The Spectacle Blog

Apple’s New Divisive Devices

By on 9.20.13 | 2:45PM

The new generation of iPhones goes on sale today. The iPhone 5s and its stunted younger brother, the iPhone 5c, may not be the most innovative smart phones, but they are certainly proving to be the most divisive. 

“Will New iPhone Colors Create a Hierarchy Among Users?” NPR asked. Already commentators are sniffing around the bush of social injustice, asking whether this next wave of devices is intended to drive a wedge between the technological bourgeois and the impoverished proletariat. 

These lonely, decrepit, second-tier smart phone owners might turn to their plastic phones and ask, “Siri, why don’t I have nice things?” Then they will sign into their respective social media accounts and spurt insufferable commentary worthy of the hashtag "#FirstWorldProblems."

The tone of NPR’s article also suggests that soon price discrimination based on market segmentation will be persecuted right alongside racial discrimination, and discrimination of national origin, gender, religion, age, and disability. 

The plastic, multi-colored iPhone 5c will cost $99 with a two-year service plan, compared to the aluminum $199 5s. The latter will come in silver, a new gold color option, and “space grey” for the forward-looking aristocrat.

Both the new-age 5-superior and the 5-cheap—“the iPhone of many colors,” as some call this new wizardry—are making tech gurus everywhere wonder if neon is the new silver.

Yet, compared with the affordability of Android phones, there’s no contest. The new iPhone case alone costs more than a Nokia feature phone. Android now dominates 79.2 percent of the global market share, up from 64.2 percent last year.

One tech reviewer called the 5c “essentially an older iPhone repackaged in colorful plastic.” Another reviewer called it “evolutionary but not revolutionary.”

The 5s features a new processor, a longer battery life, a larger display, a fingerprint sensor, and an advanced camera with a “motion coprocessor” for exercise applications. The A7 processor will be “up to twice as fast” and the battery can last 250 standby hours, as opposed to the 225 in previous models.

But the cheaper iPhone option doesn’t have to be about social hierarchy. For those of us prone to losing our phone, the 5c offers a lower-risk option to alleviate future costs. Lost phones cost Americans roughly $30 billion a year. Every 3.5 seconds, someone in America loses their cell phone.  Where are they most likely to lose it? A coffee shop, followed closely by bars and offices, and rifts in the time-space continuum.

It seems infinitely more likely that Apple’s product differentiation is really about giving more people more access to top-of-the-line technology. Here’s what Tim Cook, the new Steve Jobs, isn’t telling you: In his pocket he has a carbon fiber-bodied “midnight universe blue” 128 GB iPhone that he can unlock just by looking it. And don’t even get me started with the secret iDrone project hell-bent on world domination.

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