5 Is Better Than 4: Is Newer Always Better?

As we wait to be helped at AT&T where my wife will be exchanging her recently upgraded IPhone 4S for the new “5” (since we made it under the 30 day limit for not getting hosed), I am forced to ponder this widely held consumer culture belief that newer is better.

Is it? Really? Because I was perfectly happy with not having a cell phone at all until I finally got my first clamshell in grad school. And my life was seemingly free of tech envy and desire when I had my first mobile calling devices. I could call people from anywhere and that was all I needed.

But then…I get a job and my phone needed to be “smarter” but instead I settled for a “Personal Digital Assistant” to help me out.

Years later I was to be presented with a gift by a new employer…a “pocket PC” that doubled as a phone. My first digital leash. Somehow “new” was now starting to stress me out and tick me off.

Then it happened. The clouds parted and the sky started falling. Namely, it started raining iPhones. Touch screens an d intuition and never ending apps to keep you entertained and engaged so you never actually had to interact with an actual human or pick up a book ever again. Our world forever changed. Made “better” by new technology?

But it doesn’t stop there. Year after year In the same rollout- point-Oh fashion as software Apple introduced upgraded version after better-still version. And we have now counted from birth to 5.

But I beg the question: is it really true? Is newer necessarily better? Is 5 going to improve our lives by 1? Or is there some area of our life and happiness that we will sacrifice to convince ourselves that progress is a larger screen and cooler toys?

I think we are throwing off the balance and distracting ourselves with the myth of self improvement through technology.

Or I could just be jealous because my iPhone 5 won’t arrive for another two weeks and my wife has beaten me to the the next best shiny thing.


Categories: Consumer Anthropology, Consumer Culture, Trends | Tags: , | 3 Comments

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3 thoughts on “5 Is Better Than 4: Is Newer Always Better?

  1. You nailed it! No the improvements to the IPhone 5 do not make anything better. In fact, the new docking port means that now we have to purchase all new plugins and accessories, the new headphones that fit to your ear (got to have those now), and a tad bit bigger of a screen. Well, I think that I am going to keep my IPhone 4S with the IOS6 update until the prices drop for the IPhone 5 or Apple decides to introduce yet another IPhone in 6 months.

  2. I think newer is better… because that means the older models sell cheaper. So someone can buy an iPhone 5 for a lot… while I can buy an older model (probably refurbished) for a TON less and still be happy.

  3. There’s a book called Bad Ideas? By a scientist named Robert Winston – he’s done a lot of doco’s for BBC – that’s a pretty good read on the topic. It talks about the pros and cons of technological progression, generally. Bases itself more on weapons and stuff, but it’s still kind of relatable.

    But to answer your rhetorical question: no. Well, I don’t think so. Well, it depends on how you define ‘better.’ People seem to think it makes things easier – I think people (the ones who think that, at least) are idiots. How does adding layer upon layer of complicating technology to your life make things easier? Bah!

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