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The newest iPhone is out, the iPhone 5, they’re calling this one. So all of you suckers that still own one of those huge, clunky, thick-as-a-brick versions before the miraculous iPhone 5, hurry up and get your ass over to the Apple Store, and drive up Apple’s stock price again! What the hell are you waiting for?!

Question: Say, how do we know when we have enough cool technology to live our lives properly? Just wondering when — or if — we can say, “thanks, I’m good”.

Yes, technology is cool and it enables us to do neat things like automatically track bike ride distance and time, and organize our lives more effectively, and is definitely useful for many things. But some of us are like mice on a wheel: it’s always the next version of everything that holds unlimited promise to provide the meaning we seek but never find, and never will, as long as we attach meaning to products and things we can acquire in our consumer-mad, technology-driven culture. It’s the whole “glowing rectangles” thing, like The Onion noted a while back, and it’s so funny because it’s so true. In fact, I’m staring at one right now – and so are you!

I heard yesterday on the radio that 1 in 8 people spend $200 a month on smartphone service. That’s $2400 per year so that you can text and get the latest Facebook updates and make a few phone calls. Oh, and check in with FourSquare, which fills a previously-unknown and very mysterious need in some people to inform their 500 or 1000 “friends” on Facebook where they are at all times. Are you sure about that? You might want to revisit that one.

$2400 per year is more than some people’s car payments (and not much less than my own car payment). For a gadget that didn’t exist until five years ago, and is easy to lose, and interrupts our lives and destroys our ability to focus on anything for more than two minutes at a time. My car, on the other hand, is big and heavy and made of steel and rubber and is fun to drive and comfortable and gets me to work and other places I have to go, and gives me an immeasurable feeling of independence and control over my life. So . . . yeah.

But whatever floats your boat, peeps. Yes, I have a smartphone, but I waited until last year to get one, and only because I got an unbelievably sweet deal through Virgin Mobile: $25 a month for unlimited texting and data plus 400 minutes of talk time. Now it has gone up, I think it’s $35. And I moved up to 1200 minutes to use the phone for work, but it is still only $45 per month for that deal, which is way better than the $80-100 per month for an iPhone. Add the cost of buying the new version every 12-24 months, which is another $10-20 a month, at least, and you’re up to $2500-$3000 every two years. Do you really think it’s worth that kind of money, for nicer apps and texting and Facebook on-the-go?

You want good pictures, spend $300 on a nice digital camera with full HD video and a 12:1 optical zoom, and it fits in your pocket or purse – and you don’t have to pay Verizon or AT&T or anybody else a monthly fee to use it! How cool is that?

My Android (LG Optimus Elite) works fine, and it takes decent pictures (not great, but good enough) and has tens of thousands of apps available for it through the Android market (now called “Google Play”). For me, it’s not a lifestyle or a fashion statement, it’s just a phone and an OK camera that is also a frivolous toy so I can do some very light texting and check work email and the like. But I could easily live without one of these, and I still wonder how vital it is to my life, or how vital it should be to anybody’s life. BTW, why do people like texting? Call me crazy, but I’m not a big fan of taking 60 seconds to type on tiny virtual keys what I could say in ten seconds.

But this is what “the kids” do with their money these days. It’s pop culture. So do what you gotta do, twenty-somethings. But some food for thought: devoting that much of your income stream to what is essentially a toy is more than a little silly, especially if you are struggling to find a decent-paying job, or still living with your parents. It speaks to priorities and making sacrifices for your own future, which continues to be the best way to get somewhere in life.

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