Did you ever watch a TV show that started off really great with an interesting plot and dynamic characters, only to have it take a nose dive into Crapsville, but you couldn’t make yourself stop watching because you were “invested” in it?

(Surprisingly enough, I’m not talking about HEROES.)

(ZING!)

I’m using invested here in both a literal and a figurative sense.

I’ll start with figuratively.

Apple’s iPhone has the current cultural cache of identity when people think of smartphones. If some one is using a data device on television, it’s an iPhone (unless a carrier besides AT&T is a sponsor). In less than four years, Apple has completely taken over the smartphone industry, and blown the market wide open in the process. More and more people are getting iPhones, and nearly everyone who has an iPhone is getting apps for that iPhone. This process of adding to the phone makes it a more personal device for that user. It may start out like everyone else’s, but given a few days or weeks, that phone and the content and applications on it is unique to that person. It is the telecommunications equivalent to a pair of custom-made Chuck Taylors. People become invested in their iPhones, some even become addicted to them. Hell, my girlfriend’s barely had her for two months and she can’t be away from the thing. This is what Apple wants since it is a sign of a good product and fosters brand loyalty like nothing else.

The literal side of investment is in those little app that people are using to make their iPhones unique to them. Some of them are free, a lot of them are paid, and nearly all of the good ones are paid. Me? I’ve laid out at most twenty bucks in the two years I’ve had my phone. My roommate? Close to a hundred in less than half that amount of time. Those two dollar amounts are both investments we’ve made in our phones that we would lose if we ever swapped platforms. You see, all of those apps that I love are trapped inside of Apple’s cleverly designed web. I can’t trade in my iPhone version of an app for, say, the Android version of that same app. So, even if an amazing Android phone dropped today, you’d have to count the cost of buying all of those apps you love against the price of the new phone. The longer people go with Apple’s iPhone, the harder it will be for them to change to another platform when Apple’s star eventually wanes, as has happened before and will happen again.

An interesting corollary to this, but a man recently sold his Steam account (a digital distribution system for video games) for $1000. Now what did the person who bought this account on eBay get besides a username and a password? Access to every video game that person had purchased through Steam. 139 of them, to be exact, worth approximately $2700 new. The question is, how long until people start selling fully loaded iTunes accounts with all of the apps you’ve bought as p packaged item?