Apple elitism: expanding the economic digital rift



When Apple first began shipping personal computers back in the early 80’s it was a counter culture device ‘for the rest of us.’ It was perceived as an upstart challenger to IBM, DEC and the other ‘establishment’ mega-corporations. When the Mac debuted the commercials were unashamedly anti-establishment with a fit, athletic woman hurling a hammer through a screen showing a not-too-thinly veiled 1984 big brother image.

For decades Apple has promoted an image of building devices for creative people, and definitely not for the suit and tie crowd. Sure their devices were a bit on the pricy side and yes you were kind of locked into buying Apple peripherals and upgrades that were more costly than those made for other (read Microsoft) products. But the reasoning was that you were buying into a safe environment carefully shepherd by the good folks at Apple – folks you imagined were only interested in making cool devices for cool people.

Apple was going to make the world a better place for everyone willing to climb onto that psychedelic bus.

But as the years have gone by it has become apparent that Apple is primarily interested in producing upscale (and up-priced) versions of products that only an elite few can afford

Apple has always claimed that dollar for dollar their products were actually faster, easier to use, better designed, better built, more imaginative or just plain cooler than other company’s products. In many cases Apple’s redesign of other people’s technologies actually was better designed, better constructed or easier to use. In other cases – not so much.

These days, however, only wealthy people can afford Apple products.

Their computers, laptops, tablets, phones, music players and peripherals are always more expensive than other manufacturer’s comparable devices. Always.

$10,000 for a gold plated Apple Watch? Over $350 for the same watch with no gold and a plastic wristband? And you’ve got to spend over $600 for the phone that powers it. So $1,000 for a watch and a phone. Seriously? Who can afford to throw away that kind of money? Certainly not the counter-culture crowd that was originally attracted to Apple (unless they cut their hair and sold out to ‘the man’).

Are these products really intended for everyday low- or even middle income folks or are they targeting the elite (or elitist thinking wannabes)? How many minimum wage earners can afford a month’s salary for a phone and a watch that will only last a few years?

You don’t buy a Ferrari for its gas mileage or towing capacity or because you need transportation to and from work. You buy a Ferrari because it’s an elitist status symbol.

And you don’t buy an Apple device because you need to do some work or you need to make phone calls or tell time while receiving text messages. You buy an Apple device because it is an elitist status symbol that tells the world you can afford to spend more money than the next guy for something you don’t really need or can get for half the price elsewhere.



Guy Wright

Guy Wright has been covering the technology space since the days when computers had cranks and networks were steam powered. He has been a writer and editor for more years then he cares to admit.


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