Why We’ll All Rush to the iPhone 5, no Matter What

| Analysis

Kirk & CommunicatorThere is no doubt that millions of Apple customers want to replace their current iPhone, whatever it is, with an iPhone 5. Is this a technical and financial decision? Or is there more going on here? The science fiction culture of wondrous and accessible change, charging into the future, may be at work.

There are some rather mundane reasons to buy a new iPhone. We writers on the Mac Web have to have the latest and greatest iPhone if we’re going to write about it. Some customers who have an iPhone 3GS or 4 probably feel that it’s high time for a new phone. Their iPhone contract entitles them to a new phone, and that Siri thing is very intriguing.

All those rational, technical feelings are not all that interesting. What I’m interested in is the sociology that drives millions of iPhone owners to always want the latest iPhone. No matter what.

Grasping Our Technical Future

I will argue here that there are millions of Apple customers who are emotionally attached to being part of a technical revolution. While many other products have reached technical maturity and are just boring commodities, Apple customers feel that they’re part of a magical time in history.

Apple has a saying that they ignited the personal computer revolution with the Apple II, but in 2007, Apple also ignited the smartphone revolution. With each new iPhone and each new version of iOS, we’ve taken an important step on a journey. It’s something that most everyone can participate in.

In contrast to the Apple II and early Mac journeys, the iPhone is all about social awareness, shopping, navigation, weather, and communication, voice and video. Apps serve us in amazing ways. One app, G-Park, allows you to digitally park your car with GPS, then navigate back to it. That’s a far cry from the early days of personal computing when you had to set DIP switches on SCSI drives and write code to get anything done.

This is a very personal revolution, and we are on a wondrous technical ride. It’s like the heyday in the 1950s at Edwards Air Force Base when all kinds of new, supersonic aircraft were being developed — without Congressional interference. It’s like the 1960s when the U.S. automobile industry rolled out breathtaking new designs each and every year. But kept oh-so secret until the grand unveiling. Look at those tail fins! Some people developed a habit; they just had to have a new car every year. It’s like the first moon landing in 1969 when we thought, in a few years, we’d go on tourist trips to a space station, as in, 2001: A Space Odyssey. Perhaps retire at a Martian colony.

Today, those dreams are just a memory.

But now. Now is exciting. Each year, Apple rolls out a new iPhone with only incremental improvements, but after a few generations, the cumulative effect is awesome. When I look back at my original iPhone from 2007, I can see how far the technology has grown, and I’ve grown along with it. It’s a ride many people can take. Yes, the price of admission to the ride can be steep, but what else can bring so much utility, so much satisfaction? It’s like a science fiction dream come true, and the urge to be part of it is irresistible.

iPhone 5 conceptiPhone 5 concept: TechRadar

There’s also a little bit of pride in being on that ride. Seldom do ordinary people get to have the luxury of being state-of-the-art technically. Their oh-so boring Windows XP machine they bought in 2009 is cranky, slow and not easy to update. The Internet and its technologies and services change at a dizzying pace. One might not have time for Facebook and Twitter and Foursquare and Hulu Plus, but for not much more than you always paid for a mobile phone, you can have the future in your pocket.

And amaze your friends.

That’s why I’m betting the next iPhone will be called the “iPhone 5.” Apple’s iPad isn’t something one might replace each and every year, but the iPhone is. It’s very important for customers to know that “5” is larger than and better than “4” or “4S.” It gives them a sense of punctuating their technical progress into their personal, science fiction future.

This ride will continue for quite awhile, and that’s why the iPhone 5 will be another enormous hit, no matter what features it has.

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Capt Kirk image credit: Paramount

Comments

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

I will argue here that there are millions of Apple customers who are emotionally attached to being part of a technical revolution. While many other products have reached technical maturity and are just boring commodities, Apple customers feel that they?re part of a magical time in history.

Just. Wow.

graxspoo

Actually, I just went the other direction. Having been an iPhone user since its initial release, I just jumped ship to Android on Virgin Mobile.

The primary reason is financial. Over a two year period I’ll save over $1000. I realized that no matter what bells and whistles the iPhone 5 (or whatever its called) has, I can’t justify that expense. Is my new Android phone as good as an iPhone? Mostly, no, (though its built-in turn-by-turn directions are probably better even than the new iPhone). However, it does everything I need a smart-phone to do. Therefore, it is ‘good enough,’ and I’ll pocket my $1000, thank you very much.

The secondary reason is, I’ve come to realize I don’t want to be too reliant on Apple. I like, even love, some of their products, but I don’t want to be stuck with them. Using a mix of tech products leaves me more flexible, though it does require some extra effort on my part.

So, enjoy your new iPhones y’all. I’ll be watching with curiosity from the side-lines.

stilep

This will be my first iPhone, and I’m looking forward to trying it out.  No reason other than I’ve had android for a while and want to see the difference.  I own a MacBook pro and figure I might as well dive in a bit deeper for a while. 

Just for the record, we can all feel part of this “technical revolution” without Apple products.

