The True Value of a Modern Smartphone

While vacationing with my family recently, I stumbled into a conversation with my 11-year old daughter about smartphones and the ever growing number of other devices they are replacing as they digitally transform our lives.

For fun, we decided to compare the relative cost of the vacation with and without my smartphone at the time (a Samsung Galaxy S3, by the way) and by imagining if we’d taken the same vacation a mere 10 years earlier, how much extra would that vacation have cost without the same smartphone?

Smart Cost Savings

I was actually quite shocked at the outcome, both in terms of the number of other devices the modern smartphone now replaces (we managed to count 10) and at the potential cost savings it can yield, which we estimated at a whopping $3,450!

Smart Cost Analysis

The estimations below are really just for fun and are not based on very extensive research on my part (more of a gut feeling about a moment in time, plus some quick Googling). You can also assume a 3-week vacation near some theme parks in North America.

Telephony: $100

Assuming two 15 minute phone calls per week, from USA to Ireland, at mid-week peak rates, you could comfortably burn $100 here.

Camera: $1,000

Snapping around 1,000 old-school, non-digital photos (at 25 photos per 35mm roll of film) would require approximately 40 rolls of film (remember, no live preview). Then factoring in the cost of a decent SLR camera, plus plus the cost of developing those 40 rolls of film, you could comfortably spend well in excess of $1,000 here.

Of course digital cameras would indeed have been an option 10 years ago too but it’s unreasonable to suggest that a decent digital camera (with optical zoom, of sufficient portability and quality for a 3-week family vacation) could also have set you back $1,000.

Music Player: $300

The cost of an Apple iPod in 2005 was around $299.

GPS / Satellite Navigation: $400

It’s possible that in 2005, the only way to obtain a GPS system for use in North America was to rent one from the car rental company. Today, this costs around $10 per day, so let’s assume it would have cost around/under $20 in 2005.

Games Console: $300

The retail price for a Nintendo DS in 2005 was $149.99 but you also need to add in the cost of a selection of games, which cost around $50 each. Let’s be reasonable and suggest 3 games (one for each week of the vacation).

Laptop Computer: $1,000

I’m not entirely sure how practical/easy it would have been to access the Internet (at the same frequency) while on vacation in 2005 (i.e. how many outlets offered WiFi at all, never mind free WiFi). Internet CafĂ©’s would have been an option too, but would not have offered the levels of flexibility I’d had needed to catch up on emails and update/author some important business documents, so let’s assume the price of a small laptop here.

Mobile Hotspot / MiFi: $200

Again, not quite sure if these were freely available (or feasible) in 2005, but let’s nominally assume they were and price them at double what they cost today, plus $100 for Internet access itself

Alarm Clock: $50

I guess you could request a wake up call in your hotel but if you were not staying in a hotel and needed an alarm clock, you’d either have needed a watch with one on it, or had to purchase an alarm clock.

Compass: $50

Entirely optional of course, but if you’re the outdoor type and fancy a little roaming in some of the national parks, you might like to have a decent compass with you.

Torch: $50

Again, if you’re the outdoor type, or just like to have some basic/emergency tools with you on vacation, you might have brought (or purchased) a portable torch or Maglite Flashlight.