Gadget Lust and Envy: The Tradition Continues

June 8, 2009 by  
Filed under Spending

You have to hand it to American consumers. They aren’t going to let a little thing like a severe economic recession get between them and their lust for personal gadgets.  Case in point: cell phones.

If you follow technology talk as I try to do, you know that some consumers are reveling in the release of the Palm Pre smart phone. Folks were lining up this weekend to get the latest in cell phone wizardry. Some call it the iPhone killer.  Indeed, one Pre buyer smashed his old iPhone with a hammer in celebration.

Even one of my fellow personal finance bloggers got caught up in the hype.  He was thrilled to snag one of the Pres at his local Sprint store. Unfortunately, when the adrenaline rush subsided, he learned that to use his new toy, his rate plan would go up. That’s the price of tech progress.

The Pre sales would probably have been greater, but for all of the anticipation over the next generation iPhone which is expected to be released any day. I have a couple of younger relatives – still in school mind you – who couldn’t wait and bought new iPhones last month.

Give the cell phone  companies props for their ability to exploit consumer lust for the latest features in their tech toys. LG is even more direct in its appeal to gadget envy with its recently introduced and aptly named “enV” phone models.

Apple follows a common theme among gadget sellers who really know how to extract money from eager consumers. It releases features in waves rather than all at once.

There will be little or nothing in the upcoming iPhone model that could not have been designed into earlier models. But by dribbling the features out in a succession of new “models”, Apple captures the minds and money of the early adopters. These are the buyers who must have it and have it now, “it” being the coolest tech stuff. There is real money to be made from those folks.

And let’s not forget that the purchase of the latest cell phone technology often triggers an increase in monthly plan charges, as it did with my blogging colleague.

I suppose we should look at the bright side. Product lust and envy may be downsizing itself from McMansions and motor vehicles to cell phones. That reduces its impact on the family budget. Let’s hope we can keep it there.

As a final note, Mr. ToughMoneyLove must confess to lusting after electronic gadgets himself. But I am getting better at not acting on that lust. My Windows Mobile phone – which was full-featured when I bought it – is now 34 months old and still going strong. When is this thing going to die so I can justify a purchase of that nextgen iPhone?

Do you have gadget envy? Do you submit to it?

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10 Responses to “Gadget Lust and Envy: The Tradition Continues”
  1. I’ve got an iPod, an HDTV, and a Blu-Ray player. But my Nokia cellphone is about 5 years old. It’s an old-fashioned brick, doesn’t have a camera, and a couple of the keys stick. But it was free with my contract, and I can’t see shelling out more cash for something that has extra features that I probably don’t need. Plus, if I drop it on the ground, and it breaks, I won’t have to feel bad.

  2. SJ says:

    I have two ipods, both of which i won from raffles ^_^, a macbook pro (last year’s model), provided by my university… and some other rather old stuff.

    I have gadget envy for a phone w/ internet… I wanna data plan heh. Of course my present phone is nearing 3 yrs, has a camera and works reasonably well. Ironically my parents have been suggesting I get a new phone haha… I think being on a family plan that I don’t contribute to may be one reason I’ve been waiting. It’s harder for me to just go in and completely change phones and billing plan… that and I am lazy!

    I think i want a phone w/ internet just to have a toy in those awkward 30 min wait periods, i.e. public transit, ordering food to go, etc… lol…

  3. My Journey says:


    I get that envious feeling, then I start doing research and it subsides. I wanted to get rid of my car until I realized how much the replacement car will cost…I wanted the pre (I have sprint) until I realized the costs involved…I wanted the HDTV, well this one I submitted!

    I actually don’t understand those that don’t “get” that feeling of, “damn it my costs are going up.”

  4. lurker carl says:

    Those darned folks at Tracfone made me give up my ancient analog cell phone for digital. It really bummed me that the new phone feels so fragile and delicate, like it will shatter if dropped.

