The smartphone is the not-so-secret weapon of the real estate agent, broker, business executive and many others in the industry. Few other tools give professionals the flexibility of these small, shiny rectangles.

  • The iPhone X offers cool new features like face unlocking and wireless charging, but real estate pros are split on upgrading to the $999 device.

The smartphone is the not-so-secret weapon of the real estate agent, broker, business executive and many others in the industry. Few other tools give professionals the flexibility of these small, shiny rectangles.

But is it worth it to pay $999 to upgrade to the latest eye-catching smartphone announced by Apple this week: the iPhone X (pronounced “iPhone 10”)? (Pray for the regions with unfavorable exchange rates.)

Even for the customarily pricey Apple, that’s a steep entry cost — the company also unveiled the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus this week, which start at $699 and $799, respectively (no chump change, but substantially less).

Believe it or not, a higher price tag isn’t unusual for this year’s high-end handsets. The Samsung Galaxy Note 8 (the direct competitor to the iPhone X), with its 6.3-inch “edge-to-edge” display retails for $930 off-contract. Still, we wanted to see how those in real estate were reacting to Apple’s new marquee phone.

A screenshot from Apple’s ad for the iPhone X showing AR features.

The iPhone X offers enticing augmented reality features

Austin, Texas-based real estate coach Bernice Ross definitely sees the potential in the iPhone X’s augmented reality (AR) tech, with its ability to instantly reshape a room. “So, as a Realtor, I can say ‘oh you want traditional house? You want tuscan, mid-century modern? Here, let’s take a look at what that kind of furniture would look like,’ without you having to do anything more than paint and maybe change the carpets,” she told Inman over the phone.

All of Apple’s newly announced phones support some types of AR, as well as several previous generations (going back to the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus). But the iPhone X in particular is built for AR with a host of sensors in the front, the main features of which right now seem to be Face ID — a new mechanism for unlocking your phone just by looking at it — and the ability to send emojis that copy your facial expressions (“Animoji,” as Apple calls them).

People in the real-estate business should be excited as there are already companies developing software that will take advantage of AR. Both Android, the operating system software which runs on the Samsung Galaxy phones, and Apple iOS already have apps that let you show off architectural designs or information about a listing, just by pointing your phone’s camera at it.

Apple executive Phil Schiller shows off the company’s AirPower charging station.

Wireless charging and FaceID are where it’s at

There are other features of the iPhone X that have some in the real estate world thinking of paying for the nearly one grand new iPhone.

For Kenny Truong, owner of Climb Real Estate in Oakland, California, the announcement was pretty big news. He’s excited for the wireless charging, and while he uses both the iPhone 7 and Galaxy S8, he prefers the interface on his Apple device.

Combine that with news of the upcoming AirPower wireless charging mat — which can charge multiple devices at once, from all three new iPhones to the new Apple Watches and Airpod headphones — Truong understands why people stick to Apple’s ecosystem. Cutting down on chargers would be a really nice bonus.

“The tech in the iPhone X will help me do my work faster in the real estate industry, with the facial recognition unlock and faster processor,” said Truong.

But to him, the upcoming changes coming with Apple’s new free iOS 11 mobile software due out September 19 — which will be available on many older iPhones and iPads — will have a wider impact on everyone in the real estate business. “The file browsing system, bottom dock, and multitasking capability could help your phone or iPad very similar to working on your MacBook,” he told Inman.

Android still appeals

Not everyone in the industry is swooning over the announcement, however.

“I have a phone I really like. A Samsung Galaxy, ” St. Paul broker and longtime Inman columnist Teresa Boardman told Inman. “Contrary to popular mythology, I don’t have any trouble syncing anything across the multiple platforms I use which even includes an iOS tablet. I have had wireless charging with it for a couple of years and am not really wowed by it.”

Boardman loves her Galaxy’s camera already and honestly can’t find any reason to move beyond it — despite Apple’s claims that its new iPhone X camera with a new portrait mode are some of the most sophisticated advances in mobile photography yet.

But one thing is sure: the smartphone is a significant part of the way she does business, but maybe not enough has changed to warrant an upgrade. “The smartphone was a game changer when the first iPhone came out 10 years ago. There isn’t anything about the latest model that is going to make me run out and plunk down $1,000,” Boardman added.

While tech sites are getting pretty excited over the glossy new hardware, Boardman keeps it realistic with her smartphone brand loyalty.

“Somewhere someone got the idea that there is one phone, camera, computer, software suite that is best for real estate agents. I have not found that to be true,” she said.

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