Yesterday, I wrote about my misplaced personal issues with buying an Apple iPhone 4s.
Today, I explain further.
See, I don’t discount Apple’s brilliance. In fact, I applaud them. It’s just that sometimes, or most times, their products remind me of an inequality that I’m ashamed to be a part of.
But, first, to the more positive, progress-of-technology bit.
See, Apple’s very smart.
They really fought the system. And beat it, too.
Back in the day (say, less than a decade ago), buying mobile phones was about a more blatantly “physical” customization. About offering a device for each kind of person – popularizing “market segmentation” studies. People got to choose the actual hard “body” that you thought was best fit for you.
That’s how the game was before.
Now, here comes Apple, changing how “customization” is executed – giving people a single solid case, with innards that you could personalize with infinite permutations (that’s hyperbolic; I meant relative to early mobile phones).
You pick-and-choose, mix-and-match the insides of it — the content, not the look. A blank slate that allowed for maximum internal customization.
Being excellent and expensive, Apple products grew a techie following. But besides knowledgeable design geeks, the reality of “herd mentality” and Apple’s well-executed design strategy also pulled in droves of either really practical or really status-hungry rich people.
Apple’s popularity and design excellence deemed any sort of innovation from Nokia, Sony Ericsson et al. obsolete.
Now the game is just about the innards. All of a sudden the number of colors you could offer didn’t matter (unlike the Nokia 5110). The tech generation just didn’t care as much.
Nokia N9’s reviews can keep talking about how elegantly beautiful the phone looks, or how great it feels in your hand, or the solid color when you scratch the body, but since iOS and Android have more established, familiar systems with a better-planned ecosystem, the N9 still can’t compete.
I’m not saying that those device-buying “values” or priorities are permanent. It’ll probably change in the next 5 years; it always does.
It’ll be great to see how it plays out, if the paradigm will change in the next five years. I’ll be nearing 35 then, and technology’ll probably be in a very different place. That’ll be exciting to see. I just don’t know if I want to be part of it or watching it.
The shaky and scaredy-cat part of me would rather be watching it just because I don’t want to let go of who I am. And it feels like Apple took away a bit of my freedom of choice. (Just because, nowadays, even if I try to look for an objectively better, more equipped and hopefully cheaper mobile phone than the iPhone 4s, it always feels like “downgrading”.)
Now, the opportunity to actually “mull over” whether I want to buy the iPhone or not highlights something slightly sad that I tend to see in the iPhone.
Oh, before I continue, I think I should mention that what partly triggered all this iPhone-buying consideration is that my job now needs me to research the user experience of mobile interfaces. Since I am part of an interaction design team.
I saw this ad last week, for a broadband Internet connection. It revolved around two young adults, poshly dressed. The girl was in this frilly dress, on some plush couch in a luxurious room that seemed like a hotel. The boy was in a bachelor’s pad. In the ad, he was going to propose to her through video chat or Skype. I know, not the most realistic of situations to begin with.
It reminded me of how high-end the digital target market is, in a developing country.
It’s a tiny bit of what hurts me.
I don’t want to just serve the upper class – their needs are being served all too much.
I don’t even know what else we can do for them. They don’t need people researching more of their needs.
Yes, the uppermost economic class is the most lucrative market. But what about 94% of the country?
Yes, I know, I still work for a corporation. It’s still a business.
And, maybe that was one of the reasons that I liked my job doing consumer research for television. It clearly served the masses. TV is a mass market service – in fact, it was almost too kitschy and downmarket to be cool.
But, “digital”, in my corporation’s mind, is geared towards the educated and the upper crust.
And what I love about start-ups, and Ideo and frog, is that they have the freedom to also serve the greater market. Because, see, I believe “digital” is also mass market.
Youtube and 9gag are “mass-market”. It’s not like they serve the American intelligentsia. It’s just that the American mass market is still more “up-market” than here.
Now, I’m thinking I should mention that when I was in college, one of my favorite classes was Culture and Ideas: Power, Hegemony and Texts. Taught by one of my favorite teachers, Ron Darvin. It talked about how cultural realities implied nuances about an era or a people. I think that’s what the iPhone represents for me.
It’s something that’s difficult to afford.
As much as people would want it, it’s an expensive object – it’s like a diamond necklace that’s useful.
I like it, I’m not denying that. It’s amazing, it is. But you’d end up paying more than a month’s salary for a phone. Really? I think that’s intense.
Interesting, isn’t it? I’ve touched on personal insecurity, pride, the economic divide and design strategy.
All to explain why I’m having trouble buying an iPhone.
That. is. quite. sad.
I am shutting up now, and just being more pragmatic about this.
Facts: Change is coming. Change is here. I want to be a kick-ass interaction designer. I love the iPhone 4s camera, and I miss having a camera phone. I don’t want to shell two-months worth of pay for a phone. Having an iPhone won’t change who I am. Or, it will, but so will everything in my life. I am not what I own. I should always remember that.
So, final verdict? I’m getting an iPod touch. There. Compromise. Whew. I don’t know how I feel about it, but I also know I should stop obsessing. Two blog posts is more than enough 🙂