In an astounding new study conducted by Columbia Business School, researchers claim that we might actually be breaking our iPhones on purpose. They call it the “upgrade effect”, which involves us being subconsciously more callous with our phones when the newer model is about to arrive or is already available in the market.
Researchers, Silvia Bellezza, assistant professor of marketing at Columbia Business School, Francesca Gina, a professor of business administration at Harvard Business School and Josh Ackerman, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Michigan found that to avoid the guilt of vanity when buying a newer model, people are more likely to be less careful with their current ones so that they “have” to buy one when it breaks or gets lost by “accident.”
First, a dataset of 3,000 lost iPhones, collected from IMEI Detective, was analyzed. They saw the trend that as the release date of the next model approached closed, the number of reported lost phones rose uncharacteristically.
This can be seen in the graph below, where the number of iPhone 5 reported lost peaks in the month of August (red line), close to Sept. 20, 2013, which was the launch date of the iPhone 5S. Similarly, the number of iPhone 5s lost devices also rose close to the release date of iPhone 6, Sept. 19, (blue line).
In another online survey from 602 mobile phone owners, which also included iPhones, the researchers noted that people are more negligent towards their phones closer to an upgrade date. The researchers controlled the variables of the price paid, purchase method, and value depreciation.
The study was published in the American Marketing Association. Bellezza of Columbia said in a statement.
“We would feel guilty about upgrading without a reason—but if our current product were damaged or depleted, we’d have a justification to upgrade without appearing wasteful. So, we use our phone in the rain or leave our laptop behind at airport security without being aware that our carelessness has an underlying motivation.”
We already saw a TV commercial from Virgin Mobile based on this phenomenon called “Happy Accidents,” where the phone owners are seen to be throwing their phones away “accidentally” to buy a new one.
So, the next time you leave your iPhone in the taxi or drop it in the pool, blame your subconscious and Apple for their latest model. And hey, if you want a new one so bad, just go and sell your previous model. A lot more sensible than running it!