Dear PA commenters: let's talk about bias

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.
Dear PA commenters: let's talk about bias
We here at PhoneArena have a job that we love, and one that we attempt to do as well as we can. We try our best to present you all with news, reviews, and analysis in an honest, thought-provoking, and (if possible) entertaining way. Of course, our job can be made less enjoyable by the endless bickering and flame wars in our comment threads. We've tried before to explain the concept of "opinion" and how that simple idea makes flame wars a silly endeavor, but that was a losing battle from day one. 

Still, it seems about time we directly address our comment community, because many of you seem to have a skewed idea of the word "bias", and while we can't say that we don't each have our own opinions, we do try our best to not be biased, and to be fair. However, someone who drops into the comment thread to call us biased is of no help, which is why we want to take this time. We rely on our comment community to keep us honest, and more importantly, to make us better at our jobs, which means we need constructive criticism, and not insults

What is bias?

We may not be able to ever stop the flame wars, but it is our hope that we can at least get some helpful feedback from those of you who take the time to be part of our comment community. And, a big issue that we're having these days, and one that we think can be fixed, is that some of you will call out bias either without explaining yourself, or at inappropriate times. That's why we want to have this talk. 

First of all, if we are being unfair in our treatment of a topic, company, or product, we definitely want to hear that feedback. But, there are many times that we get accused of bias, when more often than not the bias is coming from the commenter. It is our job to relay the day's news in regards to mobile technology, and this means running stories that you may not like, and you may not agree with. But, that is not necessarily an indicator of bias. If we run a lot of stories about Apple in September, it's probably because the new iOS devices tend to be announced at that time of year, it's not bias. 

There is a big difference between being critical, and being biased. It is our job to be critical of the companies that we cover, and not to make excuses for them. The key is whether or not we are being fair. We criticized Apple for iOS Maps when it was released, because the app wasn't up to the standards set by the company. But, we also thought it reasonable to believe that the app will improve, and assuming improvement does not excuse the errors that were already made. Similarly, we have criticized Google for its failure to provide a reliable Play Store experience when purchasing a Nexus 4 (twice), because Google has the most server power in the world, and should have expected that everyone and their mother would want a top-notch $300 unlocked smartphone. 

In both cases, we think we were fair. Apple put out a bad maps app, and Google upset many customers with problems in the Play Store. There is no arguing either point. Similarly, we are often accused of bias against Windows Phone and BlackBerry, despite giving generally positive reviews of each platform. We don't control the fact that both platforms are currently dwarfed in market share by Android and iOS, and so reporting on the struggles of each platform is fact, not bias. We don't want to see a market where Android and iOS dominate forever. We want to see competition, and choice, because that makes our job more interesting.  

What we ask of you

The trouble is that there are some people who tend to be reactionary, and comment immediately, and without consideration. If we write about something Apple did well (because Apple does some things well), we are accused of loving Apple, and even worse, we will be accused of hating Google. We need you all to keep in mind that the world is not a binary system. It is perfectly possible to admire Apple and Google in equal measure, just as it is possible to criticize each, and to both praise and criticize something a company does without it being a reflection on said company as a whole. Writing a positive story about one does not necessarily show bias towards the other, and neither does a critical story.

This is one reason why we are asking that you explain your reasons when you call us biased. If it does turn out that we have shown bias, we want to know, so we can try to be better. We can't claim that we don't have our own opinions and preferences, but we will promise to be fair, and give different perspectives from our own. Because being unbiased doesn't mean being free of opinions, it means being fair with those who have opposing viewpoints. However, you may be surprised to find that the bias lies in your own reading, and not with what we've written.

We want to provide the best work we can, and we want the best community as well. We're working hard to provide you all with content. We just ask that those of you who are more engaged to help us out, because we really appreciate the value and discussion that you all bring to our site, and the dedication that you have to being a part of our community.



1. JGuinan007

Posts: 699; Member since: May 19, 2011

Thank you I get tired of seeing IphoneArena and such in the comments

3. Mxyzptlk unregistered

You're not helping by taking potshots. If anything, you're doing the complete opposite of what Michael is trying to suggest.

13. CellularNinja

Posts: 306; Member since: Sep 27, 2011

But what he said is true. Android users (such as myself), and Windows users who call the site iPhoneArena because a PhoneArena reviewer said that they believe the iPhone has an advantage over another device is ridiculous. I personally believe that most (if not all) android flagships have an advantage over iPhone. But I understand that others have differing opinions. There is no reason for using that term to name the site.

