5 Dirty Tricks Apple Uses to Get You to Buy a New iPhone
Apple sold more than 10 million units of the iPhone 6 in only three days, which means that at least a few of you are reading this on your brand-new future phone. Congratulations! Also, whatever the opposite of congratulations is, because there's a good chance you might have been tricked into buying that thing when you absolutely didn't need it. Here are some of the ways Apple (and our own brains) are pulling a fast one on our pockets:
Making You Think Your iPhone Gets Slower When a New One Comes Out
So a new iPhone is out and, as fancy as it looks, you say to yourself, "Do I really need to spend hundreds of dollars when my trusty old phone works perfectly well?" Then you start up said trusty phone and it takes like a minute to load the Facebook app, so you dump the piece of shit in the garbage and head for the nearest Apple Store.
Well, you're not the only one who's been there -- every time a new iPhone has launched, Google searches for "iPhone slow" shoot up like John Travolta in Pulp Fiction:
The search keywords "old," "bloated," and "low-memory" are interchangeable between the two.
The New York Times makes the argument that this could be purely a psychological thing -- we start contemplating whether or not we should replace our phones, which in turn causes us to criticize every millisecond longer it takes to upload the latest picture of breakfast. The weird thing is that this phenomenon happens only with Apple phones, which could mean two things: either the media focus on the iPhone is so pervasive in society that we all brainwash ourselves into believing our phones are getting slower ... or they are getting slower.
See, whenever Apple releases a new phone, they usually also release a new version of iOS, their mobile operating system, to go along with it, but downloading it is a death sentence for any phone older than a couple of years. Apps get slower, animations get choppy, and since everything is designed for bigger screens, you'll be constantly reminded that your phone's size is inadequate:
iPhone Magnum coming 2015.
Even if you have a more recent phone, that doesn't make you immune to iOS 8's infuriating battery drain and sluggish WiFi capabilities, problems that have been flooding Apple's bug forum since the operating system launched. Of course, none of these complaints have stopped half of all iPhone and iPad users from upgrading to iOS 8 anyway, so come to think of it, Apple would be pretty dumb if they didn't try to take advantage of everyone.
Using Trick Photography to Make iPhones Seem Thinner Than They Are
If nothing else, Apple will be remembered for its poise. Apple's sleekness has been a company trademark since they upgraded their monitors from gray squares with sharp edges to bright orange translucent oblongs. Which is why when they first announced their latest iPhone, they made sure to point out that it is sleek as shit -- they even put together a nice graphic showing how much thinner the new iPhones look compared to the previous model:
The problem is that the old version (on the left) is misleadingly shot in a different light: it doesn't have any shadowed black edge and is a completely silver shade, whereas the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus are cleverly shaded at the sides to make them appear skinnier than they actually are. Here's a handy GIF to show what we mean:
Real phones have curves.
The graphic made the new phone look around 30 percent slimmer than the old one, when it's actually just 9 percent slimmer. Is Apple so insecure that they would try to erase a few millimeters off an already ridiculously thin phone just to make it look sexier? Apparently they are: the initial iPhone 6 press photos proudly displayed what tech sites have dubbed "the camera bulge" ...
The technical term is "lenscrotum."
... only to remove the bulge in later photos to make the phone look slimmer.
"How am I supposed to photograph my bulge now?!"
With the camera, the phone would be an extra 0.7 millimeters thick, which means Apple Photoshopping it out is the equivalent of Calvin Klein digitally removing Kate Moss' ribcage. We're not saying Apple is an evil corporation for trying to shave a few tenths of a millimeter off their new phone, but the fact that they even thought it was necessary seems to suggest that they don't have the highest opinion of their customers.
Bombarding Us With (Posthumous) Celebrity Endorsements
Apple has been struggling to keep up lately in the world of celebrity endorsements. They haven't had anything at the level of the "spontaneous" star-studded selfie at the Academy Awards that turned out to be an ad for a Samsung phone. Not one to be left behind, Apple retaliated by filling the iPhone 6's launch event with the strangest mismatch of celebrities money can rent. You probably heard that U2 made an appearance at the event (and in your iPhone) ...
... while the rest of the event showcased the likes of Dr. Oz, CoCo Lee, Will.i.am, and at least half a dozen other celebrities that you'd have to Google just to know who the hell we were talking about. But, you know, Apple still has a lot of fans everywhere. Just ask Joan Rivers, who gave her personal thumbs up to the iPhone 6 ... two weeks after her death.
"I just talked to Jobs, and he said he loves it too! He still dresses like a community college art professor, though."
