Spend, spend, spend

Tech Advisor - - OUTBOX -

Fol­low­ing Ap­ple’s re­cent and rather un­der­whelm­ing WWDC key­note, the as­pect that most ex­cited one of my Mac­world col­leagues was the im­mi­nent in­tro­duc­tion of Ap­ple Pay to the UK. I sus­pect he isn’t alone – not least be­cause I too felt the fris­son of ex­cite­ment at the idea of be­ing able to wave a phone at a barista in or­der to pur­chase an over priced cof­fee. That Ap­ple has mas­sively trumped Google with its race to con­tact­less pay­ment feels like a big win.

But why? It is un­de­ni­ably con­ve­nient to be able to pay in a con­tact­less way. And the tech is fu­tur­is­tic and sexy. But it is kind of weird that the abil­ity to spend money quickly now con­sti­tutes an ex­cit­ing fea­ture. Not least be­cause the abil­ity to spend money we don’t have is what got us in all that nasty trou­ble in 2008.

I’m not com­plain­ing. When I was a stu­dent and the bank handed me a credit card in lieu of an over­draft, I was only too happy to spend its money on CDs from Our Price (dif­fer­ent times, reader, dif­fer­ent times). It took me a decade to pay off all the debt I ac­crued from such frip­peries, but I didn’t have to take the rope when the bank of­fered it. In­deed, I hap­pily threw my head in the noose.

Of course, we now know that buy­ing things on credit is a bad thing, by and large. Es­pe­cially when en­tire na­tions are buy­ing things they can’t af­ford, from other na­tions, who are mak­ing a mint from man­u­fac­tur­ing (and then lend­ing them the money back to buy more stuff). On a very broad level, the credit crunch was caused by the West bor­row­ing money from the East in or­der to pay for prod­ucts man­u­fac­tured in the East.

The trou­ble is that tech com­pa­nies are now of­fer­ing us the abil­ity to bor­row more money, more quickly, to pay for more stuff. (If you are spend­ing your over­draft in Star­bucks, you are bor­row­ing money for stuff, trust me.) What’s more, the hard­ware on which we are mak­ing those pur­chases is – yes – man­u­fac­tured in the Far East. That’s right, in the coun­tries from whom we are bor­row­ing the money, in the end.

I’m not be­ing a killjoy. Or, at least, I am not only be­ing a killjoy. I like a point­less pur­chase as much as the next man. And I am cer­tainly not blam­ing Ap­ple or any tech com­pany for giv­ing the cus­tomer what we want.

But it does con­cern me that in this time of peak smart­phone, we are be­ing sold new de­vices on the ba­sis that they en­able us to buy more stuff, more quickly. It’s a more ef­fi­cient way of get­ting our­selves into fur­ther credit crunch­ery, and we are wel­com­ing it – nay de­mand­ing it – with one voice.

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