In just about every market where there are directly competing products, you will soon see people form into groups. One group prefers product A, while the other group prefers product B. This makes sense, we all have personal preferences, and we all put a different weight on the strengths and weaknesses of any particular product. In our society, we reinforce this choice with our purchasing power. Buying item A instead of item B displays your preference, and if this is done is enough numbers, forces the makers of item B to re-evaluate their approach.
But, sometimes this isn’t enough for us. Not only do we prefer one item, but we actively start to dislike the other. It’s not enough to just want the item we prefer to succeed, but we want the item that we are rejecting to actively fail. This is a problem.
This exists in almost all walks of life. Online wars have been fought over things like Playstation vs Xbox. Or Coke vs Pepsi. Or PC vs Mac. Or WordPress vs Blogger. Or Kindle vs Nook. Or… well you get the point. In the mobile world, nothing is more vitriolic, more antagonistic, or more toxic than the battles fought between fans of Android and iOS. While other pockets of fans do exist (Windows Phone and Blackberry, but also dead or dying platforms like Symbian and WebOS), the major comment board eruptions always seem to be between lovers of either Apple or Google’s ecosystem.
And why not? They are the big dogs in the mobile world. They take very different approaches, participate in the release of very different devices, and have a user culture that is, once again, very different.
If we travel back in time to 2007, we come across the release of the original iPhone. Heralded as revolutionary (by many), there is little doubt that its introduction permanently changed the mobile landscape forever. No longer were smartphones purely products for tech geeks and people entrenched in enterprise, it was now something simplified and made sexy. Apple had made a device for the mass market. Of course it was horribly overpriced, and didn’t really do much, but it changed the landscape of what mobile was. People flocked to it. Not just people though, all sorts of people. Urban professionals, students, artists, techies… All sorts of people jumped onto the Apple bandwagon. And unfortunately, a lot of them became jerks.
The iPhone became *the* hip product to have. If you didn’t have an iPhone, and rather had an “inferior” device like a Blackberry, a Nokia, a Palm or *gasp* a Windows Mobile device, well, clearly you weren’t cool. Now, to be fair, it was a relative minority of early iPhone adopters that acted like this, but man, were they ever a vocal lot. Fast forward a little more than a year and we get to the release of the first Android devices, the Magic and the Dream. And… not much changed, really. As early devices they lacked a lot of polish, and iPhone users tended to lump Android in the same company as the others.
But then, something happened. Android evolved. Android grew. Android became a solid competitor. Android started to become a much more compelling product. Android, with the benefit of multiple manufacturers, had some bonafide hits. And then slowly but surely, Android started to take over. It was inevitable really. Apple’s approach was all about maximizing profit, not market share. The Android approach was the opposite. Google did everything they could to stretch and control more and more of the market, while seeing little direct profit themselves. In 2010, Android overtook the iOS, with more Android devices sold than iPhones. As Android got better and stronger, this growth trend more or less continued. While individual Android manufacturers were still behind Apple, collectively, they were winning.
So as time progressed, did Android fans take the high road, pat Apple fans on the back, and play nice? Of course not. If anything, the vitriol got even worse. As Apple continued on their steady path of maximizing profit and going with incremental upgrades, Android fans became more and more antagonistic towards Apple and those that supported the Apple brand. Android fans would come to mock things like the fact that iPhone design remains the same, much smaller technical improvements than what is seen on Android devices, and the much smaller form factor of the iPhone.
Now, I don’t have much in the way of a problem when it comes to mocking a product for its deficiencies, so long as the criticism is warranted. We should absolutely be critical of devices that get released. These are expensive gadgets and we should be doing our best to maximize our return on investment. What I do have a problem with is when we start attacking one another for our preferences. This has become ridiculously common on message and comment boards across almost all noted tech sites. It is also, sadly, inevitable. You could have an article with a title like:
APPLE TO IMPLEMENT NEW MAPPING ALGORITHM TO IMPROVE APPLE MAPS
And you will be greeted with comments like:
“lol, apple fail”
“y u always apple fanboy, < insert random blog name here >”
“only iTards care”
Or, you could see an artcicle like:
GOOGLE UPDATES PLAY STORE TO ALLOW APP SHARING
And you will be greeted with comments like:
“yay, more android users can stupidly download more viruses”
“App sharing? Lol, Android lovers don’t have friends!”
The fact of the matter is that we, as consumers, should be actively wanting the competition to heat things up. To get better. To try and convince us that they have an offering that will entice us. Instead of flat out “hating” on each and every thing that they do, we should be spending time and examining what they do well, and seeing where they need to improve to get our money. This will help drive innovation, and give us more and better options. Instead of flat out saying things like “the iPhone is a toy!” or “Android is ugly as sin!”, we should be open to what the competition offers.
Everyone has their reasons for their preference. But bashing a device or users of a device for no real reason doesn’t serve anyone. Joining team Android or team Apple doesn’t actually benefit us, it only benefits them. We should all be looking to join team Consumer. My current daily drivers are a Nexus 4 and a Nexus 7. I picked these up because from a cost perspective, they offered by far the best dollar to return ratio on any device bought outright. Does that mean I consider myself an Android fanboy? Not at all. I keenly watch every Apple event, every Microsoft event, on the off chance that they will introduce a product that will convince me to jump aboard. I want them to. I want these companies to convince me that their product is the one that is right for me.
We should look at every product release as an opportunity to be convinced. Even the most ardent Apple fan should be excited for the next flagship Android. And every diehard Android love should look forward to the next iPhone event. By keeping our options open, we force the makers of these devices to continue to progress, rather than coast by. Options are good, we just need to be open to them.