Smart Phones: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

As many of you know, the new iPhone was just announced, and with it came a new mobile operating system, iOS8. We are now conditioned to expect a new phone every year by Apple, announced around the end of summer and then released about a month later. This year it was 2 shiny new phones, a 4.7 inch iPhone 6, and a mammoth 5.5 inch iPhone 6 Plus.

And every year, when new models and new operating systems get released, the previous ones that everyone owns become unattractive and sometimes unusable. iOS8, when downloaded on older models of the iPhone, noticeably decreases the speed of the software, since the hardware on the older versions isn’t suited to run it. Often consumer electronics are accused of “planned obsolescence”, which is the deliberate limiting of the life of a product so consumers will have to upgrade it. Unfortunately, it seems as though this is the case with the rechargeable batteries on the iPhones, which have a finite amount of charges and are almost as expensive to replace as a normal upgrade. Apple’s strategy has been a combination of updating software to include more advanced features and regularly releasing newer versions of their phones every year to further antiquate their own products.

The market for smartphones has continually expanded, and they have permeated into almost every aspect of people’s everyday life. Phones have changed how we interact with friends, family, and the greater community. Social networking applications, many of which only are offered on smartphones, help us reach out to people that we would not have otherwise connected with. Looking at mobile phone technologies can also forecast economic growth, especially in developing countries. GDP growth is expected to range from 1.8% in the UK to 24.9% in Egypt over the years 2010-2020, compared with today’s GDP.

Worldwide, the smartphone market grew 25.3% over the last year in the second quarter, recording over 300 million shipments. While Apple seems to be the standard that other competitors are attempting to dethrone, iOS only holds 11.7% of the global market, while Android has 84.7%. Most of Android’s strengths lie in the fact that they hold low and ultra-low end prices (<$200). However, these statistics have not accounted for the new release of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus.

The difference between the competition of smartphone competitors is that there are a multitude of Android manufacturers all competing against each other trying to top the others, while Apple exists by itself, only releasing one (or two) similar products every year. Since they have no one to compete with, Apple is limited to a smaller market, but is also able to dictate what happens in that market. The sheer volume of devices at a wide range of price points combined with Google’s backing and multiple big-name competitors all working towards better products will keep Android on top of the market. Samsung remains the world’s top seller of Android smartphones; LG and Sony have both made a resurgence with the release of their own premiere smartphone.

While it may seem easy to unsubscribe from that way of thinking, to simply not conform and purchase the latest model every time it is released, it is harder than one might expect. Even the most granola crunching Whittie can be seen on their iPhone 5 updating social media, and it will be a while before we are able to move past the incessant upgrading.

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7 thoughts on “Smart Phones: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

  1. The facts you present on Apple and their new products (especially the new iPhone) are very interesting. I think Apple is one of the smartest companies because they know how to market their products and make consumers want to keep buying their new products. You mention that even those who don’t wish to conform to society find themselves wanting to update their technology. This made me wonder how much of an impact all of this has from an environmental standpoint. Is continuing to recreate new products economically and environmentally efficient?

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  2. I, for one, have an iPhone 5C, and I am partly ashamed to admit it. I like to think that I have some freedom in the decisions I make, such as whether or not I want an iPhone and all that it offers, but at times I feel almost powerless. I really, really like my iPhone. In fact, I have become so dependent upon it that I use it about as often as not every day, whether this is playing games, watching videos, listening to music, or Snapchatting my friend sitting across from me in the library. I am on it almost all the time. Drawing attention to this dependence scares me, and the idea of ending it panics me.

    iPhones, by design, have come to be quite user-friendly. They aren’t very complicated (even my mother has one now, which is saying something), and the layout is aesthetically pleasing. With each update, Apple has refined the iPhone and pushed it ever closer to “perfection,” which has personally kept me fascinated and coming back for more, like a child who is given shinier and more exciting baubles.

    Apple is a manipulative and dangerous seductress. How far will it go?

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    • jaffeas says:

      It’s true, I find myself glued to my phone far more often than I would like, but as it stands now a lot of my daily activities require the internet and a phone. I find that we rely on the continual connectivity in order to communicate and keep in touch with everything going on in our lives. I don’t foresee a future in which the reliance diminishes at all, if anything, it is only growing.

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    • I also held out on getting a smartphone for a long time. Despite all its conveniences and brilliant marketing campaigns, I felt distrustful of Apple as a mega-corporation that holds a weird sort of taste-monopoly on similar devices. I do have an iPhone 4 now but don’t care to update it for new technology. Unfortunately for me though, the “planned obsolescence” is working, and the battery has started draining very quickly. So, even though I don’t care about the shiny baubles, I will probably have to replace my iPhone in the near future.

      Time to start thinking about an Android, maybe.

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  3. I was thinking about writing about the iPhone and smartphone for my blog as well. You raised an interesting yet important point about durability. For years I was the proud owner of an espresso colored Sanyo flip phone. This phone survived being thrown down the stairs, into the water, out of a car (I think it even got ran over by a car), and basically all of the obstacles and challenges that surround a middle school aged person. Not only did this phone survive, but it’s battery life, appearance, and functions never changed. I didn’t need a new phone, but I fell victim to the pressures of my peers and the smart and advancing technology. Now, like most people of this generation, I am addicted to my phone. But I have noticed that the iPhone comes with many problems as the phone grows older. The battery is shot, the glass screen often shatters, and many of the functioning abilities do not work as well. I will forever be an iPhone person, but it does seem like with the technology available, a more durable phone should be possible to create.

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  4. I think it’s interesting that Apple has, through extremely successful marketing, managed to establish a reputation as a superior good. Most of its competitors can at least equal it, sometimes even bettering it, in performance. But Apple, armed with a reputation from its long history in the PC market, managed to burst onto a slow-moving platform (how many people actually bought BlackBerries before the iPhone’s release in 2007?) and still completely dominates it seven years later. iPhones sell more units than any of their other competitors, and at higher prices than most.

    I just find it fascinating that image has a much larger effect on what counts as a superior good than, say, durability does.

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