Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Jesus Phone

I was in London on the day of the launch of the new IPhone last week. Crowds thronged the Oxford Street store. Some had been queuing all night. One guy sold his place at the front of the line on ebay for $100. It is a neat little gadget but only available on contract plans at present for a minimum of 18 months. There were problems with the O2 system being unable to cope with the registrations so as of 10.30 the ones who got in at 8.00 had still not been connected. Why is it so important to get a device like this on the first day it is available? Status, the tactile experience, gadget joy, a sense of being there right at the start of something significant are probably all part of it. But the hype has also been extraordinary even by the standards of the well documented cult of apple.

T3 Magazine in its editorial said "At great expense we bring you the second coming of the Jesus Phone". It is a unusual use of Jesus as an adjective. Jesus usually has his name uttered when something bad happens. If this is code for perfection it is hard for a gizmo to live up to, even a shiny one, especially if it only has a 2 mega-pixel camera. If it is an allusion to the second coming of Jesus it is rather anti-climatic since a new world order has not been ushered in. The inside article continues the theme introducing the 3Gesus Phone. This language has been used since the launch of the first I Phone.

The I-Phone is a global movement. Fans speak of the I-Phone community, the I-Phone setting you free, in praise of the I-Phone and even talk of Steve Jobs in prophetic ways and an obsession with the product that goes beyond obsession to worship. One Blog I read spoke of "how the I-Phone saved me". All this religious imagery is quite interesting. People hungry for hope reach out for perfection, the Jesus Phone won't do the job. And as for the second coming of the real deal: people will not be queuing up over night in expectation. Some of them may in fact be busy with the numerous functions on their 3rd or 4th generation phones. That's the trouble with I-Cons. They fool you into thinking you have it all already.

The other danger with something that is your communication portal, digital media player, address book, diary and nexus of digital life is that it could become too important. At which point it crosses over from I-Phone to I-Dol. Still when the fuss dies down its probably worth getting one: it is VERY shiny and there are plenty of cool people in the cult that you can call, text, email or IM.

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