On Wednesday morning, a FedEx delivery man knocked on my door. His face bore a broad grin, his hands a svelte cardboard box. “Will?” he said brightly. “Are you Will?” I nodded sleepily, and he thrust the box into my hands. “Your new iPhone is here!” he said, still smiling, evidently in anticipation of my own excitement.

“Hey, thanks,” I said, trying to match his enthusiasm, if only out of reciprocal politeness. A new iPhone once felt like a big deal to me—a passport to the latest version of the future. But now it feels more like a costly necessity, one whose exorbitant price tag is thinly justified by superfluities like face recognition, wireless charging, and a snazzier camera. I was not upgrading my trusty iPhone 6—a four-year-old device—for any of those features, but because its screen and battery were faltering. My iPhone has steadily become less of a toy and more of a utility.

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