The latest iCraze: going gaga for gadgets

By Hannah Leung Source:Global Times Published: 2012-3-14 19:28:00

From this Friday, the new iPad will be available in 10 countries including the US, Japan and Singapore. Apple thus far has not disclosed the release date for the Chinese mainland, though the iPad will be released in Hong Kong on Friday. I'm not devastated by this news; in fact, I'm a bit relieved. I can walk past the Apple store peacefully for the next month or so, without running into angry mobs and hopeful scalpers.

Metro Beijing reported yesterday that many threads online have surfaced in which retailers and scalpers are offering overseas Chinese students $100 per day to line up for iPads, even offering to pay for security guards. This is under the premise that the students will lug the coveted device back to China. I sure hope that a round trip airplane ticket is provided!

While it's comical that people go to extraordinary efforts to pay double the amount on an item made locally, I'm not surprised by the things people do for the latest in technology. It does make me wonder though: why do Chinese people go gaga for Apple gadgets, especially an iPad?

For research, I consulted my tech-savvy friend, Don Chen, a Canadian lover of electronics who owns every Apple product possible. His podcast library is made up entirely of tech news. However, even he shrugged when I asked him about the new iPad. "It's nothing to get excited about. It's evolutionary, not revolutionary. At least, that's what the podcasts told me," he lazily said.

The inflated cost of an iPad is equivalent to the average monthly wage of a white-collar worker in China. This makes it hard for me to understand why Chinese people are willing to incinerate their paycheck for a toy, albeit a sleek, shiny, stylish toy. It's probably because a lot of Chinese people are used to paying exorbitant amounts for technology.

Let's talk about cell phones, for example. In North America, you would have a cell phone plan that commits you to roughly a two-year contract. The carriers bear the bulk of the handset cost, leaving you to pay 10 to 15 percent of the manufacturer's suggested retail price.

Though such plans exist in China, they are not as lenient. This affects the grey market in China, as many overseas students looking to make a quick buck will bring back their new carrier-subsidized phone and sell it to any one of the numerous shops in Zhongguancun. This mentality extends to the technology sector at large, where people expect to pay a lot.  

Apple products, in the end, are about style over function. In China and the world over, they serve as status symbols; pretty gadgets to rest your palms on while sitting in bourgeois coffee shops. I plan on upgrading to an iPhone within the next year, so I can't be too disparaging towards Apple worshippers. The capitalist in me is now wondering if I can get someone to pay me $100 during my next visit out of the country to bring back an iPad.


Posted in: Viewpoint, Twocents-Opinion, Metro Beijing

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