87. JeffdaBeat unregistered

But here's the thing...there is a difference between a review and an actual story. A reviewer is paid to give their opinion. That's all. As long as the reviewer makes a point and supports why they feel that way, then the reviewer has done their job and it's up to you to figure out if those "highlights" are important to you or not. I always say, just because I'd rather have my iPhone over an Android, doesn't make the Android smartphone a bad device. It just doesn't work for me. But I don't bash anyone that reviews a Nexus above the iPhone. That Android works for them. And I cannot stress this enough, people make the news what it is. People annoy me when they say "All you see on the news are negative stories." You know why? Because whether your reaction to that negative story is good or bad, you are more willing to watch a negative story because it's more interesting. The same goes here. Whether you love Apple or absolutely hate them, you react to their stories. You post love or hate about Apple but completely neglect stories about Android, Windows Phone 8, or what's left of Blackberry. In fact, I can tell an Apple story without looking at the headline because they consistently have upward of 20 comments. Most of the time, some stories on other OS' get some comment about Apple in discussions. So if stories on Apple are getting all the hits and other stories are getting neglected, you are sending a message. You are more interested in news on Apple than any other company. Since I started reading this site 5 years ago, I've never thought PhoneArena was bias towards any company. The site does a great job at diversifying their staff writers who have actually done some great reporting that you don't always find on tech sites. Hell, some newspapers don't do features like it anymore (anyone remember the Science section?). But accusations of bias are easy nowadays right? We are seeing it in politics constantly. This news channel criticizes me so they are bias. This paper doesn't agree with EVERYTHING I think so they are bias. Just because you don't agree with something reported on doesn't make it bias.

103. Droid_X_Doug

Posts: 5993; Member since: Dec 22, 2010

Hmmm. If I were reviewing iOS v. 6 and stated that iMaps was a perfidious lash-up, that would be asserting an opinion (that I could be accused of being biased in asserting, especially given my member name), right? But if I gave examples of how iMaps steered me wrong, that would be objective? I am not trying to make an issue, just pointing out that the line separating bias from objective is oftentimes, quite fine (and on numerous occasions, painted in shades of grey). My net contribution to this thread is that writing articles is not as easy as reading them and making accusations of bias is even easier still. Kudos to PA's writers for even attempting to respond to commenters.

161. JeffdaBeat unregistered

Remember that when you review something, it is your opinion. When you are writing a story, you remove yourself as the subject and interview other people. Now if YOU had a bad experience with Apple Maps and write about it, a newspaper would consider that an editorial or column. But if you are reporting many people having issues with Apple Maps because it can't find locations, that is reporting, not reviewing. The only gray line that exists is if the ONLY thing you decide to report on are issues with Apple. Then you have bias reporting.

116. JBurd3

Posts: 11; Member since: Mar 07, 2012

i agree with you bro

15. metalpoet unregistered

Im sick of people thinking that Phonearena has some sort of biased towards apple or against apple and the same can go for google, windows, and blackberry. They simply put in the articles and they shouldnt be blamed if we dont like the facts, we can however comment on how certain people on the comment boards can be quite biased and down right ridiculous! You guys are doing a great job keeping me informed of whats going on in the wireless world :)

83. JGuinan007

Posts: 699; Member since: May 19, 2011

I'm not taking potshots at anyone I'm just tired of reading stupid comments from android fanatics saying PA is biased for Iphone calling PA "Iphonearena" or IOS fans such as yourself Taco or the Miz saying the opposite. Most of the time the comments don't even have anything to do with the article. It's tireing trying to sift out the good thought out and reasonable ones and I thank Mikey H for addressing this.

162. -box-

Posts: 3991; Member since: Jan 04, 2012

I don't think PhoneArena itself is biased, just that some of the reviewers seem to favor one particular company or OS over others, to the point that it is detrimental to the written (or spoken in videos) perception of any of that company's competitors' devices. There are only 2 or 3 off the top of my head that do this, and recently I was pleasantly surprised to see one of them give a positive review of a competitor's product that, when I saw their name on the review, I thought that competitor's product would surely be derided throughout the entire review. That said, there are too many commentors on this site who are willing to drop the "bias!" bomb any time something they like isn't adored (or disliked) in equal measure to their own perceptions and beliefs. They do not realize that no system is perfect, everyone is entitled to their own beliefs and perceptions, and sometimes the few hours or days the authors on this site have to test a phone are insufficient to really "get to know" a device, especially if it has a steeper learning curve but more raw capabilities because of it. Granted, IMHO I don't think any modern system needs a curve like that for generalized consumer products, and that preference is shown in what I choose to buy, and to that end it is difficult to expect the reviewers to be held to that higher standard: if they can't figure it out or make it perform to expectations (if expectations are different than reality, which they usually are) being paid professionals, how and why would a regular consumer be expected to? With all that in mind, I have to offer kudos to Michael H for his articles. I cannot recall any in recent memory that had a hint of any strong biases. Dissatisfactions, absolutely, but not to the point that it overrode his professionalism. Furthermore, as long as the writers on this site don't start acting and writing (and videoing) like giz's apple-gobbling Biddle, I think I'd be more than satisfied with that.

64. cncrim

Posts: 1588; Member since: Aug 15, 2011

Bias exist and will be happen very second in our life. For Example: you are open up your cloth draw and decide what color to wear you are BIAS. if you choose red, then you are bias to the color red and tomorrow you choose blue you are bias to blue. THAT'S WHAT BIAS mean and how the world work as whole, period. If you like Google you are bias Android, if you like Apple you are bias IOS. It is what it is. Bias more like a personal preference.

97. MichaelHeller

Posts: 2734; Member since: May 26, 2011

That's exactly the opposite of my point. My point is that the word "bias" exists for a reason, because it is NOT the same as an opinion or preference. Bias is defined by being an unfair preference. There is nothing unfair about preferring red over green on Mondays.

