iPhone 5 is not just for stupid people

Jesse Brown’s cost-opportunity calculus on the latest iteration of the must-have handset
Members of the media photograph the iPhone 5 after its introduction during Apple Inc.’s iPhone media event in San Francisco, California September 12, 2012.. REUTERS/Beck Diefenbach (UNITED STATES - Tags: SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY BUSINESS)
(Beck Diefenbach/Reuters)

People planning on buying an iPhone 5 are not necessarily stupid. True, all of its new features—LTE, a higher resolution screen, and longer battery life—can be found for less on various Android handsets. And yes, other features common to Android phones, like near field communication, are absent on the new iPhone. It is also true that Apple has again pooped on its faithful by introducing yet another unique dock connector, thus rendering millions of sound systems and peripherals slightly obsolete (you’ll need to buy a clunky adaptor).

But none of that means that you’re dumb if you want one anyway. The new iPhone looks great, and by all reports, feels even better. Venerated Apple designer Jony Ive is correct when he says in this cult indoctrination, I mean, promo video that your phone is probably the product you use most in your life. We spend more time each day holding our phones than we spend holding our loved ones, so surely it’s worth something to have one that feels just right in your palm. How much is that worth? For me, not as much as an iPhone.

By switching to Android a couple of years ago and moving my number to one of Canada’s new cheap-o cellular providers, my monthly bill dropped from $100-$150 a month to a dependable $30 a month, voice, data, text and tax included. That’s over $1,000 a year that I’m no longer paying while getting the exact same services. This thrift does deny me the pure sensual pleasure I would receive from cradling a superior object in my palm each day. But my wife and I have a human baby, who I enjoy holding more than any phone, even if I do so less often. I earn what you’d expect a journalist to earn, so dropping a grand each year on a luxury item with no practical advantage over its competitors would make me a very stupid man.

But I’m not calling you stupid. Not necessarily. If you want an iPhone, and money isn’t a big concern of yours, then go nuts.  I similarly wouldn’t call a guy who buys a new Corvette an idiot, unless he’s working at the Future Shop, living with his parents and paying off a student loan.

What amazes me about Apple is their success at getting otherwise intelligent people to act like that guy. We agonize about value with every other consumer decision, comparing features to prices and searching out bargains. But when it comes to Apple, people throw reason to the wind and spend like Kanye. Sure, you can get an Android tablet for $200 that does all the same things a $600 iPad does.  But it’s not an iPad.  Sure, your iPad still does all the things it used to.  But it’s not the new iPad. Once the latest fetish object is glorified on the altar of the Yerba Buena center and slathered in magical Apple sauce, who cares about a few (hundred) extra dollars?

The real danger, of course, is not that people are so enthralled with Apple’s killer marketing that they’re ignoring their best economic interests.  It’s that we’re disregarding our social interests as well.  Apple is becoming a dangerously powerful player in just about every digital realm.  That includes music, movies and TV, publishing, and video games.  That includes privacy and patents.  It’s crucially important that all of these spaces remain varied, open and competitive.

On the other hand, iPhone 5 is 18 per cent thinner and ever so shiny!

Follow Jesse on Twitter @JesseBrown