Keeping Up With the JonesesWith the recent release of Apples latest installment of the iPhone – the iPhone5, I am reminded of an old saying – “Keeping up with the Joneses”.

This is a fairly common idiom which essentially means to try and compete with ones neighbor for the latest and greatest technologies and or other material possessions.

If you were to fail in keeping up with the Jonses then you would be perceived as being less affluent or inferior.


Why The Hype

I find it difficult to comprehend exactly what would posses someone to camp out for days on end waiting for the release of a phone. I know this sounds crazy, but it almost seems like this phone makes up part of these peoples identities and without the latest version, their lives would be without meaning.

The thought of waiting in line to hand over my hard earned money for a phone is so foreign to me. I hope the guys in the apple marketing department are well paid as the euphoria surrounding this phone is far beyond anything I am able to comprehend.

I remember reading somewhere that Apple sold two million iPhone 5’s in the first 24 hours of preordering. That’s remarkable!


My Musings

Prior to the release of the iPhone5 I found myself wondering:

  • Who are these people that are so desperate to get their hands on these devices?
  • What makes these apple products so great that people take time off work to sit in a queue hoping to be one of the first to own one?
  • Do these people have an unlimited money supply?
  • Had they been saving all their pocket money for months and months anticipating this release?
  • Did these iPhone5 fanatics have more disposable income than me or the average person?
  • Did they all need a new phone at the exact same time possibly due to some worldwide phone death party which I was unaware of?
  • Is there something truly ground breaking about this particular phone which makes all phones before it usless?

No matter how I thought about it, I kept coming back to the same conclusion – it must be a case of keeping up with the joneses.


My Theory

Light bulb moment

The theory came to me as I was walking through the work cafeteria, one of my colleagues (who is a well respected engineer and who I thought was a fairly rational person) was showing off his brand new iPhone5 to a couple of his friends.

He was so proud of the fact he had waited in the city since early morning for the store to open and was now holding his new iPhone5. You could see the look of satisfaction in his eyes as his mates looked on with what I can only describe as being iPhone envy.

What I found most interesting was that this colleague of mine has a work supplied iPhone 3Gs and a personal iPhone4. Neither phones were broken, yet he found the need to go out and get a new iPhone5 the minute is was released. It was obvious he was feeling good about himself, it didn’t matter that the phone had just set him back about a hundred dollars each month for the next 2 years…


Wants Vs Needs

I can’t think of a reason right now but I’m sure that in some cases there would be a genuine need for the iPhone5. There will be some feature on this phone that will profoundly change at least one persons life. For everyone else I am left wondering if people truly understand the difference between wants and needs.

I am curious as to how many people entered into a contract for an iPhone5 who already had a perfectly functioning phone? I want to know how they justified the purchase? Did they budget for it? Do they know what a budget is?

Even if you knew about wants and needs and you knew it was a “want”, why did so many people need to get it on the first day it was released? In 2-3 months time it will likely be much cheaper with far more attractive plans.

Considering the state of the global economy and how many people are increasingly out of work everyday, I really wanted to go and shake some sense into some of these apple fanatics. If you really want to spend, how about doing it at a struggling retailer or some local business. Why would you line the pockets of the company with greater than 80 billion dollars in the bank?


Galaxy S3?

Appalled by the apparent disdain for money that was being shown by millions of apple fans world wide, I decide to consult with a someone whom I knew had recently purchased a Samsung Galaxy S3 to get his take on all this hype and why he didn’t wait for the iPhone5. He found it all very amusing and with a smug look on his face he pulled up the following youtube video for me to watch.

While the video is funny and is an obvious parody on other earlier apple video’s, it did raise some good points. The Galaxy S3 was already available in stores, it was cheaper and most importantly it had pretty much the exact same features as the iPhone5, yet there was nowhere near the hysterics when the S3 was released compared to the iPhone5.


What its all about

I can only assume that there must be a certain status to be had when one procures the latest and greatest in new technologies. You are instantly seen in the eyes of your peers as having achieved something great. I don’t understand it, I see this as just another way for people to waste money that could be being better spent.

I guess it doesn’t matter that they didn’t need the phone or that they may be living pay to pay. What matters is that they have something first, before all their friends and family.

That’s what keeping up with the joneses is all about – Displays of wealth by having more material possessions than those around you.