Apple – Polarising Opinion?

On Twitter recently, Simon wrote:

I find it fascinating how whenever someone writes something about Apple products 100s of people comment, many saying how rubbish they are.

It’s amazing how 33% of the internet think Apple products are amazing, 33% rubbish and the other 33% couldn’t care less.

I don’t know of any other company that polarises opinion so much. It’s truly fascinating to watch!

This is a subject which I’ve been thinking about recently. I’m no fan of Apple, but I do have an iPod (it was the cheapest thing available which had the amount of storage space it did. Everything else was flash-memory based. I don’t use iTunes to sync it – I use Winamp and the iPod plugin).

So… what is it about Apple products that makes them so hated by some, and so loved by others? I know plenty of digital ink has been spilled on this already, but that’s absolutely no reason why I can’t weight in on it too. I am somewhat towards the “hate” side of the debate, by the way – I’ll say that upfront. But I do recognise some of the strengths of Apple products too, and I’m going to try and sum all that up here.

Why people like, and indeed, LOVE Apple products:

  • They are exceptionally well-designed. For the most part. The software “just works”, the casing looks attractive, the UI is smooth – all these things are generally true. Apart from ‘Antennagate’ last year (I’ll come to that in a minute), as far as I know Apple products are generally well built.
  • They give users an end-to-end experience. What I mean by that is they don’t just provide you with a piece of hardware, and maybe some crappy software which can sync it (badly) with your computer – when you buy an Apple device you’re buying into a whole ecosystem.
  • As such, Apple have a great deal of control over that ecosystem. Now in some respects this is a good thing. They don’t need to worry about trying to make software run on loads of diverse hardware platforms. They can veto apps which aren’t of good enough quality. They can ensure everything meets their standards.

OK, so those are the main pros I can think of. Let’s look at the other side though, starting with what I think is the real reason people “hate” Apple.

  • Apple products are hyped so much, you could be forgiven for thinking that the arrival of a new Apple product was akin to the rapture. The Register started calling the iPhone the “Jesus Phone” before it was released. It’s not that Apple products are bad – it’s just that, at the end of the day, they are in fact products and not a cure for cancer / fount of eternal youth.
  • I think Apple devices are a bit of a fashion statement, somewhat deservedly – but a lot of people hate “fashion” passionately. That’s a whole other discussion though.
  • Following on from the first point, I do kind of get the feeling that Steve Jobs creates a ‘reality distortion field’ (as The Register call it), in which nothing can be ever wrong with an Apple product. For example, with Antennagate last year, lots of people had to complain – pretty stridently – before Apple would even acknowledge there *might* be a problem.
  • Steve Jobs is a visionary, but at the same time he’s … well, he’s not always the best person for dealing with people. My favourite example of his PR skills is this one. Now this isn’t really a reason to dislike Apple per se, but it doesn’t exactly endear the company to me.
  • I also don’t like the way Apple treats developers, and the way they are creating a ‘Walled Garden’ with iTunes and their platform in general.

That last point – well, all of them really – could be expanded upon.

So, as you can see, I’m not really a fan of Apple, although I do recognise that they do some things well. Is that an acceptable position to have? I don’t rant about them, but at the same time I’m not indifferent.

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5 thoughts on “Apple – Polarising Opinion?

  1. I dislike Apple as well (she said, typing on her iPad). Their products are expensive and elitist. I dislike the way people blindly buy their products just because there’s a new one out. Just watch how many people discard their iPads when the next one becomes available.

    I don’t know what the link is, but I saw an example of Steve Jobs’ customer service somewhere online relating to a pet hate of mine. The volume is controlled by a rocker switch. If you hold the decrease volume part down, it mutes the iPad. Fine. There’s a switch next to the volume rocker switch. Originally, it was a useful switch that locked the screen so it didn’t rotate when you turned the iPad. They did some update or other, and since then, it’s become a mute switch. I read somewhere that there’s a tiny dofference between the two mutes but really, is that necessary? I think not. Anyway, someone emailed Jobs and asked if the switch was going to return to its useful use. The reply was, “No.” This shows me that he doesn’t even care what his users want. He is the heralded dictator.

