The Lure of Gadgetry

The world we live in is such an exciting and eye-dazzling place these days. What with all the myriad of shiny, newfangled gadgets, itsy-bitsy portable music players, high-tech smart phones and the sleek looking personal tablets. Each iteration comes out shinier than the next, with a shorter product life cycle and more bells and whistles to compete for our attentions and our wallets.

Guilty, I admit that I own a variety of gadgets myself. Some of them are functional and almost necessary, others purely a desire.

There’s an inexorable charm to these cute shiny metallic objects, nicely bubble wrapped in vacuum sealed packages, that brings out the inner child in me. I delight in carefully unwrapping a spanking new gadget and spending the first few weeks of its life obsessing over protecting it and preserving its pristine condition as well as figuring out how to maximise it.

But after the initial infatuation subsides, somehow it looks a little less shiny, and a little less cute. Instead of lugging it around everywhere I go, I start to leave it in some dark corner, eventually forgetting about its existence. When I do chance upon it again when spring cleaning, I start to scratch my head and wonder what possessed me to purchasing it in the first place.

Only to repeat the cycle all over again when the next hyped up gadget hits our shores.

I’m sure many of us have similar infatuations, with gadgets no longer within the boy’s domain. With prettily packaged gadgets, girls are in the loop too. Just a quick look around the MRT will show the popularity of the Apple brand of products that neither discriminates against gender nor age.

However, one thing that does surprise me is the how little it takes to convince us to jump on the latest gadget, even when the so-called improvements are merely cosmetic.

Take the iPhone 4 for example – it was initially released in black, and its white counterpart followed a few months ago. The difference between the two is almost negligible save for its colour, yet there was great fanfare announcing its arrival. Even a colour change is worthy of making a big splash? Incomprehensible!

While that might be an extreme example, a quick look at how regularly we change our mobile phones would help put things in perspective. It is said that Singaporeans change mobile phones almost every six months, and I have an acquaintance who cycles through new phones every three to four months. Even the local telcos have recognized this and try to capitalize on it by offering plans that allow handset upgrades within a year instead of the usual two.

It is a never-ending chase with gadget companies trying to cash in on such behavior by producing new products that have minimal upgrades, shortening the time they need to hit the markets. All these while we’re lured into the vicious cycle of constant upgrading, since each new gadget is supposedly better than the previous one.

Add to that the pressures of the status driven country of Singapore, with the need to show off that you’re as affluent or tech-savvy as the next person, it becomes easy to fall prey to temptation.

Perhaps it is good to finally take a breather from all the glitz and gadgets. Instead, take a closer look at that specification sheet and whether we really need it before jumping on the next electronic bandwagon, just so we can ration our hard-earned money – just a little longer.

Nowadays, I have a little mental checklist that I run through before I make any large and possibly impulse purchases. Some of the questions include: Is it something I need or something I want? Is it functionally useful or just another entertainment device? Do I already have something that serves a similar purpose or is this totally unique? And most importantly, is this within my budget or not?

Of course, sometimes I still succumb to the pressures of temptation that triumphs over logic, but for most part I’ve been able to control myself better. If we could all band together to resist the lure of gadgetry, we might just be able to send the message to companies to finally work on lowering prices and producing quality improvements in each new product cycle again. What do you think?

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