From the get-go, Apple turned me into an outsider. Starting in 2001, a new iPod was released almost every single year -- the iPod Color, Mini, Nano, Shuffle, Touch. From day one, we were trained to want more storage, more color options, and spend more money. But at $300-$600 a pop, I never saved up enough to buy one and felt pretty uncool, surrounded by a sea of creepy dancing silhouettes literally everywhere I went.
Remember the days before Apple's icy grip on us tightened to the point of vice-like? I do. Look, nobody was thrilled about waiting 45 minutes to download one song on Napster, or carrying around a 25lb book of CDs, but that's just what you did back then. iTunes changed the way we obtained music, but it was the iPod that hooked us into Apple's formidable upgrade cycle, and trained us to look down on our peers who eschewed it.
This was a specific type of adolescent angst I assumed would wane. It never did -- which I learned the hard way after purchasing a perfectly good, affordable Zune in 2010. I might as well have contracted leprosy; my friends still refer to the purchase as a severe lapse in judgment, and assume I only bought the Zune as a misguided act of nonconformity… I just liked it.
Now, I'm a grown-ass adult, those days of iPod envy behind me. So why do I still feel like an inadequate piece of human garbage if I don't have the latest, greatest iPhone to date?
You're publicly ridiculed if you fall behind Apple's upgrade cycle
I know from personal experience that flashing an iPhone 5 in this day and age will get you a barrage of criticism from even your closest friends. The moment you unleash the seemingly subpar phone from your pocket, you can expect guffaws from onlookers for what might as well be a flip phone. "Does Snapchat even work on that thing?" Yes, assholes… yes it does.
The only thing worse than having an old iPhone is not having an iPhone at all. Android phones are ruthlessly judged as if they single-handedly caused World War II. "Ohh, you have an AAAAANDROID?" makes me cringe every time I hear it, and I don't even own one. I guess I'm still reeling from the PTSD of my Zune debacle. Some Apple fans are so ensconced in the Apple ecosystem, you might as well be toting around a severed head if not the 6s.
The last two generations of iPhones have been severely underwhelming
Is each new generation of the iPhone really great enough, really different enough, to justify the rabid social pressure to upgrade?
After brandishing my iPhone 5c flag into a battle I would inevitably lose, I was recently forced to upgrade when the battery went to shit. Apple's marketing slogan around the 6s is "The only thing that's changed is everything." How, exactly, has my life changed with my new 6s?
- I can take pictures that kinda move like a GIF for two seconds
- I can press down on my apps a little hard and get a weird pop-up menu
- I can unlock it using my fingerprint, saving me half a second each time
- I can, if I so choose, buy it in a nice rosy pinkish hue
Do my texts send any faster on a 6s? Does the screen shatter into fewer shards? Does the battery last any longer? Do I get that much more excited about the sharpness of a picture of an avocado I just took? No, no, nope, and no.
The most meaningful change that occurred when I upgraded to the 6s is this: people no longer look at me with quizzical disdain when I pull out my phone to check the weather.
So what do we have to look forward to?
There's little evidence that the iPhone 7 will be any more interesting or innovative than the one before it. (Except that Apple might remove the headphone jack, and force you to buy a new pair of Bluetooth headphones every two years. Brilliant.) It also might have wireless charging. Meanwhile, Cupertino competitors are putting out legitimately great, solid phones like the Samsung Galaxy S7. Which, no shit, is basically waterproof. It also stays charged for twice as long as the 6s. Oh yeah, and charges wirelessly.
The truth of the matter is, Apple has been failing us. And people are actually starting to catch on: iPhone sales are down, and Apple recently announced its worst quarter in a decade. But without legitimate innovation, there's no legitimate need to upgrade. Why drop hundreds of dollars and throw away a perfectly good phone that'll soon be trumped by a newer phone? Or is it worth the money to avoid feeling like a social pariah just because my newer phone isn't the newest phone? Am I forever caught in Apple's cyclical vortex of hell? What is there to look forward to?
Oh, I know… paying over $30 a month for the next 24 months, until I have paid off the Man and successfully own an "outdated" device. And so it will go, on and on, until the day I die. Or, you know, switch to an Android, or something.
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