Why My Daughter Didn’t Want a New Phone

It was my daughter’s 14th birthday last week. I was so excited.

I’d concocted this clever plan to get her a brand new phone. Up until now, she’s always accepted 3rd generation hand-me-downs from my wife and I. Never has she complained. I’ve always been so impressed that she’s never been as obsessed with the newest and shiniest as I am. She’s been using my old iPhone 4S from 2011 quite happily, but the truth is that it’s quite slow and, as a result, not exactly a productivity device (yes, feel free to file under #FirstWorldProbs). I’m expecting it to kick the proverbial can any time now.

As I did my consumer research, I discovered how much more bang one can get from purchasing an Android device over one from our Lord and Saviour, Apple. Since 2008, no one in our family has ever diverged from disobeying our Apple overlords. Strutting my way through my Best Buy checkout, I was pretty pleased with myself for: a) breaking free from the chains of Steve Jobs; and b) getting ready to surprise my unsuspecting daughter with a brand new phone that had about 20 times the functionality of her current paper weight. I’m a bad, bad man, I thought (“bad” meaning “good”). You need to forgive me for being all…


as she was opening the mysterious box. I was so happy to “reward” her for all these years of never bugging us for a new, fancy phone. Instead, I was so puzzled when I saw her do this after realizing it wasn’t an iPhone:

Now, I’ve taught middle school. I know what that anxious nodding of the head means. It’s adolescent code for “I don’t wanna hurt your feelings, but…” I knew something was wrong when she said:

“Um, ya, thanks for… the… PHONE! It’s, um… OK… if I still keep my other one, right?”

“But, Yumi,” I insisted, “this new phone has a bigger screen, about 10 times the processor, more RAM than you’ve ever experienced, and is brand new! You’ve never had a brand new phone before!” I’m not proud to admit how much I sounded like a phone salesman. It reminded me of the time I tried to convince her that kimchi is delicious. The more I stayed on the sell, the less persuaded she became.

I was so bumfuzzled. Really? Was the branding that powerful? She would rather have a barely usable device with an Apple on it than a super phone that can do everything hers does but way better? It took a few days for her to admit the real reason she didn’t jump for joy.

“It’s iMessage, dad. Some of my friends only text through it. That’s more important to me than having a fancy phone. Sorry, dad. Thanks so much for the gift, but I’m good with my phone. If you can’t return it, I’ll owe you the money you spent on it.”

Echoes of danah boyd ringing in my ear…

Originally published at the spicy learning blog.