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His New iPhone May Signal He’s Single and Looking to Hook-Up

Expensive smartphones are more desirable to men who are single and seeking a hook up, according to researchers from Germany.1

When the iPhone 6 hit the market last month, it made headline news. That’s not unusual, as every iteration of Apple’s popular smartphone has fanboys lining up around the block. But not even the casual consumer has been deterred by the rumor that the iPhone 6 Plus is so slim and streamlined that, after 30 minutes stuffed in the pocket of your skinny jeans, it comes out bent as a boomerang. In fact, despite ‘bendgate’, the new iPhone is hot and expected to sell up to 80 million units in 2014 alone.2 Clearly, everybody wants one. But new research suggests that some men are more keen than others to fork out the cash for a high status smartphone.

Christine Hennighausen and Frank Schwab of the University of Wuerzburg asked 350 men and women how likely they would be to buy an Apple iPhone or a Samsung Galaxy Ace. For those who don’t keep up with the latest trends in technology, the Samsung device sells for about 20% of the price of an iPhone. It’s a much lower status model.

Next, the researchers asked the volunteers about their sexual behavior, with questions such as “How many different sexual partners have you had in the past year?” and “With how many different partners have you had sex on one and only one occasion?” Higher numbers indicate a tendency toward flings – what scientists call a “short-term mating strategy”.

The experiment showed that men differed in their desire for the iPhone depending on their mating strategy and relationship status.

Men who were single or casually dating (i.e., the “uncommitted” group) were less likely to buy an iPhone if they had a long-term mating strategy than if they were all about the one night stands (read more about iPhones and sex here). Men who were in committed relationships were no more or less likely to want an iPhone if they were long- or short-term oriented.

When the researchers disregarded the men’s mating strategy, they found that uncommitted men were generally more willing to purchase the cheaper Samsung phone. “This finding suggests that relationship status per se does not predict men’s conspicuous consumption to attract a short-term mate,” say Hennighausen and Schwab. So, just because a man is single doesn’t mean he hankers after an iPhone. It also depends on whether he is marriage material or prefers promiscuity.

Hennighausen and Schwab also found that women’s purchasing intentions were not influenced by their mating strategy or relationship status, although women were more likely than men to purchase the lower-status smartphone.

Previous research on mobile phones and attraction has shown that men are more likely to display their devices if there are lots of women around.3 Future work could test if high-status smartphones are more desirable among attractive or unattractive men. Good-looking men tend to be more interested in one-night stands and brief affairs, and owning an expensive electronic status-symbol might help them to attract partners. So we might expect to see handsome men first in line for the next iPhone.

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1Henninghausen, C., & Schwab, F. (2014). Relationship status moderates men’s conspicuous consumption of smartphones. Letters on Evolutionary Behavioral Science, 5(2), 13-16. doi: 10.5178/lebs.2014.30


3Lycett, J. E., & Dunbar, R. I. M. (2000). Mobile phones as lekking devices among human males. Human Nature, 11(1), 93-104. doi: 10.1007/s12110-000-1004-4

Dr. Robert Burriss - Science of Relationships articles | Website
Rob is an evolutionary psychologist who researches what we find attractive in potential partners. He is most interested in how female behavior and appearance is influenced by menstrual cycle phase and hormonal contraceptive use.

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