David Wall Rice: iPhone iPhoria

Monday, July 14, 2008 - 12:00 AM

And why is there still a quarter-mile line zigzagging around the mall? A telephone? Right, right... GPS... music... really fast Internet. Sexy. But plans don't come with a great mortgage rate. They don’t come with free gas either. So maybe my homeboy Phil Gramm was on to something with his "mental recession" assessment.

I am but a simple man, a country boy who grew up mostly in Arlington, Texas. I don’t portend genius with respect to the economy. I guess I’m like McCain in that respect. I do know two things, however: 1) I drive a compact and still cringe at the thought of filling up my gas tank these days and 2) an iPhone, even with the cut in price, is a luxury that in no way warrants hours of line-standing given our current economic downturn.

Still, despite the social criticism, I relate to wanting the cool new gadget. For real. I want the iPhone 3G. Apple is great at making me think I need it. And I can get one with a bit of patience—and heavy rationalizing of a portion of my income as disposable. I’ve done it before. I bought two of the super-expensive-sell-your-lung 1st generation iPhones. One for my wife and one for me. Possession of the touch-screen tech gems can easily be construed a status statement, a proclamation of my level of importance and accomplishment.

And this is what the iPhone is for many, even on the brink of $5 gas and record home foreclosures. A functional diamond ring. A handheld pair of exclusive sneakers. A mainstream Kabbalah red string. It’s a symbol that says, “Whatever, I’ve got it under control. I’m good. I’m cool. I’m trendy. Vote Obama.” It’s cutting-edge, change-oriented and neat-o.

Nonetheless, there is rent to pay, food to buy, college to save for. At least this was my imagined narrative for those who I saw in line at an Apple store in Atlanta over the weekend. It was too much. Some of the folks hit hard by the economy were in that line on Saturday evening, but they faked like it wasn’t them. They were cool, but also heated at being characterized as whiners. Certainly, if the biggest issue for many Americans over the last three days was the fact that our phone bricked for an hour or two because of a massive sprint for the new “in tool,” a whiner just might define you, at least a little bit.

Next time, let’s make a deal. Let’s wait a week before pretending like there is no economic clamp on us. Remember, a delay of gratification is an indicator of emotional and social maturity, and we need to grow up a bit.

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David Wall Rice

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Comments [8]

Matthew Riggins

I believe that the people that were standing in the iPod line were doing so to create a sense of control over their lives. They all are aware of the rising gas prices, the dismal housing market, and other important expenses that they must take care of; however, taking care of these expenses does not have a conspicuous effect on their surface. By purchasing the new iPhone, they can show that they have a certain control or stability in their lives for everyone to see. Thus, giving the new iPhone owners a sense of pride for being perceived as parts of the upper class.

Jul. 18 2008 12:31 AM
Ryan Leon

We Americans have been conditioned to be consumers. Our economy depends on us goin to the mall every weekend and buying things. Additionally, the media keeps us in a mentally inadequete to the heroes and idols we adore on television. An iPhone, soap, or shoes promise that when we own buy those products, we will be on their status. The real problem happens when people care more about their social status than their electric bills. First things first! These people will front to pretend to be more than they really are. It's psychological delusion and therefore unhealthy to believe you are something you're not. And as the bank forcloses on your house but you still have your iPhone and shoes, you'll see why.

Jul. 18 2008 12:14 AM
Charles D. Watts

I don’t think that we should dismiss these “in” products. Rather, I think we should accept this as what it is. It is the phone with the most utility. Those of us who like to have everything at their hands have every right to salivate over this product. “In” products are a human construct that helps guide us to get the best product. They unconsciously provide a common object to pursue. The average person who wants to “look cool” wouldn’t know how to if there was not this common object. I think when this common object has such utility as the iPhone then America should be happy, because for once we are salivating over something healthy and useful for us. Apple worked hard to make the product and deserves the consumerism that will follow.

Jul. 17 2008 11:25 PM
Mykel Green

Persoanlly, the iPhone is just the current trend. I'll admit it that I want all the latest and greatest gadgets but as soon as I finall buy one a "better" model is introduced. "Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me", is my motto when it comes to gadgets; now I buy electronics for its uses not its status changing ability. Just as the author said, we Americans have became gluttonous with unesstential consumerism and stray away from the key things that matter to us the most, i.e. gas, home foreclosures, etc. I find it ironic and stupid that I can find a person with the iPhone, thinking they are at the top of the social "food chain", but have forgotten they are at waiting at the bus stop. Priorities are key in life, we need to grow up and get our priorities straight.

Jul. 17 2008 08:22 PM
James Handley, Jr.

It becomes important when discussing the phenomenon behind economic decisions to recognize the worth and value people put into things. I agree in that it is ridiculous for some individuals to buy an iphone when they cannot afford gas, but I recognize that these people do not place value on gas prices and instead hold their social appearance at a higher standard.

It is this value in "looks" and the appearance of wealth that has fueled conspicuous spending in America today.

Jul. 17 2008 05:35 PM
Zach Graves

In life there are two divisions of people, "the haves and the have nots." This common phrase directly correlates to the "iPhoria" of today. Conspicuous consumers all have a reason they shop and shop excessively. These motives by and large break down into two categories. One of the categories would be external influences that include media pressure, peer pressure, and authoritative pressure. These external pressures all create an internal pressure of NEED to fit in with the new and latest items and material things. This pattern of external pressure creating internal pressure will continue until a person sees fit to break the mold.

Jul. 16 2008 02:31 PM
Jason Jones

I believe that consumers get to wrapped up in the new "in" product and that new product engulfs the consumers life until they have it. As you all know apple is one of the most popular brands when it come to computers, music and now cellular phones. I understand the new rave over the fresh iPhone 3G; however one also has to consider that it is not life threatening to have this product as soon as possible. One thing we all now apple is good at is putting out a new product as soon as you get comfortable with the original product. One or two changes may be made but that is not what the consumer pays attention to. They don't realize that those minimal changes may or may not greatly effect our lives. Don't get me wrong I love apple products just as much as the next person. I myself own an iPod touch, I just don't find it necessary to rush to the store to buy the next apple product as soon as it hits the shelf. There are too many other important things going on within our lives.

Jul. 15 2008 03:40 PM
Jacque-Corey Cormier

I feel that some, possibly the majority, of the people standing in that Apple line felt that the new iPhone could bring them a sense of control over a life consumed with financial, emotional, mental, and even physical stressors. The idea of having the home and computer-based utilities that bring worldwide information to our computer screens now at our fingertips is relieving to many people. No longer would one have to go all the way home and get on the computer to plan an outing for later that night; nevertheless, reservations, movie times, and directions could be found while on the road, the stock market can be monitored from a beach chair, and photo albums can be created and viewed while waiting in lines.

Jul. 15 2008 03:32 PM

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