Colin, a loyal MR reader, writes to me:
My girlfriend and I were having dinner at a swanky place…and noticed everyone had essentially the same phones–either an iPhone or some version of a Blackberry–which are the same models I see all over campus…It seems to me that with most items like cars, handbags, or houses, there are always more expensive/prestigious items one can get to signal a new tier of wealth, but with phones this is not the case (iPhones and Blackberrys look to be the end of the line, and are not particularly exclusive to the wealthy). We were curious if you could come up with any other items or industries that plateau like this–the only other we could really think of was media/entertainment (plateau at the NYT/WSJ; everyone sees roughly the same new released movies or tv shows). Thanks for your consideration and thanks for keeping up the excellent blog!
Other than reading blogs, what are further examples? By the way, here is the world's most expensive cellphone (beware: the pop-up at the link offers audio), at 300k, but I think your wealthy friends will simply laugh at you. Only 28 of them have been produced.
Status plateaus may be profit-maximizing when large numbers of upper-middle class customers wish to believe that they are enjoying the truly cutting edge technology and they are willing to pay for it. Creating the "iPhone plus for billionaires" would lower the demand for iPhones proper.