Smartphones investigate

Apple vs Android: How tech tribalism is ruining the web

The never-ending stream of "mine's better than yours" between fans of rival smartphones, tablets and computers is destroying healthy debate about IT. It's time for the warring factions to put away their cliched arguments and engage in grown-up discussion.

A recent article I wrote on the Apple iPhone 5 got over 200 reader comments. I have no idea what they say, I haven't read them. I never read comment threads on articles about Apple or Android. What's the point?

This isn't a slight against the good readers of TechRepublic. This is a web-wide policy I've adopted as the enmity between Apple and Android has raged and raged and raged. There have always been hostility between supporters of opposing technologies but it seems like the schism between iOS and Android fans is far more fierce than the one between Apple and Microsoft ever was. More fierce and certainly more tedious and abusive.

I love being called an idiot or a 'fanbois' by people who assume I know nothing about technology because they know how to program or can solder a motherboard and I buy Apple products. It is life affirming in the same way that constantly having to gently tell my mum that she can't delete the internet from her iPad is life affirming.

That's not to say we haven't all got something useful to say, just that chances are you haven't said it on an online comment thread on an article involving Apple or Android. It's got to the point where the abuse is omnipresent. It seems to me it's just wilful ignorance driven by tech tribalism.

Perhaps it's the same mentality that drives otherwise decent, educated people to hurl terrible abuse at each other in football stadia. So too the tech tribalism that spills over into invective and cliché has ruined the comment threads beneath articles about Apple, Android and other smartphones, tablets and computers. At least for me.

Apple readers are, or at least, were, just as bad as any Android, Windows or BlackBerry advocate.

Ultimately this is partly Apple's doing. The company's first product evangelist Guy Kawasaki reportedly ran a mailing list that highlighted critical reports about Apple. The result was wave after wave of abusive attacks on journalists and analysts. Kawasaki reportedly closed the list when it became obvious that it would ultimately harm the Apple brand but the genie was already out of the bottle.

Back in 2005 I wrote an article for silicon.com that criticised the online manner of Mac users who hurled abuse at journalists and anyone who found fault with Apple (still available from ZDNet).

Back then I was embarrassed by the vitriol that fellow Mac users were pouring out in online fora frequented by IT decision makers in business - the very people they were trying to influence to resolve their insecurity and resentment about Apple's minority market position.

The rise of open source in the late nineties led to another wave of 'enthusiasts' who bombarded silicon.com with abusive comments if a journalist dared question any aspect of Linux. Some of the abuse we got at silicon.com bordered on threatening.

Fast forward 10 years and now we have a band of Android supporters who deride Apple and its 'ignorant', herd-following customers. So how have we got to this current firestorm between Android and Apple fans?

On the one hand it stems from the traditional practice of pitting of one tech company against another.

I also have a different theory. Apple is all about the democratisation of technology. First with the Mac, and later with the iPod and iOS devices. It has made information technology and all the useful things it can offer available to a vast new audience of people who previously had no truck with it. As Apple products began to become dominant, the traditional tech market consumer was increasingly marginalised by both products and marketing. People resented this.

The iPod started it and people who fitted into the 'rest of us' category got hooked on a technology brand without really realising it. The so-called Halo Effect's impact was wide and enduring.

So these days, Apple doesn't really design products for techies - the 'real' old school techies. The only one you could make a case for is the Mac Pro and that's remained untouched for many years. The powerful computer in its massive, upgradeable aluminium case is the complete opposite of the sealed, safe iPad.

'Opposite' is the key word. What makes tech folk think in such polar extremes? Maybe it's a hangover from having to think in binary for so long.

So it comes to this: do we yearn for a more civilised web or are we content to peddle the same invective and cliché ad Infinitum - or rather - ad nauseam?

What do we need? A new charter for the web? We've lost YouTube to the trolls. Let's not lose the middle ground of tech news sites, blogs and fora to the same tsunami of wilful ignorance.

Here's a start:

• Don't be an idiot

• Ask yourself: will this comment add to the argument or are you secretly embarrassed to be posting it?

• Does it contain any of the following words and phrases: 'sheeple', 'windoze', 'it just works'. 'boring beige box', 'fanbois'. If so you may have taken a shortcut to thinking. Try again.

I'm know I don't have a clear answer so maybe I should rely, ironically, on the wisdom of crowds.

If you spend time on chat forums and reader boards have a think about how things have changed over the years. If you're tired of the downward spiral then add a comment below suggesting your own idea for a charter for a more civilised web conversation.

Knock yourself out and keep it polite. Or don't. As I said before, it makes no difference to me either way.

