What is it about the Smartphone that makes us believe we “need” them? Despite their higher prices, why do we continue to buy the product and all of its supplementary incidentals? What is the driving force behind the technology escalation in the Smartphone industry? Is this market of the Smartphone similar to the power of the market metaphorically exemplified in Leonard E. Read’s I, Pencil? Since the majority of society, especially in wealthier countries, drives toward Smartphone utilization, does this mean Aristotle’s point in Nicomachean Ethics of “that which is desirable is the good, and that which is most desirable is best” is true?
As the younger generations continue to outnumber the Baby Boomers through the test of time in today’s society, Smartphones continue to suck in more and more users every day since the younger generations are so technology-obsessed. Studies show that “94% of smartphone owners worry about losing their phone, and 73% have felt panicky when misplacing their phone”, proving just how technology-dependent our society is5. People today simply seem unable to resist the quick, cool, and effortless style and functions of the Smartphones. Think about it: how often do you really see people nowadays carrying a simple flip phone, able to carry out the basic functions of calling and texting; and how many of those people are over the age of 65? Especially among people younger than 65 years old, Smartphones appear to be the only way to go totaling in nearly 1.75 billion people, two-fifths of mobile phone users globally, “close to one-quarter of the worldwide population”, and by 2017 50% of mobile phone users will utilize some sort of Smartphone6.
Today, Smartphones cost far more than the basic flip phone many sported a mere decade ago. A Samsung flip phone today, equipped with a camera, rings in at almost $13.00, a mere fraction of the cost of an iPhone 5s, ranging from $200.00 to $400.001. Not only are the initial prices exponentially higher for the Smartphone, but also the upkeep of the fragile hardware and software. Mobile plan costs depend according to the network chosen, Sprint, Verizon, AT&T, etc. Cases for these delicate pieces of equipment range from $40.00 to $80.00, depending on the amount of protection, shockproof or waterproof, you want. Clearly, the cost of being a Smartphone user is no pocket change; research shows that “38% of smartphone users say their biggest financial concern is the cost and hassle of replacing it, should it go missing”5. As shown in Leonard E. Read’s I, Pencil, price systems are driven according to what people want. Since people want Smartphones, their prices change accordingly. This is shown when the new generations of the iPhone come out. When the newest edition of a Smartphone comes out on the market, then the price of the oldest edition available decreases drastically since it is less demanded. This goes to show that people, especially in today’s market, value the ‘shiny, new’ edition of a Smartphone, causing the demand for new editions to be astronomical, similar to the price, as shown with the price previously listed for the iPhone 5s.
Time Magazine’s Dan Kadlec writes of “a new category of consumer known as the “smartphonatic”, who changes shopping, banking, and payment behavior after switching to a smart phone”, representing “a quarter of smart-phone users globally” according to ACI Worldwide and Aite Group5. While these changes to a lifestyle seem harmless, even insurmountably more convenient for the average consumer with a Smartphone, one must question how much of a good thing truly is too much. If you take into account Aristotle’s argument of Eudoxus’ explanation that “pleasure [is] the good”, then this Smartphone craze is great. Eudoxus says “that which is desirable is the good, and that which is most desireable is the best: the fact, then, that all beings incline to one and the same thing indicated that this is the best thing for all”. If the Smartphone is put into the scenario of what is being desired, then there appears to be zero issue with the convenience fad. But if one looks into 2014 society surrounded by peers with iPhones in their pockets twenty four hours a day, seven days a week, then one might find issue with the trend and its over-the-top reliability. People can use their phones for just about anything nowadays, including navigating to a new restaurant (with the option of by car, by foot, or by public transportation), communicating live over video across the globe, paying bills, cashing checks, the possibilities are seemingly endless; Apple’s App Store carries more than 400,000 apps users can download to complete these tasks. While this all appears desirable, and therefore ‘good’ with Eudoxus and Aristotle’s agreement, the overly reliability causes an incapability to detach from the technology, thus resulting in a suffering of communication with the living people in our world today. The ‘good’-ness defined by Eudoxus can justify the twenty-first century Smartphone craze not only because it is desirable, but also because it brings many users pleasure. Eudoxus argues that “any good thing whatsoever is made more desirable by the addition of pleasure”, showing that the pleasure people receive from the convenience of the Smartphone is, thus, ‘good’ by Eudoxus and Aristotle’s means, proving how much we truly ‘need’ them.
