Just a few years ago, the word “smartphone” did not mean much to anyone, but since then it has made its way into the lives and pockets of millions of people worldwide. Aside from carrying out the basic functions that cellphones were first designed to perform, smartphones offer a seemingly all-encompassing and ever-expanding range of capabilities. Many of us have happily discovered that our common, everyday issues can now be cured with the press of a touch-screen button and the utterance of the glorious phrase, “There’s an app for that.”
But all of these benefits certainly come at a cost, and a high one at that.
It is no secret that the cost of smartphone production is miniscule in comparison to the retail prices they sell for, but consumers still continue to get in line every time a new Samsung Galaxy or iPhone is released on the market. In a comprehensive smartphone price survey, Forbes contributor Tristan Louis finds that a smartphone like one of the Apple iPhone or Samsung Galaxy models can cost up to $650 when purchased upfront in cash, and that price does not even reflect the additional costs of a carrier contract plan, monthly phone bill, and phone accessories. Assistant Editor of technology review website TechHive.com, Leah Yamshon, points out that when you total it all up, American smartphone users spend an average of over $1000 dollars a year on a device the size of their hand.
So you may now be looking down at your own iPhone 5 and asking it, “Why have you done this to me?” But there is more to the love story of the unreasonably priced smartphone and the infatuated consumer; aside from the obvious technological services these cellphones offer, they have become a major part of our social interactions. Internet Retailer contributor Bill Siwicki notes that A Pew Research study conducted in 2013 revealed that 64% of mobile phone users in the United States opted for smartphones in their most recent phone purchases, showing the wide span of the smartphone user network. With this many people using them daily, smartphones have become one of the most popular tools of connection and communication through the many different social media outlets that can be accessed with ease on mobile devices.
In addition to making the user more socially available, the smartphone offers the promise of a secure social status. The higher the price of the smartphone the more capabilities it often possesses, but price also factors into the social cellphone hierarchy. A cellphone is one of the first things many people look to in order to make quick assessments of each other’s personalities and social standing. In this way, the overly expensive smartphone has become a marker of financial stability, social awareness, and the ability to fit in with the rest of society. Though we may be false in making these assumptions about others, cellphones and their relative prices are often one of the first tools we use to get a feel for strangers.
You may call these smartphone users naïve, you may call them obsessed, you may be one of them yourself—either way, the pricing, or overpricing, of smartphones is changing (social) life as we know it.