  2. I’m a big fan of Apple products-although I think (hope?) I’m probably less fanatical than some people! The reasons you give for liking Apple products are exactly why I’m a fan. When I think back to my PC using days I spent hours and hours getting frustrated because I couldn’t get anything to work (a) how I wanted it to or, worse still, (b) how it claimed it should. I spent so much time wrestling with my machine that I just wanted to kill anyone who had any hand in the production of it whatsoever. I found Windows massively annoying; I could not believe how such a piece of rubbish could conquer the world to the extent it has. Then, just as my frustration was beginning to overflow, the wretched thing would crash.

    It was at that point that I bought my Mac, and I haven’t looked back. It’s a bit of a cliche, but Macs just work. I honestly can’t remember the last time my computer crashed. It does exactly what I want, and expect, it to do. When I used Windows PCs they seemed to just die after three years. My current Mac is approaching five years old, and is still just as fast and smooth as it was on the day I bought it.

    My only computer frustration now comes from Microsoft Office. It’s a complete piece of junk. It’s slow, cumbersome, and hideous to use. Every time I load it I’m promoted to download and install another batch of so-called “critical” updates.

    I also love my iPhone. I was initially a Blackberry owner, but when I saw my first iPhone I was converted. At the time, Blackberry seemed to hate Apple users and refused to make life easy for us if we wanted to synchronise with our computers. Then, when I compared the user experience of Blackberry and the iPhone, there was simply no comparison. The iPhone won hands down.

    I realise that everything I’ve said relates to Apple controlling the ecosystem. I also think, though, that for home users who don’t want to wrestle with their technology, the Apple ecosystem works very well for us.

    Oh, and their products look beautiful. Not a deciding factor on any of my purchases, but it is nice to own things of beauty!

    I’ll shut up now!

  3. Thanks for your comment Simon, I think you’re a prime example of someone for whom the Apple ecosystem works very well. That said, I think you’ve been a bit unlucky with PCs – my computer rarely gives me issues these days, Windows 7 is actually very good (I know! In years gone by you’d never have heard me saying anything Microsoft is actually good).

    Anyway, interesting thoughts! 🙂

    Caity, I do agree with you that Apple products do have a sort of ‘elitist’ tag attached. This is actually exactly what Mrs Phil said. And yes, Steve Jobs is … well, not exactly a nice man. I’ve not heard of him saying what you mention, but everything I’ve read of his when he actually responds to customers has been pretty arrogant and / or uncaring!

  4. I found this an interesting post – and especially some of the comments that followed. Apple seems to do a good job at attracting the rabid fanbois (very similarly to many computer games console manufactorers…). The thing I find is that it’s very hard to compare a Mac to a Windows PC – the Mac OS is designed to work on very specific hardware doign very specific tasks – the amount of third party software is limited and tends to come through app stores which Apple manage. Windows however has to work on whatever hardware combination is thrown at it – meaning at times it will work better and at times it’ll work worse.

    Steve Jobs may be the head of the company but that doesn’t mean he represents the whole of it – I’ve never had problems with my Apple tech (an iPod, and 2 iPhones) but I’m sure if you need to get support then the Apple shops are helpful (my brothers had to get his iPod Nano replaced a few times with minimal fuss) – it’s very easy to start painting in broad strokes – you could quote Antennagate, but you could also quote Vista – all new techs will have issues and they all get sorted out in the end.

    So to sum up I am neither pro- nor anti- Apple – I have an iPhone, I find it does what I need it to do (including entertaining me on long journeys) but at the same time I mainly work on Windows PCs because they offer me things that Apple can’t (you could describe my PC in the way Trigger describes his broom). PCs are always going to be the workhorse, Macs always the luxury/great for multimedia editing item… I think it really depends what you need.

  5. Alex, I think some Mac owners would take issue with the fact that PCs are always going to be the workhorse 😉

    I don’t agree that Antennagate is the same as Vista. Vista was a rush job, it wasn’t great – but at the end of the day it didn’t stop people using their computers (i.e. Mrs Phil has Vista and it works fine, although I much prefer Windows 7). Antennagate – that was a serious design flaw with the phones, and Apple barely even responded when asked about it.

    I’m sure your brother has had a good experience with Apple support, although I’ve heard plenty of tales of people who haven’t (the fact that they call them “genius” I don’t like either). Same as any company, of course – there are plenty of people with good and bad experiences of Dell, for example.

    It just seems to me that, as a company, Apple is quite arrogant and this comes from the top (i.e. Steve Jobs), I wasn’t really trying to say anything about what people’s day-to-day experiences with support might be like.

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