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What Do the Record iPhone 5 Sales Say About America in 2012?

Last Updated: April 5, 2024

As the record breaking sales numbers keep rolling in for the iPhone 5, I’m scratching my head trying to figure out if there is a larger message to America’s unprecedented technology-buying trends this month. Just in case you haven’t been noticing the long lines and barrage of Apple news stories, here are a few of the headlines:

The last video reminded me of the cult-like followings that people have traditionally shown for movies and concerts. There is no doubt about it—everyone’s talking about the new iPhone 5.

I went to a wedding reception the day after the big Apple launch, and two people were talking about the new iPhones and one started bragging. Here’s what happened.

First there was someone I don’t know who came up to me as I was looking at my iPhone 4S for college football scores. I’ll call him “Trevor” (but I never got his name). He slipped his new shiny toy into my other hand.

Trevor: “Feel that, just feel it! Isn’t it amazing?”

Dan: “Cool.”

Trevor: “And look at the size of the screen! It’s narrower, sleeker, just, well, awesome…”

Dan: “Did you wait in line?”

Trevor: “Nope, my company took care of me in advance.”

Next there was another gentleman who didn’t have the new phone yet, but I’m sure he will soon. He was complaining to his friend that the lines were “just too long.” Still, the new phone was so sweet that he had to have one soon. He went on and on about his plans to make his dream a reality.

Enough Already?

If you’re tired of this trend, you can have some fun with this piece that highlights the the 9 craziest headlines of iPhone 5 week.

Other bloggers (like me) are jumping on the bandwagon and offering suggestions for those who didn’t buy an iPhone 5.

So is there a broader message here?

Back in January 2012, I wrote a blog entitled: “Is the iPad the Real American Idol?” Here’s an excerpt:

Our society’s adoption of new technologies has implications for our privacy, security, faith, careers, purity, families, personal interactions, and a host of other topics. So how can we navigate this tough road as we head into 2012 and beyond?….

…We have become a society where people upgrade smartphones and cellphones well before the contract expires, regardless of cost, just because of the cute new color and design of the device…

Before I go on, I must say that I currently have an iPhone 4S, and I love it. I will probably get an iPhone 5 (or 6) at some point down the line. I have no ill-will or bad feelings to those who got the upgrade (nor am I jealous). I think Apple is a great technology company with even better marketing.

I like the features on the iPhone 5, and I suspect I will also like the features on the iPhone 6 even more, when it comes out a year from now.

A Deeper Meaning or Warning?

Nevertheless, I can’t help but think that technology (in this case a smartphone called the iPhone 5) is taking over a larger share of the American dream. As I’ve said on several occasions, including four years ago in my book Virtual Integrity, I think we’re heading for the “Dick Tracy Watch”—with full motion video and any data, to any device, anywhere on earth.

Along the way, I suspect we will have a few more “must-have devices” that grab the attention of the majority—from professionals with six-figure salaries to college kids who want to wait in line for a week.

But are we obsessed with technology? I think we probably are. Will this technology addiction eventually hurt us—like cigarettes did to an earlier generation?

One expert recommends that we “don’t get too obsessed with technology.” Here’s a quote from the Times of India:

Our obsession with latest technologies like smartphones, tablets, or laptops may cause not only distraction, but it may also change our personalities, says an expert. An estimated 65% of people in the developed world have a smartphone, tablet or laptop. And it is predicted that by 2015, eight in 10 of all people would be connected this way—all the time…

In his book, [Dr. Larry Rosen] uses his own and other academics’ research to show how the users of WMDs appear to display the symptoms of an array of personality disorders. One example is narcissism, named after the hunter in Greek mythology who fell in love with his own image reflected in a pond…

Others believe that this technology addiction is a good thing. Here’s a quote:

My goal—to find innovative ideas to bring to the Town that could leverage technology to increase citizen involvement, awareness and engagement. Basically, to make it easier for our citizens to find out what’s going on across town, to get to the information that you need quickly and on any device, and to deliver that information in the way that YOU can best use it.

What’s The Balance – For You?

So what do you think? Are you buying an iPhone 5 before Christmas or not? Why?

How do you balance online and offline life? Where do you draw lines, or do you?

Most of all, I want to know your thoughts on this question: Is the new iPhone 5 the real American Idol? Please elaborate.

  1. Tom

    Will there be a review on how iOS 6 helps or hurts the effort to have accountability on the iPhone?

  2. sapphire

    Cigarettes in the past hurt kids with their 2nd hand smoke, but now kids are being hurt with the 1st hand porn on their smartphones or their friends smartphones (friends may not have blocks)—sorry to repeat—-and many women of college age cant even get adequate DATES anymore much less marriage, since many young people are porn addicts——if possible, we should go on a technofast or suspend the cellphones for nothing but phonecalls, because of no payphones. They they even have smartphones in EGYPT for TWITTER since the males who killed Christopher and sacked the EMBASSY HAD SMARTPHONES–one even had a smartphone in his mouth!

  3. sapphire

    I believe consumerism is only a symptom–i actually believe it’s the TECHNOLOGY! Many kids between 6 & 10 have SMARTPHONES and have PORN on them! Although I use and enjoy the internet, i’m very GLAD it wasnt around when I was under the age of 30. Young people are turning into ‘ZOMBIES’ with their texting & walking down the street–They should change the age teens get drivers licenses to 18 instead of 15 1/2 or 16 today

  4. tony

    wonderful insight. proud iphone4 owner. if i had the money right now, i’d be a lunatic out there geeked out of my mind to get one, but for right now, i just dont have the money and it’s causing me to think differently. i am quite happy for the lesson im learning and the lessons my teens are learning that this is not an ‘on demand’ culture all the time. meaning just because i want something, doesn’t mean i get it NOW. not in marriage, not in relationships, and not in life. the new iphone5 is the new american idol due to the hype of it all and the fact that our culture is enamored with it. i think the fact that we as a society are so overwhelmed by a phone, yet giving very little credence in comparison to so many other world issues, is a sad commentary of what’s important in life right now to so many. its sad really.

  5. I don’t think the iPhone 5 or the iPad is the “new American idol”. I think consumerism is really the idol. We have to have the latest and greatest gadget, car, TV, house, clothes, or widget. If it’s advertised to seem like it it will improve our daily lives or our status among others then as Americans we want it. The idol is not a thing, per se, it’s the culture.

    • Luke Gilkerson

      There are probably multiple layers to any idol. Yes, at the core “idols of the heart” are the main thing (Ezekiel 14). A lust for more undergirds idolatry (Philippians 3, Colossians 3). But the Old Testament is filled with examples of wood-and-stone idols that are rightly labeled as idols. I think you are right: consumerism is the heart sin, but the iPhone 5 is the latest idol that tries to slake that lust.

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