Apple chief Steve Jobs never told an irate iPhone 4 owner to “relax, it’s just a phone,” despite Boy Genius Report reporting the quote earlier this month. Apple PR, which is notoriously non-responsive to most media requests, eventually confirmed the reported e-mail message was a hoax.
I held out hope that there was at least some truth to it. Perhaps Jobs had showed a glimmer of his humble Buddhist self, I thought, and finally put the iPhone in its place on the great happiness meter in the sky. (After all, a Zen Buddhist monk presided over Jobs’s marriage.)
That hope vanished when Jobs instead put on display his well-known, fiery ego last week. I’m talking, of course, about Apple’s response to iPhone 4’s reception woes. At the press conference, Jobs belittled the problem while touting the phone’s huge demand—as if the iPhone is the actual, certifiable pursuit of happiness.
For those ignorant few people who apparently don’t want happiness in the palm of their hand (or who grip it too tightly), Jobs served up this music video with the following lyrics: “If you bought one and you don’t like it, bring it back … but we know you won’t.” With demand outstripping supply, his underlying message is that someone will gladly take your iPhone 4.
Apple will also send out free Apple cases that fix the problem. “We want to make all of our users happy,” Jobs says.
Then Jobs turned to the evil media hell-bent on spreading lies and making people miserable. As if criticizing the iPhone is a sin, Jobs blasted the media for blowing “antennagate” out of proportion, delivered a bunch of insider stats to back up those claims, and then showed videos of rival smartphones having the same problems.
But who’s really fanning the flames? Apple has built a kind of religion around its products, and Apple fanatics do its bidding by flaming anyone critical of the iPhone. The antenna problem is only the latest example of this.
Yet all of this emotion-baiting makes the iPhone 4 seem more than what it really is, which, of course, is just a phone with some cool apps. And this brings me back to the Buddha and his great warning about thinking and feeling way too much about material things like the iPhone 4.
More than 2,500 years ago, the Buddha came to understand that too great an emphasis on material things leads to suffering. In Apple terms, the latest iPhone with Retina display makes us feel good until it ends up in the washing machine. The feelings of excitement that come with owning a new iPhone are also fleeting.
Not convinced? A story about lottery winners in the March 22 issue of the New Yorker tells us why all the ruckus over a thing like the iPhone is for naught: “One [theory], the so-called ‘hedonic treadmill’ hypothesis, holds that people rapidly adjust to improved situations; thus, as soon as they acquire some new delight—a second house, a third car, a fourth-generation iPhone—their expectations ramp upward, and they are left no happier than before.”
Ah, the irony, for the truth lies in a hoax: It’s just a phone.
Tom Kaneshige covers Apple and Networking for CIO.com. Follow Tom on Twitter @kaneshige. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline. Email Tom at email@example.com.