Thursday, February 10, 2011

A shortage of iPhones? Get Real!

The iPhone is a consumer device made on an assembly line.  If you didn't get one this week, don't panic, they will make more. Trust me on this!

A helpful reader sent me this link to a photo of people who apparently skipped work today to rush off to the Verizon store to get an iPhone.  The article was accompanied by the caption:
Customers line up at the Clive Verizon store at 7 a.m. Thursday for the debut of the Verizon iPhone. Des Moines-area Verizon Wireless stores opened especially early to accommodate customers interested in the phone's Verizon debut.
Who in their right mind would do this?  This is a manufactured good, on an assembly line.  Every second, more pour off the lines.  There is no "shortage" of these devices and never will be.  It is not like trying to get concert tickets for Lady Ga-Ga, where supply is finite and demand exceeds supply.

If you want an iPhone, you can buy one tomorrow, next week, next month, next year.  You can buy one on-line.  Why rush down to the store to get one on the day they are available?

It makes no sense at all.

But then again, having a trendy electrical gadget makes no sense at all to me anyway.  These are tools in the best case scenario and toys in the worst.  And in most cases, the latter. 

From what I can see from my friends and acquaintances, the fabled "better life" from having a gadget never occurs after buying one.  Granted, some features are nice and some gadgets can come in handy. 

For example, while traveling, I found a nice Indian restaurant using a Pioneer AVIC navigation system I installed in my car.  Great feature!  Life-changing?  Hardly.  And on other occasions, it sends me off on wild goose chases (as do all nav systems when they get confused).  A nice toy, sometimes a useful tool.  but you know, I have also gotten along just fine with printed maps on occasion.

And yet, a lot of people spend hundreds and hundreds of dollars on these sorts of things, while failing to save for retirement or even for a rainy day.

My reader writes:
Yesterday a news story stated that the Verizon offices were preparing for what they expected to be their busiest day ever. My wife and I make a combined $117,000, and neither of us has a smart phone or a data plan on our cell phones. For years, we commuted to work together and failed to even have a second cell phone. We now have two cell phones but only because we eliminated our land-line phone and the cellular provider provides a break for University employees. Total bill each month for telecommunications is $66 a month, a cost that still seems high to me considering the competition for cellular services.

A few months ago I actually had a problem with one phone that required me to actually go to a US Cellular store to have it reprogrammed. I had to wait for an hour while the service technicians repaired it. It was a complete lesson in financial anthropology. I quietly sat next to the kiosks listening to customers order their phones and plans. Not only were they easily swayed to upgrade phones, but their plans for each phone were over $100 EACH. Just the basic plans, mind you, not the applications or the added charges for the data add-ons. I have no doubt that many of the families I saw that hour spend over $200 each month for just cellular services.

Of course you could also hear them speak while waiting to spend so much. You could tell that they have nothing but destructive financial behaviors in the rest of their lives as well. Under-employment, under-educated, and over-spending patterns. Most could hardly make it through the sale pitch without going out for another smoke. I laugh when my neighbors having their homes foreclosed on post emails that have that little “sent from my Blackberry” notation on the bottom of the email. I have no doubt that the $100 data plans are a small yet undeniable part of their overall poor financial situation resulting in the losses of their homes. At least their thumbs are getting a good workout?
Ouch.  And the Blackberry comment is one that strikes home with me.  I was recently at a meeting with a high-tech company in Northern Virginia.  The Vice President of the company, a dynamic and insightful guy, was giving what I thought was an interesting presentation.  Most of the staff was texting on their Blackberries during the meeting, not paying attention.  Technology sometimes just gets in the way.

In a way, it is like PowerPoint.  I went to a conference once and had to give a speech.  Everyone ahead of me stood at the podium and read their Power Point slides.  I was in a panic as I had no idea how to use Power Point at all!

When it was my turn, I stood at the podium and gave my lecture, illustrating each point with a humorous example from "real life".  I tried to make eye contact with every person in the room at one time or another.

Once the conference was over, several people came up and told me how my talk was interesting and different than everyone Else's.  It woke people up and interested them, and by making eye contact, engaged the audience.  Simple primitive techniques trump technology every time.

If you doubt this, check out the Gettysburg Address, reduced to a PowerPoint presentation.  One of the world's greatest (and shortest) speeches reduced to banality by technology.

Sometimes less technology - or simpler technology - is better!