The iPhone Experiment

The main purpose of this blog…and my speaking ministry…is to keep church leaders informed about what motivates…and doesn’t motivate….young 20-somethings to get involved with church.  It’s a changing world with changing attitudes out there that seems to be miles away from what we are doing in churches today. 

Recently, I decided to take an informal poll of young 20-somethings to see what they thought about the new Apple iPhone.  The blogs, mainstream press and gadget-sites are all ga-ga over this thing…forget the fact that very few people have actually seen one in the wild…much less touched it.  Everyone over the age of 25 with a pulse wants one.  However, I wasn’t convinced that it was even on the radar of younger folks.

The poll was very informal and mostly handled through email on Facebook or MySpace.  While it wasn’t very scientific, I polled a sample of 100 people under the age of 25 from all over the United States over the last two weeks and got 76 responses.  This is what I found out:

100% knew about the iPhone.
92% knew it was launching sometime in June 2007 through AT&T Wireless.
47% personally sought out information online about the capabilities of the iPhone.
21% said they would head into an AT&T store to play with it.
11% said they had some interest in buying one.
6% said they were going to buy an iPhone when it launched.
83% said they had no interest in buying one.

In some follow-up communication I discovered that the main reasons why they were not even interested in purchasing an Apple iPhone was (in order):

1.  The features and capabilities of the iPhone were just not relevant to their life. Apparently it can’t do text messaging, high-speed net surfing, download multi-media messages or have customized ringtones/screensavers (i.e., no individual personality).  They also said it was too big and fragile for their everyday use.

2. All of the hype and marketing made it seem cheesy.  I was confused on this one
so I asked for some clarification.  Here’s one answer that sums up the
point…"the commercials are not geared for young people…they’re a
corporate sell-out to reach 30-somethings…they’re trying to impress
older folks.   Pirates Of The Caribbean is a family movie,
calamari is a rich man’s food and the seafood place they found online
is no place that people my age would go.  It’s so over-hyped and marketed that it just comes off as cheesy."  Enough said!

3. Too much money to pay for stuff they already own. The logic was why lay out $600 when you already own a cell phone, a laptop and an iPod?  Good point.

4. Wasn’t willing to switch to AT&T Wireless.  Some did indicate when their current contracts with other carriers were up they might consider an iPhone.

5. No proven track record.  Most folks I polled are still stinging over the flickering screens and breaking cases of the first generation Macbooks.  They want to wait a few years until the bugs are fleshed out and third party developers have added the features that the iPhone currently lacks.

Why do I mention this poll on a blog for church planters and leaders.  Because modern churches seem to think that acquiring the latest technology some how makes them relevant.  I’ve already seen some church leadership and church tech blogs stating how it will be hip and cool to own one.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m 41-years-old that still worships at the "Church of Technology"…at 6:00 PM on June 29th I’ll be in line at my AT&T store to play with an iPhone.  However, the folks I’m trying to reach for Christ couldn’t give a rip about them.

If young 20-somethings don’t give a rip about the Apple iPhone…what else do I think is cool or relevant…that they don’t?

The iPhone Experiment

6 thoughts on “The iPhone Experiment

  1. Chris,

    GOOD post! I think you’ve hit the nail on the head, and have pointed out something that all of us are guilty of doing at one time or another.

    Having “cool stuff” does not equal growth, or at least not very often!


  2. Josh says:

    Hi Chris,

    While I agree the iPhone is not for everyone, there are some inaccuracies in your information.

    Corresponding with your above numbered points:

    1. The iPhone *can* send text messages and does have high speed internet access, both in the form of WiFi access and Cinglar’s EDGE network. It does not have the _fastest_ cellphone data capabilities, but what is has is still considered high speed, not to mention WiFi which will be much faster than any cellular data access when a WiFi network is available.

    While you’re right it doesn’t support MMS, it does fully support HTML email, which can do everything MMS can do and more. Also, if you’re friends only have MMS, most services have email gateways you can send emails to that will turn into MMS messages to their phone. MMS is a replacable technology, Apple has chosen to replace it by full-featured email. I prefer this solution.

    2. As for not being geared towards young people, I believe you are somewhat right there. This is an expensive device, that most young people can’t afford to buy themselves. That being said, the Solutions Research Group released a demographics report of over 1000 people definitely interested in purchasing the iPhone:

    While the average age was 31, there was still 31% of the respondants aging 15-24.

    3. This is a reasonable point. If you have a fairly capable phone, an iPod, and a laptop, then it doesn’t make sense to add an iPhone to this list of devices. But if you’re in the market to replace either the phone, iPod, or laptop, then you might consider replacing all three, or at least two (the phone and iPod), with an iPhone.

