Do you view smartphones as social status icons?

Anna Scantlin
Contributing Editor from  Kansas City, MO
| January 22, 2014

It's weird sometimes how easily we as people can get caught up following certain fads just to fit in with others, even if they're ridiculous. Paying $200 for a pair of jeans that have been overwashed and pre-torn for me? Yeah, I did that. I did it because I wanted to fit in with all of the other kids in school, and I didn't care how much it would cost me. Among other fads that mostly served as fashion statements at school, it was also the first place that I realized that not only did your clothes serve as a representation of your social status, but so did certain emerging technologies. When I was in high school, what phone you used was the first indicator of just how hip or rich you really were. 

It was a pretty simple structure at the time: iPhones meant you had rich parents or you were responsible enough to hold down a job, both qualifying you to be a good candidate for a friend; BlackBerry meant you were a little behind the times, but since a lot of people still used BlackBerry (more specifically BBM) at the time you were still in good social standing; and no matter how you tried to put it, using an Android device did not make you the tech-savvy, liberated-from-the-Apple revolutionist that you thought it would make you. Instead, you walked around carrying the "poor man's iPhone". As for owning anything else, you pretty much just didn't talk about what you used. Ever. You might as well have been using a potato as far as anybody cared.

But that was back in high school, at least for me. Not only am I at an age now where most of my classmates have graduated from high school, but have also graduated from college, so you'd think at this point that most of the petty "The stuff that I have makes me better than you," phase would have ended by now. For those of you are at  or have surpassed this age, you've probably figured this out as well: that phase doesn't end. It never ends. It just... evolves.

And while smartphones aren't anything new, it seems like now more than ever you're judged based on what type of phone you carry.

The social stigma around certain devices has changed since I was in high school. Using a BlackBerry in 2008 or 2009 was acceptable, but now you hardly hear anybody brag about using a BlackBerry. Anytime I've asked somebody why they use a BlackBerry (out of pure curiosity, mind you) the usual response is a quick "For work." It's been a long time since I've heard anybody say they're using a BlackBerry because they actually like it. However, flip the switch and ask somebody why they use an Android and they will proudly tell you precisely why they use Android, and will likely tell you why it's better than every other platform. The same can be said for people using the iPhone. Windows Phone tends to be a mix of people who proudly use it and people who really just like having a decent camera with phone capabilities. 

Interestingly enough, just as I was checking a message on Facebook, I noticed this update in the background:

Although I know the person who posted that status was saying so satirically, it's not all that far off from what a lot of people actually think regarding smartphones, platforms or even manufacturers(even if two compared manufacturers are running the same platform). For example, most people don't consider a Huawei or Kyocera Android device to be on the same level of prestigiousness as a Samsung, Sony or HTC Android phone - mostly because of the cost of devices. In a lot of ways, the way we see smartphones follow the same way we see cars: if it costs more, it must be better. That doesn't necessarily mean that's true, but it's how a lot of people think.

At this point just about anybody can get whatever phone they want somehow, so it seems moot point to try and judge whether somebody is of better social standing or not based on a smartphone choice, if that's something that's important to you. 

Readers, do you consider smartphones to be an indicator of one's social status? Have you ever purchased a smartphone with the intention of using it to try and fit in (at school, work, etc.)? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

Images via Dafacto, and don't necessarily reflect the views of the author (please don't hurt me)