“iPhone’s for Sheep; Android’s for Geeks”

January 9, 2010

David Pogue says an ardent army of "Fandroids" attacked his mostly positive Nexus One review with the same mouth-foaming irrationality as Apple, Microsoft, and Linux fanboys of years past. Crazy people saying crazy things on the internet aside, Pogue makes a good point: Android has come to represent a kind of hacker counterculture, whose members dismiss the iPhone as closed, proprietary, and designed "for dummies" and sheep. I thought Pogue's review was well done, but I'll admit it. When I go to a tech conference I expect to see most people carrying an iPhone. But when I spot an Android handset (which I do more and more)? A small part of my brain assumes that person is someone with superior technical skill, someone who values openness, and someone who is ahead of the curve.

“A small part of my brain assumes that person is someone with superior technical skill, someone who values openness, and someone who is ahead of the curve.”

Absolutely agree! This is so true.

Eric Geller [+2]
Jan 9 10 at 11:22 am

I don’t know, the android platform is definitely more hacky and interesting (but not so insane as the jailbroken iphone community) but I have to say that given I wrote a post critical of my first impressions of android, the fanboy blowback of anger is not something to be celebrated.

It alienates more than it educates, it’s the kind of stuff that keeps timid introvert geeks out of IT, the kind of thing we point to when we wonder why there are so few female geeks in CS departments, etc.

I’m liking android more and more (and I’m going to publish a mostly positive review of the Nexus One in a day or two) but I’m not looking forward to the response when I say I like 90% of it but 10% could be better. I’ve written things critical of the iPhone before and haven’t gotten blowback like a hundred android owners calling me names.

@mathowie: Completely agree the fanboyism should NOT be celebrated or encouraged. But after reading Pogue’s piece I just had to confess some of the (totally ridiculous) assumptions I make based on what kind of phone people use.

Cannot WAIT to read your Nexus review.

Gina Trapani [+195]
Jan 9 10 at 11:39 am

Hmm.

Well, I am a nuclear engineer, I run on all platforms at home, multiple machines, hack on Linux all the time, and so forth.

I’m in need of a new phone, and it will be an iPhone – why?

Because Google apparently thinks all Canadians are “dummies” and “sheep”.

The Nexus One looks nice, the rest of the droid phones look crummy to me, so too bad Google…

At least I can buy a bloody iPhone here.

Besides – it’s a *phone*.

If I want to hack, I’ll get a computer.

Brett Legree [+3]
Jan 9 10 at 11:39 am

Interesting perspective, I guess I have an iPhone fanboyism as well. I see people using Android very much as I do people using Linux — self-righteous geeks that get so much of a kick out of tweaking that they give up far more supported, elegant, useful, and all around better solutions. The better solutions being iPhone v.s. Android and Windows/Mac v.s. Linux.

As a geek myself I can value being ahead of the curve and trying new products, but it’s far more productive to use the tried, true, and perfected products. I would think that’s more in line with the Lifehacker philosophy too, but the editors seem to prefer less refined/useful applications over a few app store rejections (Google Voice, Latitude).

Ted Avery [+13]
Jan 9 10 at 11:52 am

Just read Boy Genius Report’s Nexus review which they followed up with a personal opinion of Android as a whole. It’s probably the best reflection I’ve read on how I feel about Android in terms of the quality you are sacrificing. http://www.boygeniusreport.com/2010/01/09/google-android-personal-thoughts/

Ted Avery [+13]
Jan 9 10 at 12:26 pm

Interesting. In my experience, ‘fanboyism’ doesn’t really exclude anyone from anything, particularly females or shy geeks from the IT field. Yes, there are groups that are a little (or a lot) rabid, but the cult-like aspect is really more inclusive than exclusive; one merely has to agree with the group on a single critical matter to be a celebrated part of the community. For example, I’m pretty sure that Nintendo fanboyism was done far more to encourage the growth of the video game industry than any other single phenomenon.

I had also hoped that we had somehow gotten past the image of rebelious punk kids being the driving force behind open source and open systems. I mean, saying things like the follow is not only offensive, but clearly shows a lack of familiarity with most of the open community:

…Google’s Android phone software is a more open and hackable operating system than the proprietary software on the iPhone, BlackBerry or Palm. Therefore Android appeals to precisely the sort of frustrated, anti-establishment people who have no trouble writing abusive notes. It brings them out of the woodwork, gives them a new counterculture champion. …

It seems to me that at least fanboys are focused on the idea of promoting something positive.

