Is Your Smartphone a Symbol of Your Wealth?

Within the past two decades, mobile phones have gone from a luxury to a necessity. But is there a certain status attached to the brand of phone that you use?

A recent study shows a connection between wealth and iPhone usage. They found that 69% of the people who own an iPhone or an iPad had wealth. We want to know from you, “Is your smartphone a symbol of your wealth?”

Our Opinion

Phil reports that “unfortunately” it is. His iPhone 5 “is careworn, second-hand, and out of date,” and he believes it’s probably more of a description of him personally than of his wealth. He suggests that “the smartphone you use is a representation of your attitude of both tech and wealth,” yet he recognizes that it also lies a great deal with interpretation.

He suggests “a shabby phone like mine might mean I am always a bit broke, care less about appearances, and will use the barest minimum if it works.” And using an iPhone instead of a cheaper new Android, he realizes might make him “a bit of a snob or Apply fanboy,” or more pragmatically, it might mean he likes Apple’s approach to mobile tech and that he’s prepared to take a hit socially to have the OS he prefers.

Miguel approaches tech the same way as anything else. He asks himself if it enhances his ability to do business and if it’s something he can live without if he can’t. He’ll buy something that enhances business “without hesitation,” and if it doesn’t, then it needs to enhance his life in some other way.


This has resulted in him having a solid mid-range phone that he believes will last five years. “It’s not flashy, but it does its job tremendously.” He doesn’t mind if the superficial look down him, as he doesn’t mind being low-profile. Living in Romania, most people who own iPhones have older models as they have considerably less disposable income

Marc agrees with Miguel. He has a mid-range Huawei and only has a smartphone because he needs WhatsApp and pic/doc handling ability to liaise with clients. “It’s definitely a work tool and looks it; definitely not a status symbol!” Around ten percent of value is liaising with friends, and the rest is work.

For Alex it depends on the context. “In poor rural areas, any smartphone might be a symbol of wealth,” he said, realizing it’s easy to forget how technologically privileged Americans are. He also knows it’s hard to argue that his iPhone X isn’t a symbol of wealth. He wouldn’t describe himself as wealthy “within the context of Americans,” but compared to other areas in the world, “the wealth of most Americans would be staggering.”

Damien reports that where he’s staying, almost everyone either has an iPhone or high-end Samsung phone. Everyone has at least one phone, some even have two or three. “It has become a necessity rather than a symbol of wealth.”

Andrew thinks it both is and isn’t. You can tell a lot about a person by their phone, such as if they can afford the newest iPhone or stretch their secondhand Android for as long as they can. He believes his Moto G5 says, “I will spend ten hours researching phones so I can get a cheap one that punches above its weight.”

“Smartphones have become prevalent enough and cheap enough that a significant proportion of the world can currently afford one.” He thinks in general that smartphones are “less a symbol of wealth and more of an equalizer.”


Ada doesn’t have a flashy phone because she doesn’t need one. If she needed to impress clients, she’d have something flashier. She uses an older one because it’s more comfortable to hold and talk on. She has a low- or mid-range smartphone that she jokes she uses mostly as a clock. Before this one, she had an old Nokia for about twelve or thirteen years. She tested it in a way to see how long she could make it last.

She admits she mocks those she knows who struggle with bills and basic living expenses but who get an expensive phone they don’t need. “It’s not an investment in their business image because they have no business. Pure vanity.”

Here in the U.S., I see people having iPhones from both ends of the financial spectrum. I see people who have very little money with iPhones, and people who have a lot of money and don’t care one bit about smartphones, having the cheapest they can find. At the same time I have seen phones be a status symbol, but it’s not necessarily the case. At some point I wonder if some of it has to do with age. Younger people who grew up with smartphones view them as a necessity and not a luxury.

I always have a newer iPhone, not because I want the status of it, but simply because i really enjoy having phones that are up-to-date. I love new gadgets. I have an iPhone 7 and will be getting a new one when they come out this fall. It’s not because I have wealth, as I don’t. It’s simply something I’m willing to spend my money on.

Your Opinion

We’ve given you a lot to think about, as we all approach our own phones differently. While none of us have our phones as status symbols, we have everything from old phones that work to the newest available, and this is coming from people heavily involved in the tech world.

But we still want to know what you think. Is your smartphone a symbol of your wealth? Let us know in the comments section below how you feel.

Laura Tucker
Laura Tucker

Laura has spent nearly 20 years writing news, reviews, and op-eds, with more than 10 of those years as an editor as well. She has exclusively used Apple products for the past three decades. In addition to writing and editing at MTE, she also runs the site's sponsored review program.

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