I've been meaning to write this for a while (About two years!).
Three years ago, I wrote a blog post about my son's purchase of an MP3 player, discussing MVP. MVP - A child's eye view.
This is the corollary to that post, to explain why the right features aren't enough.
The short version, the MP3 player lasted about 9 months, and then was sold, the money put towards the iPod Touch, which two years later, is still the goto device for a myriad of activities.
The camera is relegated to mum's purse, for if the iPod battery runs out. The DS is relegated to a box in a cupboard, the computer is used grudgingly for homework (and is now an old mac). An android phone is an ongoing annoyance, and is driving a desire for an iPhone with the acceptance that it would need to replace the iPod.
I'll not downplay marketing, social proof or rampant consumerism, these all play a part in desirability. That said, I believe good design, in both hardware and software make a massive difference.
I was initially sceptical about whether the iPod would really give my son enough enjoyment to make the price tag worth it, however, almost immediately, the scope of usage expanded. Gaming was the start, then photography, then when we finally caved in social networking...Instagram, WhatApp and OoVoo allow him to stay connected with friends.
The build quality on the MP3 player was fine, ergonomically, it was OK, but not great, the interface however was appauling. Click regions so small you couldn't hit them, even with a childs fingers. Unclear interactions and navigation, meant it was functional, but a frustrating experience. Videos would play, but even supported formats wouldn't work all the time, music wasn't searchable, playlists were hard to create and maintain.
In honesty, I'm not sure that any of that trumped the kudos of owning an iPod as a reason for trading up. However, desirability of the hardware, combined with the fantatic usability of iOS are what have made it his main source of digital entertainment and communication two years on.
Writing this, and reading Kathy Sierra's Badass (which is a great read), I realised there is another aspect that shaped his enjoyment, self-actualisation. This is not limited to Apple, but the ability to explore new ideas, new apps, new methods of communication are designed in to modern digital devices, and it's this that makes them objects of desire, for what they facilitate as much as what they are.
(If this reads as apple fanboyism, it's not, I think Android, is a compelling platform, with an ever improving interface, and a similar ecostructure that allows it's users to explore.)