I watched the livestream of the last Apple event while the kids were at school, jotting down the details on the new iPhone 5S and C just as much for my son as for the article I wrote on the new phones. It was the first thing he asked when he got in the car at school pickup: what was the processing chip, did the new phones have the retina display, how many megapixels in the camera? He wanted to know everything about iOS7, and he moaned when he found out he had to wait about two weeks before he’d be able to swing by a store and hold these devices in his sweaty little palm. “Are we getting one?” he asked hopefully.
“Are you kidding me? Our phones are a year old,” I answered.
“But… they’re not an iPhone 5S.”
He’s right. Our phones, cutting edge only a year ago are now two generations behind. Our iPad is pre-Siri.
And to that end, they haven’t just outgrown games; they’ve outgrown gaming systems.
There is always a newer, shinier gadget on the horizon, especially at this time of year when manufacturers want to get your Christmas dollars. As an adult, it’s hard not to get swept up in believing that you need a new iPhone 5S (or even an iPhone 5C… in blue… since it’s pretty) when you hear all the cool things it can do that your current phone cannot. As a kid, it’s impossible not to believe that life will be magically different, as wonderful as those adults at Apple make it sound.
For those with a replenishing money tree in their backyard, obtaining every new phone, tablet, computer, and gaming system isn’t a big deal. For the rest of us, we need to pick and choose what will truly make our life easier and better and weigh that against cost and waste. And then explain to our kids why we’re not getting a gadget that promises to make them smarter while simultaneously making life happier, brighter, and more fun.
We get new phones when our current phones are on their last legs. When the battery no longer holds a charge for a whole day. When the operating system can no longer accept new updates. When it’s missing more than a few of the time-saving tasks that each new generation of phone brings to its user. The same goes for our computers: they’re replaced when our old computers cease to work effectively enough to perform the simple tasks we need them to do. Our iPad will be around until it burns out and dies a painless, gadget death. And that Wii is going to have to be good enough until it no longer allows us to jog around Wuhu Island.
This isn’t a new phenomenon; kids always wanting the next big thing. But the next big thing when I was growing up was a new set of Garbage Pail Kids or a new She-Ra action figure. The items we coveted the most were mostly reasonably priced (with the exception of those Cabbage Patch Kid dolls) and the technology moved at a snail’s pace. The same gaming system could carry you for years and years without any itch to replace it. Our telephones were just… telephones. And while we had a computer growing up, I certainly didn’t know about each incarnation of Apple computer, which came about every few years. (The Apple II sold for 16 straight years with very few changes!) Beyond that, even if I did know about a new piece of technology, I never expected us to get it. My parents either brought it home, or they didn’t. I certainly didn’t care what sort of technology they had.
I think the twins have accepted that we’re not getting the iPhone 5S, nor will we probably get the iPhone 6 whenever that is released. We may even be able to stretch past the iPhone 7 if the models keep coming in quick succession. I have relented and said we could go to the Apple store to gawk at the new devices. I’m sure there will be a lot of coveting and even more hinting (and outright statements) of how much an iPhone 5S could enhance our lives. And part of me believes the hype too. Part of me believes that I would be a more organized, more creative, happier person with the latest tool in my hand.
Luckily the part of me that believes that doesn’t have access to my wallet.
Do your kids covet each new gadget? Do you? And how do you decide when to upgrade when the models come at you fast and furious?