RonMacGuy

What’s the most magical for me is the stock price.

jsbow-long

Why would I want to upgrade from iPhone4?  Because I’m not able to eliminate the extra $ in every monthly payment that repays the subsidy for the hardware I bought two years ago.

If I could reduce my monthly payment by the $20 to $40 per month that is my “loan” to AT&T allowing me to buy the iPhone 4 in the first place I’d much rather do that than re-up for another two years. But then AT&T knows that and uses that to either increase their profit (if I don’t upgrade) or push me into upgrading and committing to another two years.

It’s part of the subsidy “addiction!”

Lancashire-Witch

I used to be quite happy with one PC. Though I got very tired of having to replace it every couple of years (thanks for the memory, HP & Acer, and the replacement disks). Then, when I was no longer in full-time employment, I returned to Apple. I bought a Mac Mini . Six years on and we have a houseful of Apple products. 3 Macs, 1 iPhone, 2 iPads, 2 ATVs, Airport Extreme .... the list goes on.

But I can’t shake the thought that, although I may be emotionally attached and it all “just works” (sometimes only just works), it has cost a pile of money. Some say too much money.

mrmwebmax

+

I have the iPhone 4S, with a contract with at least a year to go. Not sure if I’d even contemplate upgrading at this point, because of the form factor. How big will the iPhone 5 be, compared to the 4/4S? I actually like the compact size of the 4S, and don’t mind the 3.5” screen. Time will tell when the 5 is released.

wab95

Agreed, John.

The fall off of iPhone purchases this past quarter, and the sales growth accompanying previous iPhone updates suggest your prediction is correct. Nothing explains that phenomenon better than genuine enthusiasm for the device; and, in my opinion, nothing better explains that enthusiasm (some present comments notwithstanding) than how that device fires the imagination and unleashes creativity.

We are well beyond late 20th Century sci if (read Sir Arthur Clarke’s “Foundations of Paradise ” for a description of personal data capture devices - not the space lift).

I can’t speak for anyone else, but I’m still planning on my moon holiday sometime in my retirement.  I just wonder if AT&T will charge me the same rate to phone earth that they charged Dr Heywood Floyd in 2001: A Space Odyssey.

paikinho

I hope they don’t make it bigger.
I’m not sure why everyone wants a giant phone in their pocket.
I would even go for something a bit smaller.

vpndev

Why would I want to upgrade from iPhone4?? Because I?m not able to eliminate the extra $ in every monthly payment that repays the subsidy for the hardware I bought two years ago.

If I could reduce my monthly payment by the $20 to $40 per month that is my ?loan? to AT&T allowing me to buy the iPhone 4 in the first place I?d much rather do that than re-up for another two years. But then AT&T knows that and uses that to either increase their profit (if I don?t upgrade) or push me into upgrading and committing to another two years.

It?s part of the subsidy ?addiction!?

I was in exactly the same situation, having bought iPhone 4 when it was first released. My solution: unlock it, now that it is out of contract, and switch to StraightTalk. It’s $45/month unlimited. No contract, no subsidy.

I will probably get iPhone 5 unlocked and use with StraightTalk.

Tony

... I can?t justify that expense.

That’s because there is no justification. This is all about gratification, not utility.

Can I afford an iPhone 5 and the requisite carrier plan? Yes. Is it justifiable? Of course not. It’s a luxury.

John Martellaro

Tony:  That’s exactly right, and it’s one theme of my article. The iPhone 5 will be a technical luxury that millions of customers will want to treat themselves to. That’s why it will be a best seller, even as the naysayers grumble.

vpndev

And who knows what Bosco will say ??

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

And who knows what Bosco will say ??

If you’re an iPhone guy and having the latest iPhone makes you feel special, then hell yeah, knock yourself out. If you want a great phone and you’re on a GSM carrier, an unlocked, unsubsidized Galaxy Nexus from Google for $349 will still be unbeatable when the iPhone 5 ships.

The stealth must-have phone feature that will emerge from nowhere this fall is NFC payments. I’m already using Google Wallet at the local Einsten’s Bagels, Pete’s Coffee, and Old Navy. It’s more convenient than you’d ever imagine, because I’m typically playing with my phone while waiting in line anyway.

RonMacGuy

The stealth must-have phone feature that will emerge from nowhere this fall is NFC payments.

No offense, Bosco, but your typical MO when playing the “my phone is better than your phone” game is picking some technology that Apple hasn’t incorporated and saying how mind-boggingly great it is.  So now it’s NFC.  Why is it the stealth must-have phone feature that will emerge this fall?  You’ve been preaching NFC for, what, about a year now?  And you can use it at Einsten?s Bagels, Pete?s Coffee, and Old Navy.  Wow, stand back!!  So this stealth must-have feature saves you 30 seconds every couple of days?  Wow.

Here’s a great article from (Dare I say it?) an android site.

NFC ‘Success’

“NFC, from a hardware perspective, is yet to see mass adoption. While it?s easy enough to push the technology out to consumers over the course of a few years, support from retailers doesn?t look to be advancing very fast and could reasonably take another decade before we see significant commitment outside of the technology hubs of the world.”