55 comments
Murfski-19971052791951115876031193613182
Murfski-19971052791951115876031193613182

Competition is generally a good thing, because it makes people, schools, companies, etc., work harder to excel. It loses its benefits, however, when it degenerates into a war. I have seen it in school rivalries, political campaigns, and disagreements on technology. A reasoned approach to a difference of opinion, with civilized discourse, can often lead to benefits for both sides, while a war, whether of words or actions, is no more than a bunch of people who are either unwilling or unable to carry on a logical, coherent conversation. It's so much easier to stick with a stereotypical view of the other guy; that way, you don't have to make the effort actually to think. As technical professionals, we should be above the rudeness of the bigots. Please try to avoid the flaming, fanboy, "mine's better than yours 'cause it's mine" mindset, and use these forums for what they.re designed for.

JohnOfStony
JohnOfStony

I wouldn't call it tribal, I'd call it infantile. Mature adults don't behave in the way that hard line brand supporters do when mindlessly putting down any alternative to their chosen brand. For a company like Apple to do as well as they have done/are doing with a closed system means they must be supplying what a lot of customers want. Similarly Microsoft and Google/Android must also supply what a lot of customers want. It's horses for courses. The trouble is that their are senior people in some of these companies who are also infantile in their behaviour. You only have to look at the Apple v Samsung legal battles. Why can't the CEOs of both companies have a chat, shake hands and agree that "I'll let you use my patents if you'll let me use yours." The trouble with this world imho can be summed up in 2 words: personal insecurity. Everyone suffers from this and it drives us in different directions, some constructive, some destructive. The callenge is to choose the constructive options. Let me give an example of constructive behaviour. I had a neighbour who persistently parked his car in a location which made access to my driveway awkward (I live in a town that dates back to way before cars were invented). I wrote him what I thought was a poilte letter asking him to park 6 feet away from his usual parking spot and he replied with a nasty letter saying he'd park when and where he liked. I had 3 options: 1) Escalate the situation, e.g. by blocking his car whenever possible 2) Do nothing 3) Be as nice to the guy and his wife as possible. I chose option 3 and it was most entertaining, helping the guy when he needed a jump start and in various other situations where he couldn't be nasty to me. In the end he changed his parking behaviour. Apple, Samsung, Google, etc., (and their fanboys) have you thought of trying the "cooperation" approach instead of the "attack" approach. It does work and, lets be honest, there are enough customers in the world for many companies to coexist in harmony.

sehamon
sehamon

The line about your mother trying to delete the internet made me laugh. I can certainly relate, and it drove home to me the point of your article, in a strange way. Computers are simply tools, and where as we may like our favorite brands, when push comes to shove, if you really need to use a screwdriver, just about any will do. If the tools works, don't complain.

programit
programit

One drives innovation and competition, the other is total control and oppression. IE Android vs Apple! Polar opposites. One works with cooperative system of production and distribution organized to directly satisfy economic demands and human needs. They offer a wider selection and choice, which to some means greater confusion. The other is where one body inflicts total control and oppresses any conflicting ideas in their aim to control and supply what they feel is required. It minimizes choice and hence makes the final decision simpler. Choice of one! This appeals to two very different types of people, many of which have strong ideas and values with regards to their own ideals. Just like different religions! Secondly, no one likes to be told they just made a bad decision, or wasted their money, whether it be true or not!

HypnoToad72
HypnoToad72

Gotta love it when the law makers want it both ways... yes, "law makers" since they may not always be "lawmakers"... ;)

HENpp
HENpp

...Seb doesn't know what he's missing. Most of the comments are thoughtful. Some are thoughtful and amusing. Collectively, the comments are perhaps a better read than the commentary, though they obviously would not exist without it.

Stephen.Frazier
Stephen.Frazier

Back in the 70's I learned two rules for online discussions. 1. Don't be annoying 2. Don't be easily annoyed. Back before the internet let everyone in, Most people followed these rules. Those who didn't were ignored. A twit filter was used to block their postings.

tharakah
tharakah

I am Apple iPad and Samsung Android phone. I am looking forward for a windows phone from Nokia. To me Nokia produced best phones I can think of. I believe Windows 8 has very nice interface very different Apple and Android. I have a feeling I am going to like Windows mobile.

frylock
frylock

I've used both iOS and Android. I find I prefer Android and have chosen that for my newer devices (though I still use a Mac). That doesn't mean I want Android to be dominant. I'm glad others are using iOS, W8, BB, whatever. We've all seen what happens when a technology becomes excessively dominant: Consumers lose. I think some people are just insecure and want the validation of the masses for their purchasing decision. I view it like my dSLR. I've chosen Canon but I have respect for Nikon (and others) because they make great stuff, sometimes better. I've always said, great Nikons make for better Canons. Let others make a different choice then you. Be happy someone did. It's ok to argue about which is best, but remember that you only have opinions and not absolute facts.