Then again, I’m posting from a Droid and I’m an occasional Linux/BSD hacker, so I suppose I can be written of as a foaming at the mouth, socially inept, bad smelling and probably hairy zealot.

Also: MS is making your computer suck! ;-)

(Sorry abot the lack of good formatting practices, this is a phone, and I got lazy.)

“I see people using Android very much as I do people using Linux — self-righteous geeks that get so much of a kick out of tweaking that they give up far more supported, elegant, useful, and all around better solutions.”

I am an Android user and I am not a self-righteous geek who loves crappy stuff.

Instead, I chose to switch to Android because it advances at a more rapid pace, has multitasking, is very modular and doesn’t restrict me in any way (“iPhone 3G does not have the power for voice control and it doesn’t support accessibility features”). I can do all the things I could do on my iPhone, excepting games. But for that, I keep an iPod touch around.

Android itself may not have been that elegant one year ago, but today it is almost on par with iPhone OS and webOS.

dragossh
Jan 9 10 at 1:17 pm

Jailbreakers stay with the iPhone because they know they have the best phone out there. True there are a few drawbacks to even a jailbroken iPhone…but those drawbacks pale in comparison to the drawbacks that are inherent to any Android handset out there today.

Sure…I would love to move to an Android handset because of it’s open/hackable nature…but they haven’t developed a superior experience yet. Which is why I continue to use my iPhone.

thor79 [+1]
Jan 9 10 at 2:19 pm

On the subject of being seen with an Android handset. Doesn’t really matter to me. I work in a small office where I’m the only IT guy and I don’t have much contact with other IT people. The people in my office wouldn’t know the difference between an Android handset and an iPhone. To me what is more important is my actual experience with my phone…and for now…that is superior on a jailbroken iPhone. All the benefits of the Apple experience with almost none of the drawbacks.

thor79 [+1]
Jan 9 10 at 2:33 pm

“A small part of my brain assumes that person is someone with superior technical skill, someone who values openness, and someone who is ahead of the curve.”

Or it could mean that someone is savvy enough to not immediately dump their phone and pay a termination fee just to chase the latest fad. I have another year on my iPhone contract (I waited for it to become a little stable and then bought a refurb), and while I am a little fed up with Apple’s closed store and AT&T’s crappy network, I’m not clear what paying the $175 penalty to jump overr to Verizon’s higher rates or T-Mobile’s even more questionable network gets me. An app for Google voice? Animated wallpaper? A license to listen to the OSS guys whinge about KDE vs Gnome?

I’ll wait, and ponder the irony of being judged as “not valuing openness” because of the cell phone I use.

If you really want to see the Android Army at work go look at the comments on Engadget’s Nexus review or any smartphone post that touches iphone or android.

Cal Ng
Jan 9 10 at 3:20 pm

Ahead of the curve and, more importantly, individuals.

I’ve never owned an iPod, preferring to plot my own course through the MP3 player landscape.

I have to say I was tempted by the iPhone 3GS but I simply could not bring myself to be, yes, a sheep! That’s exactly the way I see most iPhone users.

I chose the HTC Hero because (a) it is an Android phone, and (b) because it is obviously _not_ and iPhone.

ThomasGC [+5]
Jan 9 10 at 3:40 pm

Why is every company trying to create their own “iPhone”? Why not create something totally different? Those are the real sheep.

Jensen Galan
Jan 9 10 at 3:43 pm

“A small part of my brain assumes that person is someone with superior technical skill, someone who values openness, and someone who is ahead of the curve.”

Huh? We haven’t even logged two weeks into the new year and I think I’ve already read one of the silliest things I’ll read all year.

nped
Jan 9 10 at 5:16 pm

To be really original and geeky, have a look at the Openmoko phone, but don’t blame me if it turns out to be an (other) “brick” in your pocket.

Arguments aside, is it really necessary to resort to personal attacks? It must be really difficult to remain objective when it comes to reviews, eh?

While we’re on the subject of irrational emotional reactions, reading this post made me sad. I never expected this kind of shallow nonsense to come from someone as cool as Gina.

Jesse Baer
Jan 10 10 at 4:41 pm

Thank you, Gina for saying I am ahead of the curve… and a GEEK! I love it.

