Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Gadget hype and gadget overload

“Another iPhone is coming! Is that even still "a thing?" It's not with investors  - as the novelty has more than worn off.”

Let me begin by stating that I like my iPhone. It’s a useful device for communicating and viewing content. (The latest iPhones also have impressive capabilities for creating content, I should note.)

That said, much has changed since Apple released the first iPhone back in 2007. In 2007 cell phones were by no means a novelty, but they were not as ubiquitous as they are today.

I still recall some of the news reports from that time: Twentysomething males with bad haircuts, flabby biceps, and questionable social skills standing in line at the Apple store on 6/29/2007. They all wore the same expression of quasi-sexual glee. In the same spirit that would later give birth to the Internet meme, “I fucking love science”, the iPhone became a hipster badge of identity. 

Fast-forward to 2015. Eight years after the release of the first iPhone, it is difficult to find a person under 35 who doesn't walk around with a smart phone tethered to his or her cheek like a third ear. My cousin is 15 years old. I’d be willing to bet that her parents could extract her liver with less drama than the confiscation of her iPhone would occasion.

Yes, I know that not all contemporary smart phones are iPhones. There are also phones that run Google Android or Windows Phone. (Yes, I know there are several others, but you get the gist.)

Technology, like everything else, reaches its saturation point. I’m sure my iPhone could do more for me, but the question is: Do I want it to? And to what avail? I can already use my iPhone to talk, text, read, watch videos, listen to audiobooks and podcasts, and type simple documents. (I use my iPhone 6+ as a sort of “iPad lite”.) Anything beyond this is likely to be redundant.

I’ve been told that there are iPhone apps that can monitor my sleep, and tell me if I’m getting plenty of rest at night. No thanks. I can tell already tell you if I’m getting plenty of sleep: If I start to nod off during the post-lunch lull between two and four o’clock, I need more rest. No app, no gadgetry required. Tim Cook didn't even know that I was asking the question.

No, I’m not a Luddite. I acknowledge the value and utility of my iPhone. What I deny is my capacity to be endlessly, breathlessly fascinated by each incremental improvement that Apple or (insert your phone/operating system manufacturer of choice) makes to the excessively idolized smart phone.

Am I being too harsh? Let me ask you: How many of you use a microwave oven on a daily basis? How about a refrigerator? A washing machine? Could you live without these devices?

Not without considerable pain, I’d wager.

Now let me ask you another set of questions: Are you really excited by the latest developments that Whirlpool, LG, and Frigidaire are making in these life-changing technologies? Are you going to rush out and buy the latest GE microwave oven, just because General Electric has added features that the same model didn't have two years ago?

Or have you reached a point where your microwave oven, and your washing machine, do quite enough as they are, thank you very much?

I might be wrong. Perhaps you really want to explore new ways to wash your gym clothes or heat up a slice of leftover pizza. To each his own. But I’d be willing to bet otherwise.

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