The iPhone With A Button Joke
In my iPhone SE (2022) review, I wrote that the “iPhone with a button” (Touch ID) became a recurring joke in Brazil. Explaining the joke is rarely a fun proposition, but hold on for a second; that’s interesting, I promise you.
A few months ago, random people started making jokes on Twitter associating Touch ID iPhones with poverty.
Since the most expensive and recent models (with the exception of the aforementioned iPhone SE) use Face ID, therefore lacking “the button”, older Touch ID iPhones would’ve become a sign that its owner cannot afford to replace it for a newer one with Face ID.
One of the jokes that went viral said something like “yesterday I paid the lunch for my friend that have an iPhone with a button”. Another: “Just saw a surgeon using an iPhone with button. It’s been rough for everyone!”
Context plays a role in this kind of humor. In Brazil, the iPhone is seen as a luxury product, or a sign of wealth, because it’s very expensive here.
The cheapest ones — the iPhone SE and old versions like the iPhone XR — cost at least three months of minimum wage and more than the average monthly revenue that one makes in the country. The country is always fighting for the top of the world’s most expensive iPhone rankings. While in the United States and Europe Apple has a good slice of the mobile phone market, in Brazil the iPhone is a phone for far fewer people.
Some numbers for a better understanding:
- Apple’s official price for iPhone SE (2022) is BRL 4,300 (~USD 795). Almost nobody buys directly from Apple here; they prefer to go for retail stores, such as Amazon and Magazine Luiza. In these places, the same iPhone can be bought for BRL 2,800 (~USD 520).
- iPhone XR is avaiable for BRL 2,400 (~USD 445).
- Brazilian minimum wage is BRL 1,212 (~USD 224) per month. (In Brazil, workers are paid every month, usually on the 5th business day.)
- According to Brazil’s IBGE (our national census institute), in the end of 2021 Brazilian average monthly revenue per person was BRL 2,449 (~USD 452), the lowest since 2012.
The joke with the button iPhone is even funnier because of all of this. According to StatCounter (not the most reliable source, but it serves as a proxy in this case), Apple holds only 14.9% of the installed base of mobile phones in Brazil, behind Samsung (42,1%) and Motorola (22%), and very close to be passed by Xiaomi (12,5%).
Assigning poverty status to an iPhone is a kind of breach of expectation, which helps a lot to make a good joke in a honestly very bad situation — real poverty increased a lot here due to the pandemic and economic policies of our current government led by a lunatic, authoritarian guy.
On the other hand, the wave of phone robberies to break into digital bank accounts to transfer money elsewhere makes the “iPhone with a button” a less desirable target for burglars. In this sense it’s a joke with a positive side effect for those holding one of these.