The Urge to Buy

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There is almost no doubt that on March 11, 2011, people will be lining up outside of Apple stores so that they can buy the new iPad 2. Thousands of pre-orders will come in, along with a ton of sales within the first month. But, what are people really getting?
A faster processor, two cameras, and…that’s it? This “revolutionary” product is nothing more than a few tweaks (that should have been there the first time), and another color. Yet there will probably be more sales of this iPad than the first one. What is this need to compulsively buy new products, when people have an older product that works just as well?
A recent Best Buy commercial poked fun at the idea. People who have just bought 3D TVs complain after 4D TVs come out, and people with new smartphones lament that it is already old technology. This idea that they are out of touch with new technology hits home with many people, who are all too familiar with getting a new iPod or a new TV just because a newer version has come out. In fact, Best Buy has recently initiated a buy-back program, in which you can return an old product that you have recently bought and receive money that can go towards a newer product.
Naturally, people want new things. The social point of view is that you set a bar if you have a new product. You are suddenly “the guy with the new iPad” instead of John, and the guy who is cool enough or rich enough to get these things right away. Furthermore, just the possession of this product sets you aside as an elitist who people can look up to. A new iPad isn’t just a product, but it’s a symbol as well.
A symbol of power, a symbol of wealth, and the list goes on and on. And these reasons, though they are trivial, seem to be important. Well, at least to consumers. The ability to Video Chat, though the world has lived without it for thousands of years, has become the reason why some people are willing to slap down up to $829 for a brand new iPad 2, when their old iPad works just fine. "It's not the products they buy, but the process of buying that matters to them,” said Dr. Ronald Faber in an interview with The New York Times. "When you ask them, 'Can you tell us about something you bought that was really meaningful?' they typically can’t think of a thing, even though they've spent tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars."
Mobile computing has been around for many years, as well as tablets. The iPad is just Apple’s way of tailoring people’s minds, making them believe that when they buy an iPad, they are buying much more than a tablet. They’re buying a revolution, and people want to be on that bandwagon. Conversely, if you do buy every new product, you are brought into an ecosystem. More than ever, companies are using technology to make work that you do on a tablet available on your phone, and on your computer. But is it really worth the price?
Most netbooks cost within the $200-$500 range, and netbooks were supposed to do what tablets are doing: make personal computing versatile and cheap. No company, though, has beat the cheapest iPad price of $499, which might be nothing for a person wanting to experience a revolution. But for more level-headed people, that is too much for a tablet (or any product, for that matter) that only mimics what others have done before it.
I would be crazy if I said that everyone will not have a personal computing device within the next few years. But the idea that every device is better than the next is, well, irrational. I am perfectly fine with my feature phone now, and, despite the urge, will not buy a 4G phone at any point in the near future. Many people will, nonetheless, and this idea that people are buying into a innovative idea is the true problem that our society faces.





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