Spiny Norman
Spiny Norman

(Objectively now. Do not read value judgments into this) Apple's technology development, management, and even marketing is very much a "top down" proposition. They control all aspects of the environment - hardware, software, standards, etc. Because they control it all, the systems work smoothly and reliably, BUT that model necessarily imposes limits on freedom. I would equate that more to a communist model wherein the state provides necessary services to its constituents, but it defines all the parameters of those services. Linux and the Open Source community live at the opposite end of that spectrum - more of an anarchy by comparison. The environment is virtually uncontrolled so freedom and options are limited only by the capability of the parties involved. It is more of a "grass roots" model. But the lack of uniform boundaries and accepted, centralized direction results in an extremely dynamic environment, and a challenging foundation on which to build a robust, reliable, broadly supported system. Different people place dffering values on stability versus flexibility. I suspect there is room for both in the current marketplace...

mckinnej
mckinnej

Ford vs. Chevy, CoCo vs. C64, IBM vs. Amiga, and Amiga vs. Apple, I had some good times in all of those fights. Generally they are fun when approached with the right attitude (don't take it serious). Humorous chiding of a rival is pretty natural, but there are always the folks that take it too serious and too far. Best thing to do is ignore them. Don't feed the trolls. As for how I feel about Apple vs. Android, I'm in favor of the open environment over the walled garden any day. When I lay down my hard-earned dollars for a product, I expect to be able to do anything I want with that product. When any company tries to restrict me in how I can use their product, then they're not going to have me as a customer no matter how pretty, slick, or trendy their product might be.

jeb.hoge
jeb.hoge

It's not about the technology. I've got nothing against a company that makes high-end devices, even if they don't always engineer them the way that I would want. I think that the reason most Apple haters are the way we are is because of the company's marketing engine (and Steve Jobs, if you want to separate him from the marketing role he played). This is a company that has pretended for years and years that they're doing things that no other company has done and that people who use their products will enjoy benefits that they can't get from any other devices. And yes, I know that that's the core of marketing but still, Apple has not only taken that approach, but they've done it in a way that insults the intelligence and character of people who know better.

rmerchberger
rmerchberger

"He who forgets history is doomed to repeat it." Does he not remember the Apple / Commodore / Tandy / Atari advocacy wars of the '80s / '90s? It's just the same thing all over again - Hopefully capri pants and bell-bottoms don't come back in vogue as well...

Zoey11
Zoey11

Indeed! Apple is the Tech giant But Now Microsoft is also progressing very fast in this tech race.

atkinsonphillip
atkinsonphillip

I'm not that old, but i'm not that young either. I was an adult when the internet came into being. Wether it's the degree of vitriol observed in supposedly intelligent naratives of competing technologies, or the more base and disturbing trolling, we have a commonality: annonimity. Without the risk of being identified, confronted or other repercussions and unconstrained by accountability, a culture of cowardice has emerged. I for one strive to be in print who I am in person. Manners, fairness, a sense of ethics and morality and playing the ball not the man is the essence of integrity and too often lacking in online conversations.

ken.bradstock
ken.bradstock

I love it when the two tribes go to war, its half the reason i read these articles. Removing the banter would make boring articles like this one not worth reading. Then my friend you would probably be out of a job because no one wants to listen to your mindless dribble. I cant believe i actually finished your article before getting to the comments

chun.wai.wong
chun.wai.wong

We ain't no saints. I suppose that is what you would say in good old America. No? I think we should not be too worked up nor overly critical about postings that are outliers in nature. Why even pay attention to those? Most of us will just ignore such postings - they are of no value to the discussion. Since we do not believe in the Big Brother order of things, so shall we just leave it at that? I remember someone mentioned in a TR posting that insinuated Asians and implied that we are copycats. Do I get all worked up and ask him to take a trip to "Asia" and be amazed by our diversity? You just need to sit back, relax and be much less affected by such comments. After all, you should know what you are in for.