    The prepaid phone costs less for one year than most folks pay each month. I use the cell phone for my convience, not everyone else’s. Who has time to spend yapping or texting all day long?

  5. M says:

    I have gadget envy. I so want an iPhone. I even work for AT&T and am eligible for a SIGNIFICANT discount on the monthly voice and data plans.

    But my Virgin Mobile Pay-as-you-go phone cost me $20. I spend less than $20 a month for phone service. And as much as I want an iPhone, I don’t want the monthly bill.

  6. Irina I says:

    God, I really love your blog. My iPhone was stolen a few months ago and I’m waiting for my upgrade in August to buy a new one. Just after reading about the new iPhones coming out today, I was torn between the new 32 GB and 16 GB. The smart decision would be to just go with the $99 (!) “old” model, but I just can’t. I can’t! I want the best.

    In all honesty, I have cut out everything else in my life that is of little use to me (like shopping), so having the new faster iPhone will increase my quality of life. But will having an extra 16 GB increase my quality of life that much? Questionable…

  7. I was actually pretty sure the price of my plan would go up. The thing is that you don’t know until you try. The last two times I upgraded, it was very easy to get it reversed with a quick call to customer support.

    However, the fact of the matter is that I’ve been enjoying every feature that Sprint has to offer for $30/mo. for around 10 years now. Ask anyone and they’ve been paying 3 or 4 times as much as that each month. I was fortunate enough to cruise on the kindness of a Sprint customer support person.

    Yes, I think that Sprint is wrong to raise my rate, but I’m paying what I should have been paying all along. And it’s still a huge discount compared to what people pay on other services.

    Lastly, I had said that Sprint provided me with nothing more than they did previously. I’ve been a little wrong on that front… The phone has GPS (assisted by the network as well), and I found myself using it a couple times already. Earlier today while my wife has having foot surgery, I had a real web browser while I waited. I could do visit pages and do work that I couldn’t have before. There were no excuses about it rendering too slowly, waiting for javascript, etc.

    It may be tough, but I think I can squeeze $25 worth of more productivity a month with it.

  8. kitty says:

    About the only “new” (relatively) gadget I have is an HDTV; I bought it when my 10-year old TV broke down. A 46″ Sony LCD.

    I do plan to buy a new desktop computer soon: the one I have is 7 years old, and it just got too slow. I am waiting for the free Windows 7 upgrade to come out. But when I do buy it, it’ll be on the expensive side based on what I want.

    My laptop is newer – only a couple of years – but it isn’t my. It belongs to my employer, and they do tend to upgrade every two years or so. At least they did until the current crisis.

    My cell is several years old, but I am happy with it. I can use it internationally, and this is enough. The only feature I want from my cell is that I can use it for the phone calls. I don’t really need it for anything else.

    No plans about iphones. None of my friends has it – they aren’t much into gadgets either. Even if they had, I am not the envious type. Some people can afford more than others. For all I know the other person has an inheritance I don’t know about or is in debt. I have friends who are relatively rich, and I have friends that are relatively poor. The former can afford more than I do, the latter can afford less. Regardless, I can afford a new iphone, I just have no need or desire for one.

    I don’t know, but for some reason I don’t particularly care about the gadgets. I do care about other stuff. I can spend $200 on a single visit to the Metropolitan opera (orchestra ticket+gas+tolls+parking). You save on one thing, you spend on another thing – as long as you can afford the total bill, you are fine.

    I am actually glad people are buying. Think about Apple employees. If nobody had bought their stuff, how many more would lose their jobs?

    “… buyer smashed his old iPhone with a hammer in celebration”
    Now this is outrageous. I don’t like it when people deliberately destroy things that can still be used. Couldn’t they have given it to charity?

  9. Matt SF says:

    I’m rather anti-gadget these days. Gave up my crackberry in 2006 and haven’t looked back since.

    Silence is golden!

  10. David says:

    I still have my 1st-gen iPhone, and don’t think I will be upgrading anytime soon!

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