iPhone: The New Aussie Offline Status Symbol


Girl with the iPhone 5_tablet

When you first layed eyes on the iPhone,  what were the first thoughts to pop into your head? Perhaps adjectives such as “innovative”, “modern” and “trendy” would come to mind. However, I’m left wondering if the word “status symbol” would also come about. That’s because, in certain Australian societal contexts, that is exactly what it is.

Since the first iPhone exploded onto the scene in 2007, it had a little bit of a slow start. Everyone was still trying to grasp the concept of the smartphone. It essentially indicated the beginning of the smartphone era. In 2011, the iPhone was leading the Australian smartphone charge, with everyone wanting one for themselves.

The iPhone is undeniably one of the most popular brands in the smartphone market. I can assure you that you would see it 8/10 if you scanned a train carriage full of teenagers, university students and business people. Smith (2015) explains how Australia’s appreciation for the Iphone is much more pronounced than other countries. They are everywhere. Yes, the very large fan following of the iPhone is highly obvious, but have we managed to recognise the social status symbol that it has very cleverly constructed? It is a tough question to ask.

Currently I am an Android user, but I must admit that I was one of the million that held my iPhone ever so tightly to my chest as I slept. No, it was not because it had a flashy camera or a sleek design, because there are tons of smartphones in the market that have the same, if not better features. I was lured in because I saw it as my one-way ticket to high-status stardom. I confidently plonked it down onto cafe tables and on my work desk. I made sure it spent more time in my palm in public than hidden in my back pocket. I wanted the Australian public to know that I was one of them and that I was worthy of their attention. That “oh so hip” and “oh so now” piece of metal in my greedy palm was my metaphorical megaphone that aimed to grab the attention of every member of the Australian public that walked past me.

With that being said, the iPhone does play different social status roles in different societal groups. As a university student, I have picked up on the tendency to have your iPhone out on display even when it’s not in use.

Why is that, do you think?

Essentially, university students worship their iPhone as a reflection of their sophistication, completion, wealth status and fashion sense . Some universities have even created links to their website with specific Apple product-related help due to the overwhelming prevalence of the device.

Especially in the adolescent world, the iPhone can be seen (amongst other factors) as the crucial element of group inclusion or separation. It is either you’re in or you’re out. If you have a group of ten sixteen-year-olds, the majority will have an iPhone either visibly hanging out their jean pockets or firmly clutched in their palm as they strut down the street.

Matyszczyk (2014) backs up my claim by explaining how even the model of an adolescent’s iPhone is an important reflection of social status:

“Will they buy the iPhone 6 when it comes out, or be stuck with the slower iPhone 5? Or, even worse, still have an iPhone 4?”

The question as to where this social trend will lead Australian society still begs as there are already 6 generations of iPhones with the popularity barely moving. It will be interesting to see in the years to come if the iPhone will slowly shift from a symbol of sophisticated socio-economic status towards a symbol of high technological and/or professional status. Or perhaps a competitor will knock Apple off its top spot?

Regardless of what the outcome is, the Apple brand should be patting themselves on the back for a job well done.

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