TrajMag
TrajMag

My belief (such that it is) - it elevated when Jobs did declare war but I always thought is was in the mobile phone market and the iPhone made everyone who owned one think they were superior to all. Googles Androids just added to the conflagration. The problem is that all of the Smart Phone devices turned a system that was meant for simple phone conversations into toys. Toys that play music, games, take pictures etc. From that, now everyone is a Tech genius and will defend to the near death which ever gadget that they have in their hand at the time. ( It was similar with automobile brands long before.) IT is INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY not who has the most popular toy selling by the millions. All of this tirade is aimed at a small try to support the author's premiss. Let's get back to discussions of the How tos, merit and demerits, functions etc of the systems we all deal with no matter who designed, built, wrote, programed them. We all support a customer somewhere.

patg00
patg00

alt.flame, or for that matter any of the usenet groups where flaming could be intelligent, or really childish, but still fun to read.

tconrady
tconrady

3 questions that have always worked for me. 1) Does it need to be said? 2) Does it need to be said by me? 3) Does it need to be said by me now? Most tech discussions about platforms always are a big "meh" to me. Android, iOS, MS, whatever...they all do the same crap but just go about it differently. Seems like an utter waste of time to either be a "fanboi" or a "hater". Choice is a beautiful thing.

zoso967
zoso967

If you write an article whose comments you are not interested in because the discussion is moot, so is the article .... Your "article" "Apple iPhone 5: Guaranteed to disappoint" is geared towards creating this divide you describe. "chances are you haven’t said it on an online comment thread on an article involving Apple or Android". Really? You're just trying to generate friction so people will read your articles. You are the problem ...

giochajon
giochajon

Technology discussions are as polarized as discussing religion or sport teams, as an IT professional it pays to keep an open mind and early adopt several technologies and discover the beauty and advantages of them all, I know it can become pretty expensive to own an apple, android, Microsoft and Linux devices at home to tinkle with, but when asked by a customer on your opinion regarding one trend or another as IT professionals we should not not overlook at the myriad of advantages these implementations offer, in a nutshell as there is no such thing as perfect sports team or religion we should keep an open mind on the other solutions even if we "follow" or are inclined on a particular one, this not only applies to OS technologies but Databases and programming languages.

bonafide89
bonafide89

As far as Android vs Apple/iOS is considered, that bitch Jobs started it by calling Android a "stolen" product and declaring a "thermonuclear war". I'm not going to bother reminding everyone how that is absolutely incorrect and how the said bitch Jobs herself stole countless ideas over her fucked up career.

Steve__Jobs
Steve__Jobs

???? . I would choose to use "ACCESSIBLE" rather than "DEMOCRATIC". Apple is not exactly a democratic company when it comes to admitting faults and dealing with complaints.

eknowle
eknowle

What matters in IT is what does the job for the client, whether it is Android, iOS, Mac, Windows, Unix, Linux, Mainframe, or whatever!!! If you engage in such contests, you are do yourself and more importantly your clients a disservice!!

JohnOfStony
JohnOfStony

I totally agree with programit@... where he likens the OS situation to religion - so true! And his final sentence, "Secondly, no one likes to be told they just made a bad decision, or wasted their money, whether it be true or not! ." hits the nail on the head and supports my argument (see later comment) - everyone suffers from personal insecurity and when it's pointed out to them that they've made a bad decision, that can heighten their personal insecurity and the natural reaction is to lash out. But by now, we should be mature enough to control our "natural reactions" and consider comments in a reasonable and logical way.

HypnoToad72
HypnoToad72

Which paradigm are you referring to that flourished in the 1970s? Or were you working for DARPA? :D

HypnoToad72
HypnoToad72

But Windows Phone OS? Good luck. Especially with inevitable registry corruption...

JohnOfStony
JohnOfStony

Thanks frylock for a very mature comment. I've been driving Toyotas since 1980 but I wouldn't put anyone down for driving a Ford or a VW or any other brand - unless it was a gas guzzler ;) Competition is good as it promotes progress by all.

HypnoToad72
HypnoToad72

then a) I wouldn't have confounded the big brick computer store, when going in for warranty work, showing him how tapping the Network icon locked up the iphone (this was a while ago; I've moved to another brand since) b) you wouldn't have so many complaints about "the beach ball o' death" For low-end fluff, OS X is as stable as the rest of them... it's not perfect, either, but I've had the beach ball ruin my day just as much as it has for many others. I do put OS X above Windows, solely because there's no bleepin' registry...

HypnoToad72
HypnoToad72

I don't care for marketers, manipulators, or people who were told by engineers of a product defect then chose to let the defect out and subsequently scream at customers. ("YOU'RE HOLDING IT WRONG"). The myth of Jobs is overbloated; the man himself was a leech and a jerk. Even in college days, he dropped out but leeched on campus to 'cut cost'. Apple, under his reign, gave the middle finger to the free market (or supply-side market) by taking tons of corporate welfare and tax breaks, while offshoring (and using every shallow excuse in the book to half-bakedly defend his personal greed.) I own Apple products. I will not continue to buy Apple products. A $2000 iMac should not burn the screen after 2 years due to poor cooling design. A $2000 MacBook should not have thermal paste poorly applied and overheat to death. I'm not alone in having these issues, and the internet has a lot of people and websites talking about poor design and other issues. Right down to warped screws and puddles of grease under fans. They may be sold as "luxury" devices, but it's like having the chassis of a Lexus but the engine and build quality of a Yugo (or Chevy, who cares... purported high-end vs low-end arguments are a dime per dozen...)