Funny thing is, do you know what it will take for NFC to gain widespread adoption at retailers?  When the iPhone and iPad support it!!

For now, I’ll enjoy my quasi-NFC iPhone functionality with the Starbucks app.  Sure they have to scan the barcode, but hey, I’m typically playing with my phone while waiting in line anyway.

grin

paikinho

NFC seems like it will be a great asset, but I think slashdot had a bit on how easily hacked it is currently.

I’m not sure I would like folks to get at my financial data so easily.

I’m sure the kinks will get worked out and when NFC proves reliable and secure, perhaps in another year or so, the hoards will swarm to it.

It definitely will be the way we do things in the future I think.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

I?m not sure I would like folks to get at my financial data so easily.

With Google’s latest implementation, your financial data is in the cloud (much like all your other financial data and your credit card that Apple holds for you), and a proxy credit card number is in the NFC chip. The charge is run against the proxy credit card owned by Google, and Google then runs the charge against your selected card.

A happy side effect of this is that all your cards work, including Discover and AmEx, even if the merchant doesn’t accept them. AmEx is reportedly nonplussed about it, but not unhappy enough to forego the revenue.

This already works anywhere that supports MasterCard PayPass, which includes some major, popular retailers and is wide open to smaller shops that want to rent the terminals. Square, OTOH, looks nice for an operation doing less than $250K total sales per year, and those that want to be hip with cell phones as pay stations, but not really competitive outside that quite yet.

I just searched PayPass locator to find all the places within 10 miles of my zip code. They include all the McDonalds (will have to try that in the drive thru), CVS pharmacies, and the Microsoft Store in Mission Viejo Mall.

I still find it kinda annoying that my iPhone friends usually ask me to get directions when we’re going somewhere. Are they now going to ask me to pay for everything now?

RonMacGuy

I just searched PayPass locator to find all the places within 10 miles of my zip code. They include all the McDonalds (will have to try that in the drive thru), CVS pharmacies, and the Microsoft Store in Mission Viejo Mall.

Again, very small potatoes so far.  Apple will include NFC when it makes sense to.

I still find it kinda annoying that my iPhone friends usually ask me to get directions when we?re going somewhere. Are they now going to ask me to pay for everything now?

Eye roll.

graxspoo

That?s because there is no justification. This is all about gratification, not utility.

Can I afford an iPhone 5 and the requisite carrier plan? Yes. Is it justifiable? Of course not. It?s a luxury.

I think it’s significant how this has changed since the iPhone was first released. Then, it was head and shoulders above everything else on the market. It truly allowed you to do things no other phone could at the time. Now it’s a luxury for gadget aficionados.

But there’s another dimension of technophilia needs to be recognized. With Android, I can download the source to my phone’s OS, and tweak it however I please. Talk about geek nirvana!

paikinho

I just searched PayPass locator to find all the places within 10 miles of my zip code. They include all the McDonalds (will have to try that in the drive thru), CVS pharmacies, and the Microsoft Store in Mission Viejo Mall.

Wow…. sounds like a lot of fun really.

The charge is run against the proxy credit card owned by Google, and Google then runs the charge against your selected card.

That sounds like it could be secure, but thieves are so creative.
Wasn’t some guys Apple account hacked by somebody recently? Anyhow, I am always cautious and I try and use cash most of the time.
Freaky me.

paikinho

I think it?s significant how this has changed since the iPhone was first released. Then, it was head and shoulders above everything else on the market. It truly allowed you to do things no other phone could at the time. Now it?s a luxury for gadget aficionados.

When it first came out there wasn’t anything like it. That will be the same when the next paradigm of communications device comes along. Only it will be able to do whatever it does the way it does. But within a year or so everyone will be doing the same thing.

I still don’t think the iPhone is a gadget for aficionados. I see lots of 10 and 12 year old girls in our town running around with them and we are just a tiny town in northern Michigan. Heck even the girls in 3rd grade had them. They are all the rage and apparently even for people who I would say don’t have money to burn, but they find a way to buy iphones for their tiny kids. I guess it all has to do with priorities.

I always see homeless people chain smoking away on cigarettes and wonder to myself how they have the $10-12 bucks to spend on them everyday. Priorities.

David Winograd

No, I’m not going to be rushing toward a (whatever their going to call it) newest iPhone.
I had a 3GS and when the contract ran out I bought a 4S. I love it. I also love being the first kid on the block and joke that I personally pay for all of Apple’s R&D by buying first.

But with the investment in the phone and Applecare + the pull of new doesn’t cover the big bucks I’ve already dropped.

I did the same thing with the iPad. I bought the first one the day it came out and although I bought an iPad2 for my daughter, waited for Applecare to end before I bought the New iPad.  No remorse there.

I may be eager, but I’m not stupid.

ctopher

Can you get this Brad? I left my NFC in my other phone…

Now that’s a reason not to get an Android phone. (of course my Virgin Mobile flip doesn’t even take pictures, so I really shouldn’t comment but if Brad will buy me a coffee…)

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