    4. Being tied down to another provier via contract is limiting anytime someone wants a new phone. Most new, nice phones, are very expensive without starting or renewing a service contract. This is a very reasonable point.

    5. I entirely disagree with this point. Apple has a very well proven track record with the iPod and their Laptops. Granted, there are issues with new hardware for any manufacture, and it is certainly possible that will be the case with the iPhone, but I believe Apple has a fairly descent track record for dealing with these situations.

    So all in all, I mostly wanted to correct the points in #1, as you didn’t quite have all the facts there, but the rest of my responses are mostly opinion and you’re free to disagree.

    But I do think you overstate the lack of interest by young people in the iPhone.



  3. Josh – Thanks for your input. The focus of my blog post was more for church planters than tech folks. My point was not whether the iPhone is a good device…it was to show that what folks 25+ think is relevant…may not be to the generation behind them.

    Obviously my data was acquired through informal…and non-scientific means, however I stand by the results. I think in this case…whether the iPhone turns out to be industry changing technology or not…perception is reality. The perception of the young 20-somethings I polled is that it is “much to do about nothing”.

    I rarely respond to comments made on my blog…as my thoughts are usually in the initial post. However, since you offer up some technical arguments with what I found, I wanted to offer a slight rebuttal to your points #1, #2 and #5. Before I do…let me clarify that I’m a huge Mac and Apple fan!!!

    Point #1 – I appreciate you clearing up some of the questions about the capabilities of the iPhone. Most of what you offered has only been “leaked” in the last week or so…past when most of my data was collected. However, I believe that Apple has done damage to itself with playing it so close to the chest about the iPhone. Most of the people I polled understand the competitive nature of the cell phone/technology business…but thinks that Apple’s concerns over bootlegs or stolen technology hampered it’s ability to really share the “magic” of the iPhone to the consumer. In the end the folks that responded felt like the “top secret” feel that Apple thrust upon the iPhone caused people to be interested…but not necessarily want to buy.

    Point #2 – I hope to goodness that Apple didn’t spend one red cent on the demographic study by the Solutions Research Group…what a flawed piece of crap. Of course 31% of the 15 years in America want an iPhone. They also want no zits, a driver’s license and highest score in the nation on “Guitar Hero”. To lump 15-24 year olds together is just plain dumb. There is a huge difference between what a 15-18 year old wants and 19+ year old wants. I seriously doubt the reported 31% would hold up if you drop the high school crowd from the data.

    Point #5 – Yes, Apple DID have a good track record…until recently. The demographic I discussed in my post was the target for the Macbooks and Nano…and a major buyer of them. Broken Macbook cases and scratched Nano screens is not a distant memory…it was last year. The 19-25 year old demographic doesn’t have a lot of money to throw around…they have even less time to fight Apple (which quite a few did) to get things fixed. Apple finally fixed the problems…but not before they ticked off a bunch of young 20-somethings. Those memories apply to potential iPhone sales.

    Finally. there was someting I left out of my initial post. There seems to be a big “no confidence” issue I discovered in the folks that responded to my poll. The fact that Apple has kept a tight lid on the project, only agreed to one service company, waited to launch on the last day of the month, will release the product on a Friday (which Apple never does) and begin sales after office hours…says to the young 20-something consumer that the iPhone may not be totally ready for release…that there are still many bugs to iron out.

    Thanks again for dropping by and keeping the blog lively. Usually it’s just us church leadership freaks in here. It was fun to have a conversation that didn’t start with “but according to the missional model on church planting….”!!! 🙂


  4. May I submit my reasons Iphone sucks,

    1. 2-megapixel camera when others have 5-megapixel shooters on board

    2. 5-hour talk time: not enough battery life

    3. No expansion slot. Go for the 8-gig model and that’s it.

    4. No 3G: EDGE is so last year

    5. No removable battery: You mean we can’t take along a spare battery?


  5. Chasing relevancy seems so backward to me. Trying to figure out a relevant way to ‘attract’ people to come to church sounds really silly.

    The church is a gathering of believers. Those believers should be ‘going out’ into the world and preaching the gospel, converting people to Christianity and those converts should be going to church to be discipled.

    If you tie your ministry to relevance then you’re going to end up in the Graveyard of Relevance.


  6. Great post. Although, I like Apple much better than MS, I have to say I’m 33 and don’t own an iPOD nor do I plan to own an iPhone. I have enough distractions and leashes and they simply aren’t necessary. To me everyone has it because they are competing with everyone else. I refuse to play that game. They can have their igods…

    Now a recent microsoft technology really has me thinking about how a pastor could preach and instead of having to rely on a linear presentation on screen, they can have a spirit led or organic approach as they are teaching.

    I can see these on podiums in the front churches


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