iPhone X a disappointment? Here’s what real people think

Commentary: Some experts believe iPhone hasn't captured people's imagination. So I went to the Gulf Coast of Florida to find out.

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.

Editors' note: We recently published our look at the iPhone X, six months after release. Check it out. 

Apple's New iPhone X Goes On Sale In Stores

Not the smartphone of everyone's future?

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What are people supposed to think?

On Apple's recent earnings call, CEO Tim Cook reported slightly reduced iPhone sales numbers, but he insisted the iPhone X was outselling all other iPhones.

He omitted, though, to offer any actual number for X sales. Some experts fear the phone simply doesn't inspire.

I thought it wise, then, to go and talk to real people.

When the iPhone X was first announced, I wandered through Northern and Southern California and pestered restaurant servers, bartenders, store clerks, well, anyone in retail who was prepared to make eye contact. I asked what they thought of the upcoming smartphone of the future. 

They seemed a touch underwhelmed at the time.

This time, I went to the Gulf Coast of Florida, around Fort Myers, and spent three days performing the very same acts of pestering the very same sorts of people.

Now that the iPhone X is a living, breathing animal in the community, do people covet it? Is there something stopping them from buying it?

It's a nice phone -- just that -- a nice phone

My first illumination came from a server in a really quite fancy restaurant.

He had a first generation Pixel and adored it with a passion that appeared almost unnatural.

Soon, though, I understood why.

"I build my own computers," he said. "I've done it since I was a kid. My latest is water-cooled."

Ah, cool. So what about iPhone X?

"I had the first iPhone, but then I went Android," he said.

"Why would you do that?"

"Because it syncs with Windows."

I'm not sure I've ever heard any human being utter those words. It made me instinctively reach for my very pleasant Lebanese red wine and take an unseemly gulp.

"Yes, but what about iPhone X?" I asked

"Don't get me wrong, it's a nice-looking phone. But there's nothing amazing about it. Most of my friends have iPhones. They're for simple people."

At another restaurant, an 18-year-old bartender told me she had an iPhone 7.

"Would you want an X?"

"My stepsister has one," she said.

"Your stepsister? How old's she?"


"A thirteen-year-old has an iPhone X?"

"Yeah, her mom bought it."

"And is it great?"

"It's OK. I think Androids are better, but I'm sucked into my Apple laptop and my iTunes and everything works together."

"But would you buy an iPhone X?" I persisted.

"I'm not spending $1,000 on a phone," she said.

It could be, indeed, that the price really does have a psychological effect on people. I asked her how much she'd paid for her iPhone 7.

"800 bucks."

iPhone X? It's no big deal

I inveigle more people in the bar to reveal their phone religions. (I do it gently, I promise.)

It was evenly split between iPhone and Android. But not one person said the words that I'd imagine Apple would most like to hear: "The X is a dream phone. I wish I could have one."

The more people I talked to, the more I realized that, regardless of which phone they had, they liked it. Really liked it.

A woman sat down next to me and furiously swiped and prodded her Galaxy S7.

"I'm a juggler," she explained.

"Oh, that must be an amusing job."

"No, I juggle between Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat."

She turned out to be a bartender at a local strip club -- "a nice one" -- and explained that she constantly communicates with friends on several social platforms. Her S7, she said, was perfect for that.

And iPhone X?

"I've never had an iPhone. I love my Samsung. My boss has an iPhone X. He stares into it all day, but it's not something I'd ever want. It's no big deal."

But what about those in the know?

Next, I went to a Target bigger than Louisiana.

I wanted to ask a professional whether I was getting a skewed view of the locals.

"We get a very small percentage of people here who ask for the X. I've got 20 in my case and I haven't sold one for 10 days," a salesman told me.

Was it the $1,000 or was it, as I was finding, that people really did like the phones they had?

"I hardly ever get people in here who want a new phone. I have to really work to get them to buy something new," he said.

But what about the X? Is it really the smartphone of the future? "A lot of them come back here with bugs. Anyway, I've heard it's going to be discontinued," he said.

Ah, he reads the tech press, then.

This salesman had an iPhone 7 Plus that he loved and kept in a case that was thicker than a safe door.

The X's in the store were bolted down at all four corners. People try to steal them, he told me.

The Target salesman did admire the phone's design, a design that was entirely nullified by his case.

He also admitted that his next phone would be an X, solely for that aesthetic reasons. That wasn't going to happen soon, however.

"I don't have that kind of money. If I had to choose between the Galaxy S8 at 800 bucks and the X at $1,000, I'd probably go with the S8," he said.

I didn't give up -- I wanted to find someone who loves, loves this phone

And then I went to the home of the world-famous (allegedly) Pizookie dessert. (Don't ask.)

The server had an Apple watch. She used it, she said, to talk to her mom while at work and to count calories. Which was surely useful, as your average Pizookie came in at around 1,400 calories.

She was completely in love with her iPhone. At last.

But wait, hers was the iPhone 8, not the X. It was right sort of pink color, she explained.

Now, why wouldn't she buy an X?

"It's too fancy and, don't hate me, but I'd really miss the home button," she said.

A couple of her friends had an X, but, if she had infinite supplies of cash, she'd pick the 8 Plus.

The people's verdict

Apple didn't immediately respond to a request for comment. However, my conclusion from these conversations -- and many more on this trip -- is that real people know a lot more about phones than they used to.

As they've been given more choices, they've become far more attuned to the relative value and attributes of each phone. 

It's hard for many to consider X as some sort of Bentleyesque gold standard. Many told me they were happy to take whatever phone was offered by their carrier as an upgrade.

No one called the X a bad phone. No one offered qualms about Face ID. After all, if they didn't have an X themselves, everyone knew someone who did.

Apple has, in its turn, has given its customers -- the ones it very much wants to keep within its ecosystem -- more choices. 

There's now everything from the SE to the X. (And, no, I'm not going to be the first to make an SE-X joke.)

Cupertino knows that there are people who'll trade up to the top and are prepared to pay more. 

It could be, though, that everyone else -- those very happy with the 7, 7 Plus, 8 and 8 Plus -- just don't see what all the fuss is about.