Buying consumer goods it not just about functionality. Items like smartphones serve as status markers:
As people ride the wave of technological innovation, judgmental people now include what smartphone or mobile device an individual owns in their criteria for social identity.
Sociology associate professor Coye Cheshire of the Berkeley School of Information said identity is closely linked into these kinds of choices.
The Apple iPhone has been an indicator of approved or superior status among consumers, Cheshire added.
Moreover, mobile device owners often see Apple devices as the top-tier consumer products when it comes to gadgetry.
Cheshire said an iPhone fits for people who do not have the luxury of tinkering with menus. But it does not necessarily mean an iPhone owner only understands little about technology and mobile devices. It rather advertises they have more important things to do with their time.
This is a good sociological reminder: we don’t just make choices for ourselves. Rather, what we decide to buy (plus what we eat, who we are friends with, where we live, etc.) are part of more complex social worlds where our individual choices are formed by and interact with other people. Also, in purchasing technology today, people buy in part because they think they are getting unique devices that allow them to express their individuality. This is happening even as they join millions of others in buying commonly available products.
Of course, these social symbols can change over time. Think of BlackBerry phones – they were once hot products that spoke to someone’s drive and ambition but today signal something quite different.