You know, I tend to consider myself a logical and level-headed individual. Ok let me rephrase that– that description makes me seem like a boring individual wearing a not-amused expression all the time. Decision making… I’m talking about decision making! It’s a pretty tough thing to get used to, especially for young people such as myself. Now, I haven’t led an ideal life, but it has been a rather unique one. See, simply due to bad luck, I’ve spent my life moving to different residences every few years. Luckily, I get to live in the Information Age where I can still stay in contact with people through the Internet and such. As you can imagine, after each move, I would spend a large amount of time indoors talking with other people. This of course often has a side effect of dulling my awareness about the latest trends and fads in society… As much as this might seem like a bad thing, I believe this actually helps me out in the long-run.
I’m by no means a boring person (at least I think so) but as a result of all this, I don’t tend to get hyped up over a product, I don’t get something because it’s considered “cool,” and I don’t get something because it looks awesome. I’m really glad for this capacity to think things through before making a decision, and it must also be catalyzed by the fact that I don’t really possess money of my own so I constantly spend my parents’ money (within reason, and with their permission of course). But enough about me– let me start with some things that really get to me about the “typical” American consumer.
By far, what I believe to be the biggest culprit that results in idiotic decisions by consumers is what I call the “Apple Marketing Strategy.” By “Apple” in this statement, I am talking about the Apple corporation who until recently was only known for making their Macintosh computers. However, if you would go up to a teenager (or practically anyone these days, for that matter) on the street and mention “Apple” to them, the first thing that would pop in their head would be an iPod (or some other i<InsertDeviceNameHere>) product. I digress however– let me explain the “Apple Marketing Strategy.” See, especially before their BootCamp and Universal Binary systems, Macintosh computers were pretty much left in the dust by the corporate-favored Windows PCs. Despite this, Macintosh computers were pretty, especially the PowerMacs. Slowly throughout the years, Macs have become sleeker, shinier, and more rounded around their corners; this distinction has really contributed in the mindset that “Macs are for artists.” I shall refrain from pointing out that most artists are liberal arts majors that would prefer a simpler operating system. Just kidding =)
Ok I’m deviating a bit from the point again. I have to give credit where it is due though– things really look nicer with rounded corners, shinier finishes, and blue lights rather than orange LEDs. The problem is, many *ahem* less technologically inclined people automatically equate this to “technologically advanced.”
Again, don’t get me wrong– such is the contemporary style of electronics but lets take a personal example. Last Fall, my Ethernet port got fried in an electrical storm so I went out to buy a USB to Ethernet converter. At Staples I found one at last– it was a dinky little dongle, but it would serve my purpose. Price? 30$. Oh but wait! I forgot to mention that it was shiny black and had a large blue blinky light on the front that would blink during network transfer! As you can imagine, I was a little ticked but I needed one quickly.
I went to another tech retailer about a week later and obtained a device that did the same thing. It had an ugly blue box on one end where the Ethernet cable would plug in to and had a USB cable length for at least a foot and a half. It cost 15$.
Well you get my point, and I’m sure you can find other examples of this. Often times though, this effect is combined with something that masquerades as a justification for the price– new features. Of course, I’m not talking about justifiable new features that are actually helpful (such as say, auto red-eye correction on a camera) but those features that are cool but not very helpful. Many times however, these cool features take the spotlight and after seeing it demonstrated, people can’t stop thinking about it! Let’s take for example… Oh let’s see, GPS on your cell phone… yeah that looks like a good place to start. “Man, oh man! I won’t need directions if I am in an unfamiliar area looking for a McDonalds!” Seriously? Humans are creatures of habit and routine– most of our daily life revolves around it. Features such as this, granted they are useful, would not be used enough to justify the costs associated with them. Same could be said for many Data-Package features. Internet on you phone? It depends on one’s environment, but 97% of the time, one can have a laptop or other computer in the same area, without using a tiny screen to navigate the web (personally, I hate browsing the web on tiny screens). “Oooh I get apps!” Yes, some apps can be useful, but 85% of them are just equivalents of web-based Flash games. I mean, look at some of those iPhone “games” sometime– Throwing paper into a waste basket by the flick of your finger? Cool! *Facepalms*
Of course, for things such as the iPhone, the popularity is often a result of aggressive marketing combined with gimmicky features. The iPod got popular because of of all those commercials when it first came out (I still remember being annoyed at how they would say “technologic” in them). Face it, while the iPod brought interesting new features such as the clickwheel, its not that great. Seriously, especially today, an mp3/video player is superior to an iPod because you don’t have to go through the idiotic iTunes software barrier. Of course, many people don’t realize this because iTunes makes it all nice and user-friendly; though if people took a few minutes to Google, they would realize that normal mp3 players are just as easy to sync or manage with a media player or simply a file manager. But of course, people see that their friends have an iPod and that their friends’ friends have an iPod and buy an iPod without a moment’s thought. Now, seeing “i” in front of an item often equates to people as being “hip” or “trendy” thus often giving the product instant popularity.
I’m sure now you are seeing the problem: When people jump to conclusions about something that is either “trendy” or “technologically superior.”
Companies of course are smart. They are always looking for ways for these kinds of people so that they can trick them, and of course some people don’t even care and just throw their money like confetti. Sometimes, companies radically redesign a product and hope that sales will spike up. A good example is the advent of slide-phones. Of course, the slide feature was automatically equated as “more technologically advanced” than flip phones because they were different. My mother wanted to get one after her contract with a flip phone expired for the very reason. I’ll bring up the same point I told her– Slide phones are not innovative… Seriously. Yes, it enables more stuff to be condensed into the phone (like a keyboard) but it leaves the screen exposed. With flip phones, not only is the screen protected in one’s pants pocket, the phone, when open, molds to the speaker’s face (somewhat). I for one thought this is why flip phones emerged superior over old single-unit phones. To protect the screen effectively, one needs a screen protector or a case– more money to shell out just due to poor design. It’s… It’s just not logical. Now of course, the new “smart” phones take this idiocy a step forward and logically regress further. Phones such as the iPhone and Android are basically bricks that don’t fold or slide that use touch-input. So now you have a rectangular brick that you put to your head to (heaven forbid) make a phone call and now you need screen protectors/cases to not only protect the display, but also the input. Cool, huh?
You know, there used to be a time when technology was built to last. Companies found out that by adding a few flashy things to the same product and designing them unintelligently so that they are prone to malfunction/damage, consumers will (what do you know?) still buy them. Now I by no means would judge anyone based on these decisions, but the choice is yours. Will you be a smart consumer who shops with their eyes open, or an uneducated consumer who sheeples to the newest trend?