What Android fans think of iPhone users

iPhone fanboys are status-seeking, ignorant sheep brainwashed by Apple marketing, according to some Android users. Is that view accurate?

I've noticed a curious thing about some Android users. They have very strong and surprising opinions about people who choose iPhones.

Whenever I post something about phones, or engage in an online conversation about , I can always count on these opinions surfacing. I don't notice a strong wave of posts in the other direction during conversations about Android devices.

It's not just that Android users and iPhone users each have their preferred phones. Many Android fans think the decision to buy an iPhone is an error, and that if everyone was clear-thinking, objective and informed, they would choose Android.

It's a strange phenomenon. And I really wanted to understand it better. So I asked my Android-loving friends on Google+ a very simple question: Why do people buy iPhones?

In less than eight hours, they had maxed out Google+'s 500-comment limit. Boy did I get an earful. Here's why people buy iPhones, according to Android fans:

The iPhone is a status symbol. iPhone buyers are attracted to the brand as a prestigious status symbol or fashion accessory, for the same reasons people like Rolex watches or Gucci bags.

The iPhone is a smart phone for dumb users. The iPhone is supposed to be easy to use, so novices are attracted to it for that reason.

iPhone users are ignorant. iPhone buyers don't know what Android phones are capable of, or how unnecessary iPhone limitations are.

iPhone users are suckered in by skillful marketing. iPhone users are brainwashed sheep, victims of Steve Jobs' reality distortion field. Product announcements, commercials, packaging, TV and movie product placements and other marketing campaigns by Apple have convinced users that it's a better phone. The iPhone's assumed superiority is marketing-driven perception.

The iPhone is the most popular phone and most recognizable brand. Some iPhone buyers want the biggest-selling phone for the same reason people go to Starbucks instead of the locally owned coffee shop or choose Nike shoes instead of a brand they've never heard of -- big brands and popular products are attractive for their own sake to some people.

The iPhone is associated with a famous person. Everyone knows who Steve Jobs was, and the founders of aren't as famous. Some people are attracted to products associated with a well-known person in a culture of celebrity worship. This effect has been magnified by Jobs' death and the media coverage that followed.

iPhone users will buy anything Apple sells. In the minds of iPhone users, the "halo effect" of other Apple products, including the iPod, carries over to the iPhone.

The iOS interface is familiar. Many people are already using Apple interfaces, with their home computers, iPod Touches, Apple TV systems or s, so an iPhone feels comfortable.

iPhone users don't like to tinker. Many Android users enjoy customization and see that option as one of the main draws of Google's operating system. They believe that iPhone users choose a phone that can't easily be modified because they have no interest in tinkering with their phones -- and may even grow anxious at the prospect of customizability.

Apple just happened to get "there" first. There was pent-up demand for a with an app ecosystem before either iOS or Android, but Apple shipped first. People rushed to buy the iPhone, then stuck with it because they invested in apps.

iPhone users don't like technology. While Android phones feel like "technology," the iPhone feels like a consumer appliance. Some choose iPhones because they want to avoid technology.

iPhone fans are easily paralyzed by choice. The Android universe is made up of a large number of handset types and brands that are hard to keep track of and remember, and it features a dizzying array of options. People who are turned off by that complexity gravitate to the iPhone because the choices are simple and few.

False or fair?

So are Android users right about iPhone users? Personally, I think there's some truth in all of those beliefs. Or, at least, a majority of iPhone buyers are affected by one or more of those motivations.

But in the same way that Android users notice motivations and attributes that iPhone users can't see in themselves, it's also true that iPhone users see or believe things Android users don't.

For starters, the iPhone is beautifully engineered and designed, it has flawless "fit and finish" and is made with incredibly high-quality materials. And from a hardware perspective, that high quality is a good reason to buy an iPhone.

There's no question that "integrated" phones like the iPhone and "open" platforms like Android each have positive attributes. One of the benefits of "integrated" phones is responsiveness, which is important to the overall user experience.

But the real reason some people choose an iPhone and others choose an Android device is personality. People are different. Some people rank elegance, ease of use and clarity of mind above power, customizability and choice -- and those people are more likely to choose an iPhone.

I think iPhone users are more likely to want a phone that is a complete, polished and finished single "thing." Android users want a device that is brimming with potential.

The iPhone is a beautiful toy sailboat, and an Android phone is a box of Lego bricks.

Some people are naturally attracted to one kind of toy; others are attracted to another kind of toy. It's just personality.

So Android users: Go easy on the iPhone crowd. Sure, many of them are influenced by marketing, branding, status and all the rest. But let's face it: The iPhone is a great phone, too. And more important, iPhone users' choices are dictated by personality, just like yours are.

Mike Elgan writes about technology and tech culture. Contact and learn more about Mike at Elgan.com, or subscribe to his free e-mail newsletter, Mike's List.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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