Remember when every house party was 10 drunk-ass dudes, brand new iPhones in hand, swinging that goddamn lightsabre app, breaking lampshades and spilling beers.
Remember that? I certainly do. I was one of those idiots.
I was also the guy hysterically telling everyone they should be playing Doodle Jump. Or Flight Control. The guy playing ten games of Words With Friends simultaneously.
I was the guy pulling out my phone every other day to say, “hey have you seen this new app?”
When was the last time you pulled out your phone to show someone a new app?
When was the last time you pulled out your phone to show someone anything?
Yesterday Apple announced the iPhone X. The iPhone X is going to cost over $1800 in this country. Call me crazy, but that seems excessive. I could buy a fully specced gaming PC for that. I could buy a quality 70 inch television for that. A brand new laptop. A second-hand car. A 55 gallon can of lube.
A lot of moolah.
Times have changed. I have no doubt there’ll be people lining up to pay bucket loads for the iPhone X at launch, but I suspect there’ll be less of them, especially in Australia. $1800 is a big number. Enthusiasts will be there, and I get it. I spend $500 dollars a year on rock climbing shoes. Probably about $3,500 on lunch. People buy what brings them enjoyment in life. If that’s a sparkly new phone that recognises your face and animates poop emojis more power to you.
But I have sensed a long-term switch in how I (and others) think about mobile phones.
Once upon a time I cared about the phone I used. I really cared. My phone wasn’t a device that made calls or received text messages -- it was a device that sparked my imagination, a portal to the future. Phones were something to get excited about, so I was happy to pay a premium.
Now I have an Oppo.
I have an old crusty Oppo.
I am the Managing Editor of Gizmodo Australia and the phone I use every day is an Oppo.
Phones aren’t interesting anymore.
I’m about five years removed from being the guy at the house party busting out his phone to show his friends a new app that’ll ‘blow your mind’. Five years removed from checking the App Store each day to find the brand-new software that will literally change the way I live. The disruption is done, the dust has settled.
Here’s a list of the things I use my phone for.
1. Listening to music
2. Listening to podcasts
3. Watching video
4. Checking social media
5. Taking photos
6. Occasionally playing games
7. Searching for answers to random questions
8. As a GPS in my car
9. Messaging (Text/What’s App/Facebook/Whatever)
10. Phonecalls… I guess
That’s a decent sized list and that makes sense. Phones are now inseparable from daily existence. They are intertwined in the fabric of our lives. But this list -- my list -- hasn't changed or evolved in the last three (maybe even five) years. For the last five years I've been using my phone to these normal, everyday banal things. No amount of innovation, increased resolution or processor power has changed what I do with my mobile phone on a daily basis.
Maybe this is it?
Mobile phones have become invisible. Mobile Phones are vacuum cleaners, dishwashers, washing machines. Devices so common, so saturated that we take them for granted. Phones are the things that let us do the things we’ve always done. Phones aren't driving change. Phones aren't transformative devices. They’re just… there. Like they’ve always been there.
And they all do the same thing. There’s no point of difference. The difference between my Oppo and the iPhone X is the stuff of indulgence. A face scanner that probably doesn’t work that well. Resolution my shitty old eyes can barely register. Window dressing. I can’t justify the extra $1000 for window dressing.
I need something that inspires me.
I won’t be buying the iPhone X, but I am considering buying a Tesla Model 3. A $55,000 car that I probably can’t afford but absolutely want because it’s part of a life-shifting paradigm with the potential to actually change the world.
Like the original iPhone did.
I want something like that. But in 2017, is that possible? What does that shift even look like?
Phones are no longer life-changing. So my little Oppo -- my Oppo that lets me listen to my podcasts, make my phonecalls and compulsively scroll through Facebook -- that’ll do for now. That'll do.
Until mobile phones do something worth paying $1800 for again.