Apple revealed that the first pre-orders for the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus set an all-time record, causing the U.S. website to crash almost immediately after the launch. The buying frenzy came after Apple CEO Tim Cook introduced the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, as well as the Apple Watch, on Tuesday, Sept. 9. Indeed, some eager Apple customers began lining up outside Apple’s flagship store on Sept. 3 in anticipation of the Sept. 19 release date.
These customers think they’re getting the best bargain, but little do they realize they are playing right into Apple’s calculated marketing strategies. The hype surrounding Apple products is all too telling of the addictive and manipulative nature of American consumer culture.
In fact, consumers have become their own advertisers. It’s easy to look at these consumers and write them off as diehard Apple fans just waiting for their favorite company’s next release. Yet websites crashing due to demand and professional line-sitters are just cases of consumers creating free publicity for a company. Sellers on eBay and other websites list pre-ordered phones at more than twice the standard price.One Craigslist advertisement, for example, lists a pre-order at $10,000 to “be one of the first & few people to own this model and before the rest of the world.” These buyers are paying for an excellent phone, but they’re also paying for the “I got it first” title to gain the prestige associated with the latest gadgets.
The idea that the most recent iWhatever is even associated with prestige, however, is troubling. Marketers perpetuate the image of electronics as the ultimate status symbol, and consumers buy into it. For example, every edition of Apple’s iPhone comes in a slightly different shape — from the iPhone 3G to the 4 to the 5 to the 5c and now the 6 and 6 Plus — each model retains its basic look with a barely noticeable upgrade that lets the world know if the item is or isn’t the latest model.
Technology models are also groomed for the short term. A 4-foot drop test on YouTube documented two trials for both the iPhone 5s and a Nokia 3310 phone, a basic phone first released in 2000. As expected, the iPhone 5s glass shattered completely, while the Nokia 3310 separated into two to four easily reassembled pieces. Though fragility might come with advanced features, making its electronics durable simply does not seem to be Apple’s priority. Upgrading parts are out of the question. Though it should be a rudimentary feature, Apple has not created a model with hardware that can be upgraded without buying a new unit. Anyone who runs iOS 7 on an iPhone 4 can attest that the hardware is simply not capable of adapting to the updated operating system. Repairs are known to exceed even the cost of a new model. Often, a broken phone is an excuse to buy a new one.
The discrepancy lies in the persistent shortening of the time electronics are considered up-to-date as technology supposedly advances every year. Electronics could be durable, long lasting and easy to repair, but they’re not because those models are not conducive to constant purchasing and upgrading. In contrast, changing a model every year creates a culture contingent upon the next model and the perpetual anticipation of it. Such a marketing strategy creates a long-term emotional investment, which subconsciously establishes brand loyalty. For the consumer, it’s dangerous; the desire for a new product becomes almost mindless, and the reason behind the desire is simply the desire itself.
As consumers, we should start holding companies responsible. Consumer pressure to get companies to create durable hardware can and must become the instrument for social and environmental change. It is only through deliberate attempts to disassociate technology with social status that the identity as buyers first, people second, will ever be dismantled. Right now, consumers really don’t need the latest iPod or iPhone or iPad — they need something iPermanent.