Is the (PRODUCT)RED iPhone 7 a terrible purchase? [Friday Night Fights]


Are you buying one?
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

Apple’s stunning new (PRODUCT)RED iPhone 7 went on sale this morning, but should you buy one?

Sure, it looks spectacular, and a portion of your purchase goes to a good cause. It’s also packing Apple’s latest iPhone hardware — but that hardware is six months old now, and when September rolls around, it’s going to be old news.

Join us in this week’s Friday Night Fight as we discuss whether the (PRODUCT)RED iPhone — and iPhone 7 in general — is still worth your hard-earned cash.

Killian Bell: There’s no denying the (PRODUCT)RED iPhone 7 is a thing of beauty. I believe I was the only member of the Cult of Mac team who praised its look after its official unveiling earlier this week, and I think it’s by far Apple’s prettiest iPhone to date. It makes me want to see blue, green, and other color options even more.

But despite that, I think it’s a terrible time to buy an iPhone 7, and I couldn’t recommend it to anyone.

I’m not suggesting it’s a bad phone, of course — it’s not — but it was somewhat boring when it was brand new six months ago, and now it’s even less exciting. What’s more, iPhone 8 will be arriving this September, and we know that’s not going to be another incremental upgrade.

Unless you desperately need an iPhone, then, or you’re obsessed with the color red and have $800 you need to get rid of quickly, why buy an iPhone 7 now? Do you see a compelling reason?

Luke Dormehl: You weren’t the only member of the team who liked it. Maybe you’re recalling the time you were the only member of the team who thought Apple needed to borrow every feature from the doomed Samsung Galaxy Note 7 before it started blowing up? A couple of other members of the team, myself included, said how nice the phone could have looked had Apple gone for a black frontage, and possibly considered changing the silver ring around the Touch ID button to red — but I think everyone’s jaws dropped when they saw the device itself. I’m not a massive fan of the current iPhone form factor, which has now persisted since the iPhone 6 in 2014. It’s a bit too slippery for my liking, and I personally prefer the look and feel of the iPhone SE.

With that said, I think it would be hard to write off this as a “terrible” phone to buy right now. As you point out, it’s a stunning handset, we’re only halfway through this particular product cycle, and not everyone is going to want to hop on the iPhone 8 the moment it lands. Yes, it sounds exciting from what we’ve heard about it — but I’ve got a lot of friends who have traditionally stuck to buying the “s” release iPhones, because it gives Apple time to work out kinks when it jumps to a new form factor. The iPhone 7 doesn’t have all the features we’re expecting with the 8 (of which an OLED display) is the one I’m most hankering after, but it’s a very solid handset.

Combine that with the fact that this is a gorgeous iPhone, the first (PRODUCT)RED iPhone in history and therefore one that’s likely to retain its value and become a bit of a collector’s item, and the fact that you’re supporting a good cause by buying it and… yep, I can’t really get on board with your “terrible” assessment.

Killian: FFS. Not this Note 7 bullshit again. I’ll explain this to you one last time: The features I listed in that post are still features Apple should be considering for iPhone (some were added with iPhone 7, like water-resistance). It’s still a valid wish-list, regardless of the fact the Note 7 was recalled, and many of the features mentioned are available on dozens of other Android smartphones. We just focused on the Note 7 because it was the newest iPhone rival at the time.

Now let’s get back to the debate.

I’m not saying the iPhone 7 is a terrible phone. It’s one of the best available right now, especially if you’re an iOS user. You’ve misread what I wrote. What I am saying is that it’s a terrible time to buy one. In just six months, iPhone 8 will land, and as the tenth anniversary iPhone, it’s going to blow our socks off.

As I mentioned before, this isn’t another incremental upgrade. It is expected to deliver a stunning new design made out of curved glass, new display technology, a possible mini Touch Bar, and maybe even features like iris scanning. Every iPhone fan will want one, and if you’re only six months into a new contract, you’re going to be disappointed you didn’t just wait.

The (PRODUCT)RED iPhone certainly supports a good cause, and it’s nice to see Apple continuing to push out (PRODUCT)RED devices. But I can’t imagine the company is donating a great deal of your money to the organization from each iPhone sale. You would probably be doing more to help if you just donated $50 directly.

Luke: What about my point about the stability of the iPhone 7, which comes from Apple having had a couple of years to resolve any design challenges it’s faced with the form factor? I was never one of the “bendgate” outraged brigade, but it certainly prompted Apple to make a few tweaks in subsequent iterations, which have resulted in a better handset.

Ultimately, I don’t really get your point. Yes, the iPhone 8 is likely to be an exciting refresh — and is likely to be a great earner for Apple. But the (PRODUCT)RED iPhone isn’t going to cease to be a good phone come September. If people want to get hold of a great phone, which you acknowledge is one of the “best available right now,” in a spectacular new finish, and are happy to pay a premium for that while supporting a good cause… I don’t see why that’s a bad thing?

How about we wait until order numbers come in and we can see how many people agree with you that this is a terrible time to buy an iPhone?

Killian: It’s just a stupid reason to buy one. Sales figures prove that very few people are put off by big refreshes because there might be “design challenges.” And when the iPhone 8 arrives in September, not a single iPhone 7 owner will think, “that looks awesome, but at least my phone has stable design.” You’re grasping at straws.

I do agree the (PRODUCT)RED iPhone 7, and any other iPhone 7, won’t cease to be good phones come September. But at a time when you can spend the same money (or even less) on stellar smartphones — with super-sharp Quad HD displays, virtual reality, and greater cameras — just “good” is not enough. iPhone 7 was already boring.

If you really, really want a red iPhone, why not wait until September to see if iPhone 8 comes in red out of the gate? And if it doesn’t, you’ll be able to get a red iPhone 7 for even less. It makes sense.

Luke: So let me turn this around and make it a more direct question: is Apple making a mistake launching this iPhone? Will Jony Ive and Tim Cook be kicking themselves when the orders come in, and no-one’s bought it because they subscribe to your view that it’s a terrible time to pick up an iPhone?

Killian: Nope. Not at all. I’ll bet the (PRODUCT)RED iPhone was planned when the 7 series made its debut last September, but Apple planned to hold onto it to boost sales when interest started falling. And it will certainly do just that. I’m not saying it’s a bad move by Apple, and I’m not denying it won’t sell millions of these things before iPhone 8 arrives.

But that doesn’t mean we should sit here and tell people to go and buy one. I don’t think we should encourage people to upgrade to a phone that’s already six months old when a major refresh is in sight — especially when the vast majority of people buy their smartphones with a two-year contract and are tied to one device during that term.

I think I’ve given compelling reasons why you should avoid the iPhone 7 right now if you’ve already got a smartphone that makes calls, sends messages, and runs the apps you need to run. The only reasons you’ve given to spend $800 is the phone looks nice and supports a good cause.

So, let’s hand this one over to the readers now. Will you be buying a (PRODUCT)RED iPhone 7 with iPhone 8 just six months away? Or will you be holding onto your cash?


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