Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Culture club

In trying to decide whether I need an iPhone, I was confronted with several questions about my sense of identity that I thought I'd buried (the questions, not the sense of identity) when I emerged out of my teens.

The first had to do with why I wanted the iPhone. I'm still convinced it's only because my little Ericsson has caused me enough grief, and the frustration I've borne deserves a reward. Thing is though, by ascribing to the iPhone culture, I also join a club (no longer exclusive, given volume of iphone sales).

I'm averse to joining clubs for the sake of joining them. The problem is that this non-club joining mentality (sure, call it non-conformity) drops me right into another club.

The other trouble, again cutting to my pith, has to do with this pressure to be an early adopter - whether of technology, ideas, lifestyle or anything in between. (Have you read Fassbinder? NO?? Oh, but you must! He's the Goethe of our times!..No, he hasn't published yet, but here's the address of his blog).

That I've considered the iPhone only just now reveals I haven't given in to this culture. But the pressure's been there.

And it only gets worse. By the time (if ever) I end up owning an iPhone, it's going to be on its way out. And not just technology-wise. I won't draw a parallel to fashion because that monster 180s on itself all the time. But I'd be like the guy that's just bought a Hummer. I'd draw sneers of reproval even if the instrument worked well for me.

Eventually, after I come to grips with being an early adopter, I'd have to evolve into an early discarder. It's that fine line between "I want one because everyone else has one" and "Everbody has one, I need something else".

I think you know how I'm going to wrap up this post.

My crappy Ericsson lives to fight another day.


Abe said...

The last decision-making factor you should worry about when it comes to buying a multi-purpose device (that's what all phones are these days) is whether or not it makes you part of a 'club'.
The first thing you need to think about are your usage habits and needs. What are the features in your phone that you use extensively? What are your gripes about it? What do your phone could do better? Do you need a camera? A media player? Wi-fi connectivity? GPS? Style? A light form factor?

Having said that, the iPhone is a platform for a virtually infinite number of applications (see the Apple App Store). The problem is, will you actually make use of this? Heck, will you be able to text-message someone in a reasonable amount of time using the touchscreen interface? I have a few problems myself with the iPhone: I need a tactile keypad, cut/copy/paste functionality (yeah, the iPhone doesn't have it - but my entry-level Nokia 3110c does), a camera with flash (if at all), and a price tag that doesn't make me feel like a moron when the next version comes out.
I don't want to spend $725 (Rs. 29,000 - estimated street price in India) or even $200 in the US for a phone that will be inevitably upstaged by a newer model in a year or two.

With all these factors to consider, the question about whether or not makes you a member of a fraternity seems trivial.
Unless of course, the phone stood for something - an open-source phone, for example, speaks volumes about keeping techonological ideas free and open to innovation and improvement. The iPhone does media and connectivity well, but so do tons of others. If it's luxury you're looking for, Swarovski crystal-studded phones and Vertu phones are always there for the (very expensive) taking. So in essence, the iPhone isn't saying much. Nothing profound, anyway.

indra said...


wokkala belting !!!

Anonymous said...

LOL, wokkala belting indeed. Nice commentary Mr. Abe.

Rs. 29000?! Hmmm.. must reconsider buying iPhone in India for my grandmother in Kandy.

-Michael Jayasuriya

indra said...

MJ, this grandmother in Kandy, you get to see her often? I'm just curious is all, about your sri lankan heritage. Give me something here.

Anonymous said...

Yes, Sri Lanka is my motherland. Although my mother was Samoan and my father Sri Lankan, so maybe it should be my fatherland. I played in the rain drenched streets of Kandy from the age of 1 to 14. On my 6th birthday, the nice uncle with the moustache three blocks down gave me a bazooka. It was my most favourite b'day gift to this day.
After I failed to make it to the Sri Lankan cricket team, I moved to Toronto, where I hope it will be easier to qualify for the Canadian team. I feel at home here. You can find me at the coffee shop below the CN tower on Thursday nights, lecturing the local immigrant Sri Lankan community about the unbending arrow of time and the puzzle of the low entropy start of the early universe. In my spare time, I talk to fish.

-Michael Jayasuriya

Anonymous said...

By the way, you may have heard of my third cousin twice removed Sanath.