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iPhone X: Forget the experts, here’s what real people think

Commentary: Tim Cook says Apple doesn't make phones just for the rich. So I roamed around California and asked real, non-rich people whether the iPhone X excited them.

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

Real people aren't moved.


The tech world often behaves as if everything revolves around the tech world.

So when Apple unveiled its new "smartphone of the future," the iPhone X, every aspect was scrutinized and every expert opinion swiftly offered.

What, though, do real working people think?

I'd been moved to this radical thought by Apple CEO Tim Cook protesting that Apple doesn't just make phones for rich people. This, on the eve of launching a $1,000 phone.

So every day since Tuesday, I've made a point of casually walking up to real people and asking them what they think of Apple's new phone. (I can get away with it. I have a British accent.)

I specifically chose people who worked in retail, as I was interacting with them anyway for one reason or another, and I think of them as people who, well, aren't rich.

This, then, is based on me innocently asking iPhone X questions of at least 35 people who work in restaurants, bars and stores.

People research always starts at Starbucks.

At my local Starbucks in Marin City, California. I asked barista Kurshina what she thought of the new phone.

"Is there a new one?" was her first reaction.

"Yes," I replied. "It's $1,000."

"Nah, I won't be buying it. I can't even work the one I've got."

"What do you have?"

"iPhone 7."

Her boss, Melissa, was a touch harsher, as managers should be. She didn't know about the new phone either.

"What's the point?" she asked. "If I didn't need a cellphone for work, I wouldn't have one at all. And I'm happy with the phone I've got."

"What phone is that?"

"iPhone 4."

Real people, you see, seem to go at their own pace. They don't hang on Apple's every word. They don't necessarily pant in anticipation of the next Apple event. They actually have other, perhaps (even) better things to think about.

Heading south.

I went straight from Starbucks to the airport. I had to be in Southern California.

But as I carried on asking the question, it was clear that iPhone X simply wasn't at the top of most people's consciousness. 

This, from my server in a restaurant in Santa Ana: "There's a new one?"

"Yes, it's $1,000."

"Isn't that what they usually cost?"

"Not quite. What phone do you have?"

"iPhone 6."

"You paid $1,000 for it?"

"No, I got it for a couple of hundred."


"From a friend." 

"Oh, yeah?"

"Well, a friend of a friend."

"So the iPhone X?"

"I'm good with my 6."

It was odd how many people weren't even curious about what the new phone had to offer. To them, it was a low-interest item. It was a new Demi Lovato song, rather than a Kim Kardashian sex tape.

Those in the know aren't moved either.

I ventured into a Target in Brea, California, where I had a fascinating conversation with a couple of people in the electronics department.

Naturally, they knew about the iPhone X. One told me he had two iPhones.

"I have an iPhone 6 that I take to work and a 7 that I keep at home."

"Why do you have two?"

"Well, I keep dropping them. And the 6 doesn't have great battery life. The 7 does. I use my phone a lot more at home."

"And the X?"

"It's OK. But not for a thousand bucks. I might get an 8, though."

Even those in the know didn't seem excited.

It failed, didn't it?

In a restaurant in Yorba Linda, California, I asked just about every member of staff what they thought.

Many expressed benign indifference. Samsung owners snorted.

"I don't like iPhones," a Samsung-owning server told me.

"Why not?"

"I can't personalize them."

"So do you personalize yours?"

"No, but I could."

Was he impressed by the X? "Nothing exciting," he said.

If people had heard something about Apple's event, it was that the Face ID presentation had failed. (Apple disputes this.)

"Apparently, the Apple guy looked at it and it just didn't work," one busboy told me.

But it was a server, the mother of three adult children, who told me that she knew about the X and Face ID freaked her out.

"I wouldn't feel safe with that. I think it's a way for them to follow us around," she said.

She has an iPhone 6. She's happy with it. "My three kids all have 7s," she said. Mom added that her daughter had manipulated her 6 -- "somehow" -- so that "they" wouldn't follow her around so much.

Not a perfect X?

Not one person that I talked with waxed lyrical about the "smartphone of the future."

"It was pretty much what I expected," one restaurant server said. 

I blame the tech press. They got too much advance information.

"Would you buy it?"

"No. I'm happy with my 6."

Indeed, a surprisingly large number of the people I spoke with had an iPhone 6 or 6 Plus and were very happy with them. Some expressed the idea that if a phone suited their needs, they weren't interested in a new one. The X wasn't, to them, different enough. 

Perhaps it reflects the fact that phones really have just become utilitarian objects. 

Of course, in time, as the iPhone X emerges into human hands, perhaps many of the non-rich will be placed under its spell. Perhaps they'll covet it and adore paying for it in installments. 

My entirely non-scientific research, though, suggests that real people have no idea what all the fuss is about. They're not resentful, just faintly indifferent. 

It's quite refreshing.