HypnoToad72
HypnoToad72

I've usually been told the opposite... like it matters, their one-line comments are meant to obfuscate the real reasons... ;) And, yes, I'm aware of the irony of my response, but I've already alluded to the reason in another response to someone in this article thread...

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

[i]Hopefully capri pants and bell-bottoms don't come back in vogue as well... [/i] One thing I've learned in the last half-century: style may be eternal, but fashion recycles.

HypnoToad72
HypnoToad72

Replace "tech" with "rat". Even technology media outlets are still pooh-poohing Microsoft's stumbling around with Win8 and Windows Phone... (I'd say "tech media" except "tech" manages to refer to both the electronic garbage people enjoy being exploited by, and as the technicians that fix their gadgets - at least for now, our increasingly wasteful and disposable society (filled with disposable people, of which some are wasteful) can only devalue people and everything else for only a sufficient period of time.

partner_mark
partner_mark

The split in opinion will keep this technology alive a vibrant. This war is wonderful, you get all the benefits of war and no dead bodies. If you think for a second that these two companies' innovations aren't driven by competing with each other (and now Microsoft) you're goofy. Let them battle it out, nobody gets hurt, and we benefit from it all (not to mention the lawyers).

partner_mark
partner_mark

I've been in IT for many many years and have the gray hair to prove it. I love playing with new tech. and I believe that that's the nature of a "geek". All of my "Toys" have indeed payed for themselves by fostering my ability to support them with my clients. The difference between a repair man and a geek is that if a geek were independently wealthy a geek would still do it for free - for the love of the technology. As far as which is better (IOS or Android), why can't they both be great?

CharlesG1970
CharlesG1970

Ford vs. Chev North American vs. Germen, vs. Jaspanes

partner_mark
partner_mark

Too many people choose to speak when they/we really should be listening - Myself included.

MyopicOne
MyopicOne

Some also might consider an article by an author not even remotely interested in the commentary as merely a longer equivalent of a troll on a message board. Is there an ignore button or link on TR articles?

CharlesG1970
CharlesG1970

Apple on the other had has tried to sue Samsung for using "Rounder corners" on their devices. Why all the vitrol. this guy is right.

CR2011
CR2011

I would think Oligarchy would be more appropriate...

partner_mark
partner_mark

In the IT business, it's all about the customer. It's our job to know the technology and answer questions and support the device THEY choose.

MyopicOne
MyopicOne

ok, this field is required...

mckinnej
mckinnej

And far too quickly in some cases.

HypnoToad72
HypnoToad72

Tell that to the guy who was mugged solely because he had a fancy phone. NEVER EVER glorify war, whether it's the old fashioned blood-driven type, or these new wars (based on economy, and double-standards... keep in mind that Apple did 30 years ago that it tries to prevent others from doing now (copying and innovating on). Ask Xerox about it... And, yes, people get hurt - you forget those who make the apps. The developers. Apple (and the others) don't do that, but they love to be like 1920s gangsters and take a cut of every sale they didn't work to make, and their products are built on open source*, so I have little incentive to contemplate what you're about to say. * which millions volunteered/wasted their time in doing since they didn't expect to have their work to be fleeced by corporate giants that took shortcuts to profiteer by... Most open source entities were no-cost alternatives, but things change...

HypnoToad72
HypnoToad72

As the technology industry giants keep honing the system for smaller customer costs, taking a huge chunk of every penny that you - the developer - work hard to earn, by creating software that makes the industry giant(s) you develop for look better in the process, you might get tired of such wealth redistribution.

Murfski-19971052791951115876031193613182
Murfski-19971052791951115876031193613182

I just (re-) read your blog, and I really wish more people would be as reasonable. It does seem to be out of fashion these days, though. Of course, all you wimps who have to have a GUI aren't real computer users; you should use the command line for everything.

wizard57m-cnet
wizard57m-cnet

Sometimes I miss my "tire tread" sandals and bell bottom Levis... and my '74 Nova...ah heck, guess I'm just an old hippie! ;)

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

Two older teen-agers trick-or-treating in hip-hugger bells, middie blouses with embroidered flowers, Jesus sandals, and all leather accessories.