Saturday, August 23, 2008

Oh! Let's Wear That Phone

Apple announced the birth of iPhone in Jan 2007 and since then the global iPhone craze has been phenomenal. In case you have not been told, it has stormed Singapore on 22 Aug.

The media were all feverish covering stories from all over the world about this135g gadget and the Time magazine called it the Invention of the Year in 2007. I have moments of difficulty trying to grasp the whole obsession and feeling somewhat alienated when I fail to echo the same excitement. Should I see this as a great technological adoption or maniacal pursuit of fashion statement?

I own a mobile phone (who doesn't?) and I understand the usefulness of having one (or more?). In Singapore, there were 1225 mobile phone subscribers for every 1000 population in 2007. Today, the number can only be bigger. Simplistically analyzed, the statistics suggest that everyone owns at least one mobile phone, not including those forgotten older models tugged away in the drawers.

The phone makers and the telcos are on high alert about this must-have gizmo in the new era. Their range of products and services speaks clearly of their intention to cannibalize the entire population. Whether you are the geeky or the geek-phobia, they have something suitable for you. Whether you are the rich or the poor, you can find a model that meets your budget. Whether you are the young or the old, they understand what appeals to you. Whether you are the masculine or the feminine, you can find designs that bring out your inborn or acquired gender inclination. Yes, the gadgets are cool and the competition is hot!

I have laid my hands on an iPhone (even before its arrival here) and I can understand the appeal it brings. The new owner was beaming and bursting with pride when she shared her new toy from the USA with me.

I held it gently in my palm trying to fall in love with it in the same way she did but nothing stirred in my heart (~sign~). I thought briefly: What can it do that its competitors cannot? I could not quite pinpoint anything.

I turned to her, perplexed. I wanted to understand what compelled her to own it. After all, all mobile phones do the same tricks. She did not quite answer me but instead, she retorted, "You need to put on your clothes before leaving the house and would you rather wear something nicer or otherwise? All your clothes cover your body just the same, don't they?”

OK, she got me there.

When Graham invented the telephone more than 130 years ago, fashion was the last thing on his mind. But today, it will be suicidal to sell something solely on functionality merit. I begin to think that keeping up to date with technology does not stop at knowing how it works. I need to keep up with the fashion that it brings along, too.

So, is it time to change my mobile phone? Shall I get an iPhone? Oh, wait, maybe a Vertu ... Oh, nah! Unless you are thinking of giving it to me free. Looks like I won't be buying an iPhone or Vertu anytime soon.

Sapient? Dated? Obstinate? You decide.

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