon app. It is so easy. My credit card is linked and I just click “buy” as I’m walking down the street. Other purchases are linked through my iTunes or amazon accounts. I buy whatever I need very quickly which saves time and makes me feel satisfied, but definitely involves me spending more.
    4. No – There are sooooooooo many features. That is what apps are for. It’s not about using all of the features; it is being able to use all of the features when you need them.
    5. Maybe – I do not play many games. I don’t really feel removed. I do, however have to remind my husband that it is insulting to play on the phone the entire T ride when a beautiful wife is sitting right in front of him and is eager to converse.
    6. I know you didn’t have a six but you should have. Should you get one? Yes.Here’s the thing. Now that I have my iPhone I don’t remember how I did anything before the iPhone. I can never ever go back. It is better than any other phone or electronic device I’ve ever owned or played around with. I use it for so many different things besides calling and texting. The applications are interconnected. I press someone’s address in my contacts and it brings me to the maps app and tells me how to get there. I am on some company’s website and they list their phone number. I press it and it calls them. There is no more entering information because everything is interconnected. Jesus Jeffrey, if you don’t get it by now, I don’t know when you will. And now I am running late for work. I still love you though.

    • Anonymous says

      Megahn – Not a super-convincing comment for me to get the iPhone, but I appreciate the honesty. I do think that looking up addresses and directions would be much easier with an iPhone, and that’s something I could definitely use. I’m all for streamlining these types of information. Even if I don’t get an iPhone, at least you will be able to talk to me on the train since I won’t have anything else to do anyway 🙂

  5. Jeffrey, after having an iPhone for a long while now i can say that i can’t really live without it. However, if i didn’t have one i probably wouldn’t miss it THAT much. It is what you make of it. With that being said – I actually use my phone to track my spending (using it as a check register and then importing it to excel to create my monthly actual-budge, that app is one of the 3 apps i’ve paid for at $1.99). I also track what i eat on it which is really helpful. The thing about impulse purchases is that if you already impulse buy then it will be an issue, but honestly i’m an impulse buyer and i’ve only bought 3 apps – most of the free ones are sufficient for what i want to do. My solution to iPhone purchases is to load a $25 gift card on to my account and that way i can spend when i want but not go over budget (i don’t let it authorize purchases if i have no money on there). I’ve had the same $25 gift card since last May when i received it. As for getting more work done, it’s really up to you – honestly, i use my phone for my own “fun”, yes i track expenses and food etc, but i generally use it to look at Facebook, look things up on IMDB and quick photos and texting. Having email on your phone is great! Having work email on your phone can sometimes make it feel like you are never leaving work. The one feature i really use is the GPS – i have no sense of direction and it is amazing! Plus you can look at traffic and alter your route accordingly.

    There are definitely other smart phones out there that i’ve seen that seem to be better than the iPhone. The prestige aspect is kind of moot at this point (depending on your social/work circle). Almost everyone i work or play with has one so it’s not really a “stand-out” item. When all is said and done i like my iPhone and if you get one you will too, but if you get another brand i’m sure you’ll like that one as well.

    • Anonymous says

      Thanks, Stef. It’s interesting to see that not everyone spends a lot of apps. I guess I’m really looking at an iPhone from the productivity and value standpoint, but I guess there’s a lot of be said for entertainment value, too. I am considering a Droid, which may have some better features but doesn’t have as many apps.

  6. I have had iPhone 6 for almost 2 years, and have had so many problems I want to go back to Android. Best phone ever was Motorola Droid. For past year I have been at Genius Bar ( greatest oxymoron) each month; did 2 hard resets with Apple support; THEN demanded to get thru to supervisor in CA who owned issues, and continues to be available after getting me a new phone. I did have warranty plan which was only helpful in getting replacement .This was supposedly a rare hardware issue. Whatever, it seems I should have had an easier time replacing defective phone. So much of my time and energy wasted!!
    Beware the iPhone hype!

Speak Your Mind


Read previous post:
February Money Challenge Recap: Matching Goals With Engagement

I'm wrapping up my money challenges from the last month.  It was an interesting experiment, especially considering that I didn't...