The only reasons to stay with the iPhone right now have nothing to do with the iPhone

Looking beyond the phone.
Looking beyond the phone.
Image: AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast
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My iPhone X is fine.

I picked up the $1,000 rectangle of glass and aluminum on launch day. I’ve been on Apple’s upgrade program since it launched in 2015, which means I pay a monthly fee, currently $56, and get each new iPhone as it’s released every year. I switched my main phone from Android to iPhone in 2014, with the launch of the iPhone 6. I’ve been there through the iterative years of the designs with the iPhone 6, 6s, 7, and 8. I’ve continued to pay for these phones, because, as my colleague Akshat recently put it, “Apple was producing the best damn phones in the market.”

But Apple no longer has a monopoly on quality. Samsung’s most recent phones were my favorites of last year, and for half the price of the X, there are are now many phones that are nearly as serviceable, including the OnePlus 5T. Even Apple’s own iPhone 8 Plus, which is $200 less than the X, share most of the same components, barring the display.

Despite all this, I’m sticking with my iPhone. I’m staying because Apple has so effectively locked me into its universe with all the other products it creates. Apple’s smartphone designs might be rather predictable or just very odd these days, but few companies have built up as compelling a universe of other products. It’s the Apple Watch, AirPods, and iMessage that have kept me hooked.

I’ve spent hundreds of dollars on devices that really only work well (or at all) with the iPhone, so it would be irresponsible to switch right now, but all these products are also more enjoyable than the iPhone itself. No other wireless earbuds are as simple to use or as compact as the AirPods, or as easy to set up.

I also recently returned to the Apple Watch, buying a Series 3 earlier this year. I left for very personal reasons, but came back when Apple had addressed many of the concerns I had with the original model, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed wearing the new one. It’s the easiest, cleanest wearable on the market for tracking your activity, texts, and maybe the occasional phone call when your hands are full. If you are a serious athlete, you may find a better smart device (like Garmin’s products), but for a more casual wearer, the Apple Watch 3 is pretty much all you could possibly want.

Apple also has created one of the most useful messaging apps in iMessage. It works across any Apple device—Mac, iPad, iPhone, watch, or otherwise—and I can text anyone, wherever I am in the world. It just works. Those who leave the cold embrace of Apple for Android may well find out that they’re stuck in a world where their messages no longer send to old contacts. Some may even give up leaving over the shame of having green bubble messages on their friends’ iPhones.

The average US household owns two Apple products, and wealthier ones own close to five. Apple has, over time, made a series of complementary devices and services that make it a no-brainer for many who own one Apple device to pick up another. Being able to carry a conversation regardless of what device you’re on, or being able to share a photo you’ve taken on your iPhone to your Mac over iCloud and to a friend over AirDrop, being able to go for a run and have your vitals tracked and your favorite music playing with nothing more than some earbuds and a watch—these are all great Apple experiences that have little to do with which version of iPhone you currently have.

Yes, the iPhone X has a lovely display and it takes brilliant photos, but it also has an infuriating set of gestures that have replaced the functions of the home button, an odd notch in the screen, and doesn’t really feel like the future. At least not for $1,000.

But if Apple can keep locking me into its ecosystem (the new HomePod speaker feels like a failed attempt), it probably won’t matter how average the next iPhone is, especially if it stays so far ahead in its accessories and experiences. But then, Apple used to be so far ahead in its phones as well, so who knows how long Apple can keep wowing us before the competition catches up.