Apple is brainwashing us, and we like it

Photo courtesy Bleu Bell

In a perfect world, everyone would have food, shelter and an iPhone. We would all be driven by our autonomous “Apple cars” via Project Titan and sport our favorite pair of ARKit augmented reality “Apple glasses,” before coming home to our Apple HomeKit smart home.

Imagine being in one of thoseBlack Mirror” episodes where technology becomes so advanced and convenient that every consumable we interact with is “smart, right down to the lamp by our bedside.  People would lose their humanity, as artificial intelligence and big data continued to incorporate into our daily routines –  a common warning in the Netflix original series that often goes humorously ignored.

According to Marketing91’s “Top 20 most popular brands” in order of brand equity, Apple ranks second, just behind Google, as one of the most powerful brands in the world that “inspires 100 percent brand recognition and popularity.”

After becoming the world’s first trillion-dollar company in August 2018, it’s safe to say that Apple is more than just a tech company. It’s a meme that’s been embedded into our minds as indefinitely superior.

Walk into a room, ask “Apple or Android,” and the results will be far from shocking.

Apple has been known to have inconvenient shortages when releasing a new phone and slowing older devices shortly before a new one is released. This is referred to as “planned obsolescence,” which was first theorized during the Great Depression when a real estate broker suggested the government stimulate the economy by placing artificial expiration dates on products, according to Catherine Rampell at The New York Times Magazine.

As an Apple user myself, I often wonder if I love the product or the sheer exclusivity of the brand. I’ve never owned a non-Apple mobile device and can remember my first iPod Nano. In a conversation with Christine Monaghan, director of corporate communications at Apple, she shared with me the secret to Apple’s success when it comes to having a consistent competitive advantage: Apple is for everyone. An iPad is probably the only device besides a microwave that has such a simple graphical user interface, that both my 74-year-old grandfather and 2-year-old sister can understand it.

Everything is there, conveniently organized with minimal bloatware, and pleasing to the eye – except those horrid green bubbles. There’s something about those loud, hideous green text bubbles that make me not want to text Android users back, nor do I want to be their friend on Snapchat because their cameras operate as if they are covered in Saranwrap.

But why are these memes? Why is there such cultural hatred for Android users when after comparing the specifications, we can see the obvious winner. The iPhone X and Galaxy Note 9 both have the hefty price of $1,000 but only one of those products actually delivers bang for our buck. What’s a headphone jack, adjustable aperture on the camera, more water resistance, fast-charging and a bigger battery compared to a superior processor and Animoji? We give up things that should be tech necessities, such as a headphone jack and fingerprint scanner, just to ride the elite wave of Apple Watches and Airpods. It’s an Apple World. Not everyone cares about customization, widgets, or special features, making Samsung the mecca for techies and right-minded consumers who refuse to pay $1,000 for an inferior product.

Although competition has increased and Apple is no longer alone on the pioneering end of technological advancements, it has already won when we decided FaceTime and iMessage games were worth shelling out a few hundred dollars more.

However, this convenient Apple ecosystem that connects all our favorite devices might not be worth it for long.

According to Chen Guangcheng at The New York Times, in 2017, Apple announced it would be partnering with Guizhou-Cloud Big Data, a state-owned company with the Communist Party, to build Apple’s first data-storage center in China. Every capitalist and American bone in my body says there’s nothing good about a giant cache of personal data in the hands of an authoritarian regime.

According to Apple’s new terms and conditions of agreement with China, customers must “understand and agree that Apple and GCBD will have access to all data that you store on this service, including the right to share, exchange and disclose all user data, including content, to and between each other under applicable law.”

The second most powerful brand in the world is storing personal data in a country whose president is cracking down on human rights and freedom of speech. However, this fact is also not convincing enough for consumers to make the switch.

There’s something unsettling about the power consumers give corporations in exchange for convenience, and Apple is a prime example of convenience “in a box.” With deep emotional ties and hands in our pockets, Apple is not going anywhere except more mainstream than before. Not even basic consumer logic and cost benefit analysis can save us from this forbidden fruit.