It’s New iPhones Day, a tradition that’s so well-understood among our community at this point that I believe we’re only a couple of years away from all of the other stores in the mall making it into a relentless and overbearing nightmare. The CEO of Sears called in his team a few months ago and asked them why their stores don’t open at 2 AM that day, with suspiciously-low sale prices on objects shaped like TV and other electronics. And that’s when his staff finally told him that Sears has been a mail-order seed company since 2011, when their last retail store closed.
I’ve been bothered by the hype of New iPhones Day for a few years. My Twitter feed is full of stories of people lining up overnight. Big and small tech blogs are all clamoring around the first buyers, for photos and interviews.
I find it all very off-putting. I didn’t always. I used to think of it is something akin to the excitement of seeing a new “Star Wars” movie on opening day. I had a ticket to the first screening of “Episode 1” and I wanted to spend the nine hours leading up to it with other people who were way, way too excited to stay at home.
Somehow, new iPhone Day feels different today. The iconography hasn’t changed. I look at the same kinds of Tweets, and the same kinds of photos, and the same videos of cheering, waving Apple Store employees and shoppers. Only now, I can’t push away a fundamental clinical observation: people are cheering because someone, you know, bought a $900 high-end consumer item.
Am I…okay with that?
So I’m conflicted. I can’t fault anyone for experiencing and expressing pleasure. (PSA: People who say “Hey! You’re having fun wrong!” are wastes of good protein). At the same time, yeah, this kind of celebration and sense of gratitude and wonderment over what should be a simple walk-in, pay the person, get item, walk-out transaction makes me uncomfortable. It seems undignified. Why are we all making these people look lucky?
Yeah, yeah: there’s a huge initial demand and if you don’t get the phone you want on the first day, you could be waiting for weeks. But is waiting for a new phone such a terrible ordeal?
I don’t mean for this to be a scold. I’m scolding myself more than anybody because I feel like I contributed to this environment. No doubt it’s a big factor in my growing unease.
But let’s all take a moment to reflect a little. The mere acquisition of a new iPhone is exciting, but it’s a surface joy, at best; it’s a squirt of Happy Brain Chemicals. We should stop and reflect on the idea that true joy of a great new phone is in the pictures that it takes; the time and tedium that a new feature can save you, which frees up time and mental bandwidth for things that are more important to you; and the thoughts and activities that they enable you to indulge that were just too hard to mess with before.
I’m not going to tell people not to be excited about getting a new iPhone on the first day. And I’m not going to tell other journalists not to write about those people, either. Nor do I believe that either of these two groups should feel bad about themselves.
Speaking solely for myself: I don’t want to just make people want things. My covering New iPhone Day as a cultural event would be a step away from my goals.