I have a shocking confession. I don’t own an iPhone. Nor do I own an iPad. Revealing this dark truth about myself often inspires remarks of sympathy, disgust and genuine concern: “How can you live without an iPhone?” Civilizations have been around since about 12,000 BCE so I sometimes find it astounding that humans have existed as a society for 14,007 years without iPhones. I have owned an LG Remarq since April, 2010 with no real rush to replace or upgrade. When my coworkers or friends happen to steal a glance of my phone, it often inspires remarks of sympathy, disgust and genuine concern: “Does that even have apps?”
iPhones are expensive
iPhones cost a lot in data charges. I currently pay $30/month for my LG Remarq’s plan which includes unlimited calling and texting through Sprint. Your mileage may vary depending on your data usage, but I would be hard-pressed to find an iPhone plan for much under $50/month. $240/year is not a game changer, nor is it a deal-breaker. When confronted with this number, I would agree that $240/year to most iPhone users is a very small price to pay for the convenience of the phone. With a two-year commitment, the iPhone 5 costs $199-$399 depending on your data requirements and usage.
Am I the only one who doesn’t see the relative value?
What puzzles me most is the actual utility of the phone. The three great conveniences the iPhone affords (from, admittedly, testimonials) is Google Maps, e-mail and other apps, including Siri- the smartass, backtalking wife I don’t need. I can use Google Maps on my home computer or, dare I say, actually know where I am going. The times where I have been lost and desperate for directions have been very few in number. Does it cause me to plan more? Perhaps. E-mail is something I have access to at almost all times during my day. When I am at work, I am at my computer. When I am at home, I have access to my computer. If I am caught in a snowstorm and require access to e-mail that I simply can’t reach? I am not receiving e-mails with turnaround times short enough that would supersede the excuse of simply being caught in a snowstorm. God forbid somebody has to wait three to four hours to hear a response from me at any moment in time.
Although this post appears to be anti-iPhone, I would like to stress that it is not. I understand the value of personal utility and preference and I am not in the business of legislating or determining what products others should buy or spend their money on. It does irk me when I see apps showing where Food Stamps can be used. I have seen shoppers using food stamps while texting on their iPhone, but I digress. What I am really writing about is questioning how and why this expensive product is so pervasive and popular, and not simply amongst the wealthy. The furor over every single iPhone model transcends class. Even on the PF blogosphere the past few weeks have been littered with admissions of the obsession with the new iPhone, even as debt paydown or retirement is listed as the top priority.
Keeping Up with the Joneses (or Jobses)
To me, some of the reason that middle class people shell out the big bucks for the iPhone is that rich and wealthy individuals also use the iPhone. This is the one status symbol that may not be entirely prudent but will not completely break the bank. The gadget fever and rat race for new technology is a way of closing the gap between middle America and the elite at the expense of true financial responsibility. I am not saying that I am immune from lifestyle creep or class envy from time to time: gadget fever has just avoided me.
P.S. Keep in mind that this article is written by an avowed Apple Computer (compare to Apple Inc.) supporter. I grew up in a household with a veritable Macintosh graveyard in the basement and I have used Macintoshes since System 6.