In today’s twenty-first century culture, it is commonplace to recognize that technology is evolving relentlessly with driving forces from multiple groups of people, such as consumers, producers, scientists, world leaders, etc. Leonard E. Read’s I, Pencil is written from the perspective of a basic, wooden pencil, claiming “not a single person on the face of this earth knows how to make [him]”. While the claim initially appears preposterous, seeing as humans have accomplished far more advanced feats than the wooden pencil, such as rockets, cars, and Smartphones, the moral climaxes eventually. First, the speaker says that “there isn’t a single person in all these millions, including the president of the pencil company, who contributes more than a tiny, infinitesimal bit of know-how”, meaning although the final product appears simple, there were millions of factors, people, and pieces of knowledge that had to collaborate in order to produce the basic, non-permanent writing utensil. Secondly, and more importantly, the driving force behind the production of the pencil is revealed when talking about the millions working behind the pencil’s production: “Each one wants me less, perhaps, than does a child in the first grade… Their motivation is other than me… Each of these millions sees that he can thus exchange his tiny know-how for the goods and services he needs or wants”. In other words, the people completing all of the tasks in order to make the pencil are working at a price, a salary, in order to have money to live and spend their money on the goods or services they want or need. People work these simple jobs, yet imperative jobs for the production of the pencil, in order to make a living, thus showing the power of the market. If there is “dispersed knowledge and the role of the price system in communicating information that ‘will make the individuals do the desirable things without anyone having to tell them what to do’”, then people will work for a good, such as the pencil, to achieve another good, such as income4.
It is safe to say that the Smartphone fad has effectively taken over modern day society in 2014. With nearly 1.75 billion users, this fascination seems to be nowhere near slowing down, which, according to Aristotle and Eudoxus, is justifiable since there is pleasure involved, meaning the Smartphone and its reliable functions are ‘good’. Unfortunately, as long as the Smartphone trend continues, the demand will only increase, causing for the prices to increase along with it, since prices convey the opinion of the market as a whole, or what the consumers of a society want, according to Read’s I, Pencil.
- “Apple.com.” Apple Inc.. May 4, 2014. http://store.apple.com/us/buy-iphone/iphone5s.
- Chen, Brian X. “What It Means To Be ‘Always On’ A Smartphone”. NPR. July 14, 2011. http://www.npr.org/2011/07/14/137472487/what-it-means-to-be-always-on-a-sma rtphone. (Accessed May 4, 2014).
- Foursquare. “Three smartphones using Foursquare.” Guardian News and Media Limited. August 18, 2011. http://static.guim.co.uk/sysimages/Guardian/Pix/commercial/2011/4/1/1301665345409/Three-smartphones-using-F-007.jpg. (Accessed May 4, 2014).
- Friedman, Milton. “Afterword.” Foundation for Economic Education. 1976. http://www.fee.org/library/detail/i-pencil-audio-pdf-and-html. (Accessed May 4, 2014).
- Kadlec, Dan. “How Smart Phones Are Changing the Way We Bank, Drive, Have Sex and Go to the Bathroom.” Time Magazine. June 22, 2012. http://business.time.com/2 012/06 /22/how-smart-phones-are-changing-the-way-we-bank-and-drive/. (Accessed May 4, 2014)
- “Smartphone Users Worldwide Will Total 1.75 Billion in 2014.” eMarketer Inc. January 16, 2014. http://www.emarketer.com/Articl e/Smartphone-Users-Worldwide-Will-Total-175-Billion-2014/1010536. (Accessed May 4, 2014).