Hype Tax
2 min read

Hype Tax

Is it really a "hype tax" to pay the asking price for something I expect to use every day for years to come, especially if I expect to enjoy using that product better than the alternatives?

(Note: When I wrote this, I'd had my 2010 Macbook Pro for two years and was thrilled it'd lasted that long given past experiences with other machines. It lasted me a total of nine years and four months, and I just retired it in July 2019. Safe to say this one aged well.)

The other day I saw someone use the term “hype tax” to describe the cost of Apple’s products, implying that Apple’s products are entirely marketing and novelty, with no quality or substance:

If you do the research, you will normally find products of equal or better quality than anything Apple puts out for less money. That’s probably the biggest issue I have with Apple. When it comes to quality electronic products, they are a really good MARKETING company. When it’s all said and done, all you end up paying for is a brand and a few bells and whistles for which the novelty is usually very short-lived.
Now, I WILL say this. If you can get a REALLY good deal on an Apple device on Craigslist, then go for it. Let somebody else pay the “hype tax.” If I were in the market for a tablet and came across an iPad for less money than I could get a Galaxy or Fire, I would give it some consideration. But, it would have to be in the $100 range. I still refuse to use iTunes period.

But, is it really a hype tax to pay the asking price for something I know I will enjoy using for years?

How about for something with a thriving software development economy, where talented and hard-working developers can create useful apps that do more than waste my time, and actually earn a return on the investment they made in creating them? (See: Instapaper, Tweetbot.)

That isn’t a hype tax. This is the value of one company building the kind of product their specific customers want to use, and building it very well. Not making another computer we’re used to, but one that people will find more appropriate and easier to use for their day-to-day computing.

Why is it so difficult to think about who these devices are actually for, who will actually be using them and for what, instead of assuming every piece of technology is built for us "nerds" and everyone else is just along for the ride? I think it's time to stop preaching supremacy from the nerd altar that non-technical people have had to bring their devices to for them to be miraculously healed.

It's a good thing for computers to evolve, become more simple, and make a lot of the typical techie-required upkeep irrelevant. It's a good thing for normal users to have an easier time using them. And most importantly, it's great when they have the freedom, the simplicity, and the ability to do more of what they want to do and make what they want to make, all on their own.