Can Americans Still Afford Cellphones?

Leaving the house nowadays, the running list seems to consist of keys, this year face masks but mostly phones. Living without a phone for more than a few days is virtually impossible. Making calls, organizing transportation, navigation all require a little help from the internet. These small smart computers in our pockets, guide us through much of life, making it a valuable item. My question is are smartphones becoming unaffordable, especially in a fast paced upgrading society? In the New York Times article, The True Cost of Upgrading Your Phone, the equates a new 1,000 Iphone to almost 2,500 cups of coffee or $17,000 in interest in 30 years.(Chen, 2021) Most Americans still prefer to go on cell phone plans hosted by companies like Sprint, Verizon or Metro but breaching a contract for a new phone can cost hundreds of dollars, especially if your old phone is broken and untradeable. Pew researchers estimate that 23% of American adults have enough savings set aside to cover three months of emergency expenses from a study from 2020. (Parker et al., 2020) The Pandemic continues to create problems for the economy, from industry ranging from supply chain to restaurants, the list goes on affecting people’s livelihood but the advancement of interconnected technology like smartphones continues at a rapid rate. The American public has a conflicted relationship with this particular device because of its power to put us at the center of the tech ecosystem which scientifically produces serotonin and dopamine but on the other hand do not retain no long term value, much like a car depreciates with time. Apple phones specifically are manufactured in less expensive ways than they were before, making them a less durable phone, not to mention all of the charger pairing issues. Samsung, does brag about their design taking in durability concerns but has unfamiliar internet highways for loyal apple users. The United States population alone has doubled its smartphone ownership by 50%.“Only 35 percent of all U.S. adults owned a smartphone in 2011, compared to 85 percent of adults who own a smartphone, as of February 2021.” ( S.R.T., 2021) The rate of cell phone users will only continue to grow as the technology data can be relied on at more high speed rates and digitization becomes more immersive. As a society we need to find ways to make these devices in a more sustainable way that decreases the rate of purchase while allowing citizens to still connect to the world’s information at an affordable rate. I’m not saying that cellphones should be added as an unalienable right but be more conscious of the present day consumer and the cost of living. Once again, I find myself at the mercy of another technological device hoping I can keep them from harm’s way long enough not to make a human error of dropping, losing or spilling something on it.


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