Are Apple fans irrationally loyal to their brand?

By

How deep is your love for Apple?
How deep is your love for Apple?
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

Apple fans have good reason to love the Cupertino company, which continues to revolutionize new product categories and deliver hugely successful products year after year. But how far should that love go?

Friday-Night-Fights-bug-2Some might say there is a group of fans who are irrationally loyal to the Apple brand, devoted to buying its latest products just because they sport the Apple logo, and dismissing all competitors just because they don’t. But is there really a “Cult of Apple?”

Join us as we battle it out over that very question in this week’s Friday Night Fight between Cult of Android and Cult of Mac.

Killian-FNFKillian Bell (Writer, Cult of Android): So, Luke, week after week we carry out these Friday Night Fights, and they almost always involve you bashing Google and Android in some way. In fact, I don’t think you’ve had a good word to say about either of them so far.

That makes me think you’re part of that large (but perhaps decreasing?) group of Apple fans whose love for the company and its products is so strong it has almost become a cult. Not only do they prefer Apple products and services, but they won’t even acknowledge that there are excellent competitors.

Would you agree that this is a thing, and that you are in that group?

cartoonluke_360.pngLuke Dormehl (Writer, Cult of Mac): That’s a mighty big question for a Friday, Killian. First of all, you’re wrong in saying I’ve never praised Google in any way. I think the company (well, I guess technically “Alphabet” now) does a lot of good work, but I’m certainly an Apple supporter when it comes to the phones, tablets, smartwatches and computers I use.

I don’t know where you get the “decreasing” metric from. With the exception of iPads, which remain the number one tablet, every other aspect of Apple’s business keeps growing quarter-on-quarter.

If you’re asking whether Apple has a dedicated group of fans, you’re 100 percent correct, though. Many of these are people who rightfully see Apple as an illustration that, when it comes to tech, quality wins through. The best high-tech company can also become the most successful high-tech company — and Apple’s journey to the top has proven that.

At the end of the day, Apple has some very loyal fans, but there’s nothing irrational about that loyalty. For me, the name “Cult of Mac” has always meant the culture of Mac. Few tech companies have had a fraction of the impact that Apple has. And I don’t think you’ll find any who consistently do things better than Apple, either.

That’s why people stick with it, as much as Android fans would like to think otherwise.

The iPhone vs. Android war will long wage on.
The iPhone vs. Android war will long wage on.
Photo: Killian Bell/Cult of Mac

Killian-FNFKillian: Okay, it’s good that you’ll acknowledge Google does great things. And when I mentioned “decreasing” numbers, I didn’t mean Apple’s sales or fanbase; I meant the number of people who blindly support Apple without checking out the competitors. Sure, Apple’s fanbase is as strong as ever, but I think a greater percentage are willing to check out the competition now.

And that’s all I ask. I agree that Apple consistently rolls out great products, but they’re not perfect products. Just like anything else on the market, they have their weaknesses, and my beef is with the group who will dismiss those weaknesses while calling out those of competing products.

Just because Apple’s been consistent, it doesn’t mean its competitors aren’t catching up, either. Samsung is a great example of that; its Galaxy smartphones used to be made of tacky plastic and terrible software, but now they’re just as beautiful as an iPhone, with rounded aluminum edges and glossy glass panels. HTC and Sony make gorgeous smartphones, too, and Motorola’s high-end Moto X isn’t bad, either.

What I don’t understand is why certain people will buy an aging iPhone just because it’s an iPhone rather than spending the same money on a high-end Android device. I’ve just finished reviewing the OnePlus 2, which costs just $329 off-contract — almost half as much as an iPhone 6. It sports a terrific design, has great software and battery life, delivers outstanding performance, and has a very good camera.

It’s the perfect smartphone for those on a budget, but there are some Apple fans who would rather spend the same money on an iPhone 5c, and that blows my mind.

cartoonluke_360.pngLuke: Here’s the thing: I think you’re assuming a lot saying that Apple ever had blindly loyal fans. Did Apple have a hardcore group of devotees during the time in which it was still an underdog? Absolutely. Were they supporting Apple despite the fact that other companies were making better products? No way! The truth is that Apple always built great products; it just took the masses a while to figure it out. When Apple has made a mistake, no-one comes down harder on it than its most hardcore supporters — precisely because they expect the best.

