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What Would It Take for iPhones to Go Out of Style?

 

Hand holding an iPhone with a calendar. Photo by Austin Ban.

 

In case you haven’t heard, Apple released a new phone. The iPhone X has been making waves in the technology world and is on Apple’s website with a price of $1,150. Regardless of the lofty price everyone and their mother is planning on buying it. According to statista.com, Apple has sold more than one billion iPhones worldwide from 2007 to 2017. I, however, never really understood the hype surrounding iPhones. I used to have an iPhone and thought it was fine, but never saw what made it so much better than other brands. Because of this, I decided I would simply conduct a survey. I interviewed various classmates and staff members, as well as family members to discover why they thought Apple was so popular.

Most of them said that it was the quality of the technology that made it so well liked.

“I think it’s very user friendly, everything is kind of natural, it’s easy to use… I think it makes life easier,” one interviewee said.

“I like the synchronization of all of their products. The fact that you’re able to do the same thing on all of their devices, pretty much,” responded another.

Others simply thought people got iPhones because everyone else did.

“People will senselessly buy it because of the brand recognition, and they don’t want to be alienated by their friends,” stated someone I talked to outside of school.  

I even remember a relative saying many guys only buy iPhones to impress girls when I brought the topic up in conversation.

There have been allegations in the past of Apple factories abusing their employees––something that not a lot of interviewees knew about when I asked them. BBC launched a secret investigation into Apple factories in China. Reporters went undercover as employees while secretly filming, and reportedly found working condition standards not being met. This is what the BBC reporters had to say about the experience.

One undercover reporter, working in a factory making parts for Apple computers, had to work eighteen days in a row despite repeated requests for a day off.

Another reporter, whose longest shift was sixteen hours, said: “Every time I got back to the dormitories, I wouldn’t want to move.”

“Even if I was hungry I wouldn’t want to get up to eat. I just wanted to lie down and rest. I was unable to sleep at night because of the stress.”

During my interviews, I decided to ask if they thought people would continue to support Apple if the way they treated their employees became commonly known. The answers tended to lean towards the cynical side, saying that people would most likely continue to support Apple, even with the knowledge of how they treat their employees.

“Honestly I think people would. I think people are selfish enough to like their luxuries in life to where the rest of the world becomes second to them,” answered one of the people I talked to.

Another stated: “I think we care more about our personal comforts then we do about other people.”

It’s easy to see where they are coming from, and they’re not wrong on how we treat people who are different from us. This is where I’d like to dive into a concept known as “groupthink.”

Psysr.org states that the term “groupthink” was invented by social psychologist Irving Janis in 1972. According to the website, groupthink is when “ a group makes faulty decisions because group pressures lead to a deterioration of “mental efficiency, reality testing, and moral judgment” (p.9). Groups affected by groupthink ignore alternatives and tend to take irrational actions that dehumanize other groups. A group is especially vulnerable to groupthink when its members are similar in background, when the group is insulated from outside opinions, and when there are no clear rules for decision making. In other words, it’s when you make decisions based on what the people around you would approve of or disapprove of, or put your group of people before other groups.  

Therefore, according to this concept, a lot of people would continue to support Apple even with the knowledge of the misconduct going on in their factories. Since they don’t know anyone who works in Apple factories, they would rather impress their friends than worry about people they’ll likely never meet.

Even so, I don’t entirely agree. I think that people in large would stop supporting Apple, it would just take some effort. The first thing that would need to happen is for the information to spread the right way. The treatment of their employees would have to be a complete scandal, rather than a story that slowly became commonly known. Let’s pretend the videos recorded by the investigators went viral. It’s all over the news, as well as the Internet. This way everyone is confronted with the information at once, and everyone is talking about it.

Once the story is out, people will want to boycott Apple. Maybe not at first, but some people would. The complicated part is figuring whether or not this hypothetical boycott would work. I think it would. A smaller scale boycott to compare this would be the boycott around the movie Exodus: Gods and Kings. The movie was set in Ancient Egypt, but had a predominantly white cast. A lot of people took issue with the whitewashing, and the hashtag #BoycottExodus was started. With all the outrage combined with people avoiding the film in droves, The movie tanked commercially and critically.

If a boycott on Apple grew large enough––and even celebrities and other public figures joined in––eventually Apple would go out of style, which is where groupthink comes back into the picture. How would you justify supporting Apple to your friends if they all suddenly disapproved of it? You’d end up switching to a new brand so that you don’t have to worry about them disliking you.

My thoughts are that people would stop supporting Apple products if it went out of style. For that to happen, someone with influence would have to stand against it first until enough people started following them.

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