The post was obviously a pre-negotiated deal that someone forgot to delete after Rivers passed away. We're pretty sure Rivers had no strong opinion on the iPhone 6 one way or another, and yet her digital ghost still managed to throw a jab at the inferior screen size and battery life of the older models. We can probably blame this on Apple's recent hiring of a "buzz marketing manager," which is exactly the insufferable social media non-job that it sounds like. And the unfortunate truth? This shit really does work. Even if the celebrity endorser is obviously lying (or obviously dead), attaching a popular face to a product helps attract consumers. True, it mostly works on young and impressionable customers, but that's exactly who these companies are after.
So, sure, everyone thought U2's dark magic album suddenly appearing on their phones was a creepy borderline invasion of privacy -- but it got people talking about Apple, so mission accomplished.
(Probably) Faking Shortages to Increase Demand
Last year, Apple was awash in accusations of engineering a fake stock shortage for the gold iPhone 5S, which was bizarrely limited in every single store -- Australia had zero gold iPhones, Verizon on Wall Street had zero gold iPhones, and even Apple's flagship store in San Francisco had only 20 of the damn things. To be clear, the phone was not made of actual gold; it was simply a matter of tossing gold paint into the iPhone printer instead of the standard black ("space gray," we mean).
The effect can be inexpensively duplicated by dropping your iPhone in the toilet.
So what lesson did Apple learn from that fiasco? If you guessed "absolutely nothing," then good work, you're more cynical than we are. Fast-forward to August 2014, and what do you know? Apple experiences a snag in production, and websites start speculating whether or not the iPhone 6 will be delayed. When you're one of the biggest companies in the world, running into a delay of this magnitude a month before the release of your new product should be a pretty serious concern. However, according to inside analyst notes distributed to Apple investors just a few days later, the "production issue" would not impact the launch of the iPhone 6. In other words, "There is no shortage, but we're happy to let the general public think there is. Apple is going to sell exactly as many new iPhones as it wants."
So, why would Apple do this (if rumors of shortages are indeed a marketing ploy)? Because we've proven time and again that we love it. We love the exclusivity more than we love the actual product, which is why people wound up brawling outside an Apple store in Paris over the privilege of buying a phone that is only marginally different from the ones they already own:
Fights also broke out in Connecticut, Canada, and New York. We've talked before about China's obsession with Apple, which can only be described as "Kathy Bates in Misery" -- so when it was revealed that China would be getting the new iPhone weeks later than the rest of the world, people there started lining up to buy iPhones on the black market for insane mark-ups. Meanwhile, China's customs have recovered thousands of illegally smuggled iPhones over the last few weeks, with people hiding the phones in everything from boxes of chocolate to their freaking underwear.
"Yeah, we're not wearing these gloves because we're allergic to chocolate."
Stuff like this guarantees that Apple's newest product stays in the news and continues to sell out in record time even months after its release. Either they're marketing geniuses (they are), or we as a consuming public are covetous maniacs (we are). The worst part is ...
We Don't Need to Upgrade, Because We Hardly Use Any Apps
Here's a breakdown of the relatively minor differences between the iPhone 6 and the iPhone 5S that the vast majority of us will never, ever read. Why? Because at the end of the day, it really doesn't matter how well the 6 outperforms the 5S, because we're going to use it to do the exact same shit.
Think about what you do with your phone -- send texts, make calls, check social media, play terrible games, and send immediately regrettable photographs to people you just met. Unless you're a professional photographer, you're not going to care about how much the camera has improved on the iPhone 6 (and if you are a professional photographer, you probably take pictures on something better than a goddamn iPhone). And for those of you who game -- nothing playable on the iPhone really needs a huge upgrade in power. Just look what happened when they tried to sell Angry Birds on actual gaming systems. So what do we need the better specs for? To have more apps? Not according to the hard numbers.
"There's an app for that!" -no actual person, apparently
The average American smartphone owner downloads zero apps a month. Zero. The top 7 percent of smartphone owners download nearly half of all the downloaded apps each month -- these are the people who spend so much time immersed in their devices that they have forgotten how to interact with other human beings. As for the rest of us, we don't need any more apps. And since we don't need apps, we don't need phones with 10 percent more speed, or whatever Apple is offering with their latest several-hundred-dollar status badge. Forty-two percent of all our app time is spent on whichever app we use the most, dividing the remaining 58 percent among all the other apps. So when you ask yourself if you really need a new phone just because there's a new phone out there to buy, the answer is pretty much always going to be no. Unless you're Zack Morris. Then it's probably time for an upgrade.
The third part of XJ's epic science-fiction novel is out now on Amazon. The first 99 cent novella can be found here, with Part 2 out here. Or leave a review and get a free copy! Poke him on Twitter and follow him on Facebook.
For more smartphone shenanigans, see 4 Signs Apple Has Completely Given Up on Being Cool and 5 New Apps Explicitly Designed for Awful Human Beings.