Um… for the average person, there are many many things that go into which phone you get. I think the “relative” merits of the platform are pretty low on that list. Carrier, work provided/induced discounts, family and friends, etc. I got an iphone because my work pays for my phone and they get a discount from ATT.

Clark Starr
Jan 11 10 at 6:26 am

The iPhone is far and away the most common phone for developers at my company. The only Android user is a business analyst on my team who isn’t very technical at all.

Jemaleddin Cole [+6]
Jan 11 10 at 6:54 am

I find myself constantly frustrated by David Pogue’s oversimplified representations of new technology. (he made a video a while ago about how he couldn’t set up a wifi network… really?)

I understand that he’s trying to write for readers who don’t really keep up with tech, and as a result anyone who is upset by his comments is not the target audience. So those of us who do know better don’t actually need his advice, but tend to read it anyway if only to see what he night be telling our under-geek friends and family.

When he glosses over facts and details, or even gets them wrong, it seems particularly harmful, since its not just misinformation, but misinformation targeted at people who have no other experience and will not hear another version. (Imagine writing a paper based solely from a Wikipedia article. On Simple. Wikipedia. That was written by one dude.)

Many of his readers will find they have the same frustrations about the products he reviews, but a lot of times that’s because he’s placing himself in the position of a semi-novice. Of course it helps to consider their point of view, but you need to grasp a topic in order to explain it. You don’t teach kids to read by pretending you’re illiterate.

Telling people that an Android device doesn’t have multi-touch hardware is like listing a car’s maximum speed as the speed limit on the 45mph road you drove. Yes, it was limited, but it won’t take all new hardware to fix the issue.

By all means summarize, generalize, and explain things in a way that non-technical readers will comprehend. But pay special care that your statements are not misleading or you will indeed feel the vitriol of well informed readers. In this case, the “Android Army” who knows better.

(yes, I’m a Hero owner who consciously decided not to buy and iPhone)

jeadly.com/ [+2]
Jan 11 10 at 8:07 am

In my experience, android’s for geeks who work in basements, who worship their linux setups. iphone is for geeks who actually get laid.

But android vs. iphone is the wrong question, as @bgurley points out.

http://abovethecrowd.com/2010/01/05/android-or-iphone-wrong-question/

diego
Jan 11 10 at 8:17 am

Gina, you’re right as far as I’m concerned. The same part of the brain tells me the same thing. Maybe that part is responsible for geek detection. Perhaps I’m just biased as an Android owner who never got over the curve and bought an iPhone considering it a move of a sheep joining the herd without thinking twice. ;-)

Cheers!
Nenad

@leadly.com –

Yeah, you know what I hate about Pogue? He writes a tech column for average users in a national newspaper and targets the columns for average readers of a national news paper. I HATE that. There’s no reason why he couldn’t target it for readers of gizmodo, engadget or slashdot. What a DICK.

Is there multi-touch right now? No. Is that what his readers will notice if they compare Nexus to an Iphone? Yeah.

(Will there be an OSS app that enables multitouch and breaks something else? Safe bet. )

Eric Goebelbecker [+2]
Jan 12 10 at 5:36 pm

I absolutely love your characterization of iPhone users as sheep and your last sentence sums up why I held out on the iPhone and went Android perfectly. Thank you!

TranceMist [+1]
Jan 12 10 at 5:40 pm

So there’s not any small bit of cognitive dissonance when you assume that the Android user values openness and so forth when they have a mobile phone whose raison d’etre is to serve mobile advertising by Google?

I think that assuming someone has an Android handset for any of the above stated reasons is a huge stretch. The majority of people don’t switch phones on a whim. How many people have a Droid because they have some sort of commitment to Verizon (family plan, work credit, etc) and wanted the closest thing to an iPhone they could reasonably get? I’d imagine that far outweighs the number of people who have a Droid because they wanted the latest shiny thing. It’s easy to lose sight of that in an echo chamber like gadget and software blogs.

I’m not saying Android isn’t a perfectly capable operating system. I’m sure I’ll consider it carefully in a few months when it comes time to upgrade. But I hardly think that Android users are, on balance, “geekier” or less “sheepish” than iPhone (or, for that matter, Pre) users is an accurate assessment.

Zach [+2]
Jan 13 10 at 9:55 am


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