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The Honor of Early Adoption

The notion that "the first will be last" doesn't seem to bother some folks. When Apple's revolutionary iPhone hit the market in late June, 2007, it sold for $599. Ten weeks later the price went down to $399—a 33 percent reduction. While many who bought the iPhone at the original price were outraged, others would have paid any price to be among the first to own the new technology.

"If they told me at the outset the iPhone would be $200 cheaper the next day," one customer explained, "I would have thought about it for a second—and still bought it. It was $600, and that was the price I was willing to pay for it."

Early adopters—consumers who purchase new technology as soon as it becomes available—relish the prestige of taking home a new toy before anyone else. Despite the fact that electronics often become more reliable in the second and third generations and retail prices for technology always decrease with time, early adopters are undeterred by the risks. The pleasure of owning a rare product far outweighs the financial sacrifice. In the words of one satisfied iPhone owner, "Even if it works one day, it's worth it."

For many, it's the not the technology itself but the distinction of ownership that's attractive. One iPhone owner admitted to buying a Nintendo Wii game system for $150 above the retail price, once he realized how scarce the systems were. He wasn't interested in playing it; he simply wanted to own it.

Such is life in "a land of plenty" that still wants more—and wants it first. We want our neighbors looking over the fence at our gizmos and gadgets. We want someone else to experience the sting of envy. We're no longer satisfied with keeping up with the Joneses. We want to be the Joneses.

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