I got my first iPhone a few weeks ago, at age 30. Not a lot of people know this, since most people who know me know that I like to keep up with the latest in social media and communication.
But it wasn’t always that way.
I was a middle schooler in the late 90s, when ~the~ hot way to communicate with friends was to send messages to each other’s beepers from a landline using numeric codes like 143 and 133. Compared to the emojis and GIFs available on smartphones today, these codes seem comparable to using a carrier pigeon or chiseling a message into stone. But, as a blissfully clueless late bloomer, the only tech device I owned during my tween years was a Tamagotchi.
When I started high school, I was given my older sister’s maroon beeper, complete with a miniature elastic bungee cord, should it slide out of my pocket. As for voice communication, there was the family landline, which I would call collect after sports practice or play rehearsal ended, blurting, ITSKIMBERLYCOMEPICKMEUP when asked for my name. Then, I would hang up and wait.
When I was a junior, I got my first ~real~ cell phone. The year was 2002, and it was an Ericsson that did not flip closed, prompting a classmate to ask, “Does that thing come with its own briefcase?” The phone didn’t have a vibrate function, so it chirped during class whenever I got a text message, but I didn’t mind, because the Ericsson was a major step up from the pay phone.
I T9-texted my way through college on Verizon LG and Razr flip phones. In my early and mid-twenties, hanging on strong to the family plan, I took whatever Verizon phone I could get for free during our biennial upgrade.
But, within the last five years or so, it became clear that I was an Android girl in a world designed for iPhones. Group texts with friends who had iPhones almost never worked correctly. Photos would materialize hours after the accompanying text message. The emoji selection was limited and often mangled in translation. (If an Android user sends a smile and it comes through as gritted teeth, is it really still a smile? Serious philosophical question.) I couldn’t use anyone else’s charger when my battery was low. And major retailers typically only offered cases for iPhones.
While I wanted to be able to download the latest version of Snapchat and use iMessage, I recognized that these were first-world problems, not the end of the world. In the past, when I was eligible for an upgrade, upgrading to the iPhone was still several hundred dollars. A big expense like this wasn’t realistic or important while I was paying down my credit card debt, and even immediately after.
In high school and college, I occasionally got my hair highlighted with money I earned babysitting. My hairstylist said something that I’ve never forgotten. I asked her how long I should wait until getting my roots touched up, and she said, “Wait until you can’t stand it anymore.” That’s good advice when considering any non-essential expense: the better TV, a fresh manicure, a new couch, a phone.
The hairstylist’s advice was in the back of my mind when, a few weeks ago, I became eligible for an upgrade again. Several years ago, I interviewed for a job that involved managing social media for a major brand. In the midst of trying to explain why the brand could benefit from having a presence on Snapchat, I admitted that I didn’t currently use Snapchat. I had, for a while, but I had to delete it from my phone because there wasn’t enough space for it, and it drained the battery. It occurred to me that having an outdated Android phone had put me at a professional disadvantage.
Social media has become an important part of my current job, so being well-versed in popular and emerging platforms has become increasingly important to me. Plus, more and more businesses have developed apps that make everyday tasks easier, from banking to meditating to ordering coffee, but not all of them are available to Android users.
For just under $200, I got the iPhone 6+, and I’m happy with the choice I made. I got a lot of congratulatory “Welcome to civilization!” texts, but I’m glad I didn’t give into the peer pressure sooner. Is there anything more lame than someone with a new iPhone who complains about how “poor” they are? (My friend Donna Freedman wrote a great post about this back in 2010 that still resonates.)
I waited until I couldn’t stand it anymore.