Something you’re ignoring is that Apple’s ecosystem gives it a massive advantage over other companies. You might not be able to understand why someone would buy an iPhone 4s or 5 over the latest Samsung Galaxy, but if they already use iTunes, have an iPad, a MacBook and whatever else, the fact that all of these products work so neatly together is a real selling point.

While you can pick a few isolated features here and there that other companies manage better than Apple (I like the displays on Samsung’s high-end mobiles, for instance), it would be a stretch to say that any other company has consistently outperformed Apple when it comes to turning out innovative, usable and consistently high-quality products.

Defend Android all you want, but — for me at least — the fragmentation issue, malware, lesser app store and other major factors just make it a distant second to Apple. That’s not blind Cupertino devotion on my part; it’s acknowledging proven consistency that Apple has been displaying for the past 30+ years.

The OnePlus 2 proves Android phones can be pretty, too.
The OnePlus 2 proves Android phones can be pretty, too.
Photo: Killian Bell/Cult of Mac

Killian-FNFKillian: I disagree. You only have to tweet out the wrong story or say the wrong thing on some forums and the Apple fanboys are ready to jump on you and blindly defend some of Apple’s craziest decisions and biggest failures.

Before the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus were announced, I remember listening to podcasts that had bloggers defending Apple’s decision to stick to a 4-inch screen, and mocking larger devices. But they changed their tune in their reviews praising the iPhone 6 months later.

Apple’s ecosystem is great, but Google’s is pretty awesome, too — and I have no problem using my Android devices alongside my iPad and my Mac. In addition, lots of popular services are cross-platform these days, so you don’t have to have an iPhone just because you have other Apple products. The only thing you’re really missing out on is iMessage and Apple Music, but the latter is on its way, and most people can live without iMessage if they’re willing to try.

Fragmentation doesn’t have to be an issue on Android if you choose the right device, and neither does malware if you don’t download dodgy things from untrusted sources. I’ve been using Android for six years without antivirus products and I’ve never had a problem with it. iOS does have some exclusive apps that are terrific, but Android’s catching up, and Google Play offers plenty of great alternatives to apps that are iOS only.

I’m happy to acknowledge Apple’s consistency and other strengths just like you — I still use a Mac on a regular basis and choose an iPad as my primary tablet — but as a fan and user of technology, I don’t want to miss out on all the great things from its competitors.

cartoonluke_360.pngLuke: Let’s not get into the “malware doesn’t matter so long as you do the right thing” debate. I’m sure North Korea is awesome if you say and do the right things, too. And are you telling me that there aren’t irrational Android fans out there? Because I’ve covered the good and bad of Apple these past few years, and easily the biggest outpouring of negative messages has been from Android fans.

I don’t think people are as closed to new non-Apple technology as you think. But, as I said earlier, I think you’d honestly struggle to give me consistent arguments of areas other companies beat Apple, without making huge compromises along the way.

Ultimately, you’ve tried to sell me on the fact that Apple fandom is a case of the emperor’s new clothes — where there are great alternatives that are ignored because people refuse to step outside of the Cupertino comfort zone. I don’t think this is true and is actually bordering on the dishonest. Point me to one company that’s consistently outperforming Apple on quality and innovation and, well, I’ll eat my Apple Watch.

People like Apple because it’s the overall best option for their needs. Not because they bought into a clever ad campaign.

Apple has made compromises, too.
Apple has made compromises, too.
Photo: Apple

Killian-FNFKillian: That’s not always the case, and I think you know that really. I’ve spoken with loads of people — some of whom I know personally — who switched to Android and wondered why they hadn’t done it sooner. Apple isn’t always the best option, but it’s often the comfortable option, and the most popular option.

Let’s not pretend Apple hasn’t made big sacrifices, either, because there have been plenty along the way. It is possibly the only company who sells computers that are in no way upgradeable, so if you need greater performance later on, you have to buy a whole new machine. The new MacBook uses a lackluster Intel Core M processor so that Apple could do away with the fan, while a Windows machine with the same specs would be a fraction of the cost. If it didn’t have an Apple logo on the front, no one would buy it.

We can argue about this all day, but I can’t see us agreeing any time soon — so how about we turn this one over to the readers now. Does the “Apple cult” really exist, or is what Cupertino’s selling too good to turn down?

Friday Night Fights is a series of weekly death matches between two no-mercy brawlers who will fight to the death — or at least agree to disagree — about which is better: Apple or Google, iOS or Android?