I have always thought of Apple’s products as being cool. Because of this, in addition to being easy to use and great looking products, they’re also status symbols. This has been true for iPods, MacBooks, and iPhones. People didn’t want music players, they wanted iPods. People didn’t want phones, they wanted iPhones. Recently, I’ve been hearing things that indicate that this may no longer be the case. Three times within the last week or so I’ve come across references that young people do not want iPhones anymore. This is not because other phones are easier to use, more functional, less expensive, or look better but for a far more important reason. iPhones are the phones used by their parents.
The first I heard this was in episode 42 of Andy Ihnatko’s podcast, “The Ihnatko Almanac” (Listen here at about 32:00). Andy asked a teenager he knows who recently bought a smartphone why he didn’t buy an iPhone and was told “my Dad has an iPhone”. It’s not that his phone is better, just that it is different than his Dad’s. I thought it was funny, but didn’t think much about it until a few days later.
I next encountered the same theme while reading Brian S. Hall’s hysterical (and profane) piece recounting the horror of his son’s decision to buy an Android phone and not an iPhone. While they argue about which phone his son should purchase Brian says “But iPhone is better!” to which his son replies “I’m not getting the same phone my father has.” There it is again. Better has nothing to do with it.
Then I saw Samsung’s latest Galaxy S3 commercial and saw it happen again. As you may be aware Samsung likes making fun of the Apple faithful waiting in line for the latest iPhone and this commercial is another in that tradition. At one point in the middle of the ad, a young person in line reveals he is not actually waiting to buy the iPhone but is holding the spot in line for his parents. Again, the iPhone is for parents, not the cool kids.
All of this evidence got me wondering about some things.
First, did this just phenomenon occur naturally or was it the result of marketing? Samsung is pressing this in their commercial but is that just a reaction to something that is already happening or did they do something to help it? Natural or not, it certainly makes sense for them to take advantage of it.
Second, is this something Apple needs to be worried about? Apple’s stock is at an all time high and they sold 2 million iPhone 5’s the first 24 hours they were available so I wouldn’t worry too much about them right now, but could this be the kind of thing that can hurt them a few years down the road? Are Apple’s days of being cool over? When my kids reach their buying years will they consider Apple like I consider Buick – a nice product but for the previous generation?
Last, and most importantly, does this mean I’m old? Actually, don’t answer that. Just get those darned kids with their Android phones off my lawn!