Apple Sells 10 Million iPhones on Opening Weekend. But Why?


The New York Times reports:

The company on Monday said it sold more than 10 million of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus models in the first three days they were available in stores. That is higher than the nine million new iPhones it sold last year in their first weekend on sale.

The phones' larger screens — 4.7 diagonal inches for the 6 and 5.5 for the 6 Plus — are a considerable jump from the 4-inch screens of earlier iPhones.

The iPhone sales were on the high end of financial analysts' expectations, which ranged from 6.5 million to the "low teens" of millions of sales.

Why are iPhone 6s so popular? And why did so many people get weak in the knees over the release of iOS8, the mobile operating system that Apple released last week?

As it happens, I'm reading economist Russ Roberts' forthcoming book How Adam Smith Can Change Your Life, which argues that Smith's Theory of Moral Sentiments (first published in 1759) is a great guide to conducting your life. At one point, Smith wonders why the hell so many people in his day were intriqued by the newest gadgets, even writing:

How many people ruin themselves by laying out money on trinkets of frivolous utility? What pleases these lovers of toys in no so much the utlity, as the aptness of the machines which are fitted to promote it. All their pockets are stuffed with little conveniences. They contrive new pockets, unknown in the clothes of other people, in order to carry a greater number.

So who exactly is buying the iPhone 6? Cool hunters desperate the next new thing or folks stuck with iPhone 4s or clamshell LGs (they still exist!) finally making an upgrade? What is the pleasure of getting something while it's still hot?

And what the hell happens when the new Samsung Galaxy Note Edge comes to market next month? Most impartial observers will note that for all the hoopla surrounding the new iPhone, Apple has basically been sniffing the rear of Samsung in terms of providing larger screens for years now…

Last week in a column for Time, I suggested a more philosphical reason for our obsession over new Apple products: They give us the illusion of control over our lives and the comforting notion that we are running our machines rather than the reverse:

Our gadgets—phones, tablets, PCs, wrist monitors, you name it—are nothing less than the magic that we use to generate the illusion (and sometimes the reality) that we can actually control our lives. "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic," quipped the science fiction legend Arthur C. Clarke, whose dark vision of a super-computer that bends mankind to its will animated 2001: Space Odyssey. A similar question haunts us, especially whenever our OS fails and we find unexpected, unscheduled, un-busy time on our hands: Are we running our machines or are they running us?

And there's this:

No company, even one as worshiped by its fans as Apple, is ever more than a couple of flops away from being cast into furnace of hell.

Read the whole thing here.