151. sadaivadai

Posts: 156; Member since: Nov 22, 2011 In this article read the first paragraph in "Design" segment . Sometimes that's what i don't like . While reviewing and comparing sometimes you should forget your favourites . Otherwise i don't find any of you to be biased and all .

154. CellularNinja

Posts: 306; Member since: Sep 27, 2011

@Michael I agree and disagree. You make a great point. But there are some cases where one can be bias by simply preferring something by default. Example: a bunch of friends want to hang out, they are deciding if they should go ice skating or bowling, well the one kid is a hockey player so he says "well I'd rather go ice skating... But of course I'm bias". There was nothing unfair about that, but he is still bias. But we obviously know why he was bias though. Bias doesn't have to mean unfair

163. MichaelHeller

Posts: 2734; Member since: May 26, 2011

Maybe not in normal life, but in the world of journalism, bias inherently means unfair.

206. CellularNinja

Posts: 306; Member since: Sep 27, 2011

True. Good point. I kind of took it out of context I guess.

208. CellularNinja

Posts: 306; Member since: Sep 27, 2011

I mean the whole 'argument' of Android versus iPhone eventually boils down to preference. No matter how much faster one's processor is than the others, or how big the screen is. So to say that having a preference is bias, than any review you would ever read would have bias.

118. Retro-touch unregistered

Big deal if some people think your bias, ever considered why do those same people keep coming back, clearly you're doing something right

156. jroc74

Posts: 6023; Member since: Dec 30, 2010

I think there are some writer(s) here that are biased, Michael isnt one of them. A quick search of his articles will tell you that. And I agree with someone, its changing a lil with other writers. I like Google/Android, dont like Apple, like Microsoft, dont really have an opinion about BB. I do try top give Apple, MS and BB props ....where its due. I feel alot of times Apple and their products get put on an amazingly high pedestal. I can have a bias towards Google/Android. I just dont try to come off fanboyish. Alot of times, like most things in life...."its now what you say but how you say it"

160. cripton805

Posts: 1485; Member since: Mar 18, 2012

This article has proved nothing. Now, what Ive read here in the past is enough for me to decide whether phonearena is bias or not. I have seen Android devices get flamed for certain things that the iPhone doesn't have, and it's never mentioned. It's like they purposely try to focus on the positives instead of the negatives and the negatives are covered up by saying there will be an update or we like it that way, etc... Read the HTC one X review and the iPhone 4s. Usually they're more sneaky, but that article was a complete troll.

202. MichaelHeller

Posts: 2734; Member since: May 26, 2011

Just read the entire HTC One X review and saw absolutely nothing trollish about it. Can you point out some examples of what you're talking about?


Posts: 187; Member since: Feb 10, 2012

in terms of reviewing gadgets i have to say phonearena makes a thorough review and unbiased opinion writer have qualities of keeping out of the safe zone when reviewing phone or tabs. which is good BUT there are instances that makes the site looks bias because most of the news involving apple products are so often to the point that even for example an big announcement related to android,BB,WP and so on are out shined by those articles even the small details related to apple never lost out of sight in a sense that MOST of the time exposure of apple products a more frequent compare to other os or products.. i notice it because i also consider other sites when looking for some news related to gadgets i have nothing against phonearena or even the writers but sometimes small news related to other os like android,bb,wp are as important as in iOs news.. accessory products of devices such as sony,moto,samsung and others are as important as apple enabled products. thats all. im sorry for my english.. have a good day everyone

2. fistigons

Posts: 368; Member since: Feb 11, 2012

You guys are doing a great job reporting the phone news. Don't change. And keep up the giveaways.

4. CellularNinja

Posts: 306; Member since: Sep 27, 2011

Thank you, PA. Much needed article. Many commenters seem to call out bias because a reviewer has an opinion. That is what reviews and other similar articles are for. So that we can get a feel for what one person (sometimes an expert) has to say about a particular product.

5. AstronautJones

Posts: 305; Member since: Aug 01, 2012

Typical biased PA reporting, lol. Actually, if people have a problem with the articles, then why do they return? PA is the best source for a range of mobile news and information.. My opinion at least.

11. ajac09

Posts: 1482; Member since: Sep 30, 2009

alot of us come back becasue its fun to watch the flame wars

14. CellularNinja

Posts: 306; Member since: Sep 27, 2011

Haha agreed :) I mean, I come for the news and information, but I do enjoy a good comment battle occasionally!

19. ajac09

Posts: 1482; Member since: Sep 30, 2009

hey on the plus side they are NOT as bad as BGR..

74. networkdood

Posts: 6330; Member since: Mar 31, 2010

P.A. has the best format, IMO, however, it is normally behind the times when it comes to news.

112. akbar

Posts: 62; Member since: Feb 09, 2012

Totally disagree. PA has their good sides but their format is RSS spam! The amount of useful information is totally lost in background noise. Th best reviews I have ever read are from anandtech and phone-review. They give you background of the product, intended target audience and their opinion. Generally not only review of the device but deeper analysis. Most of the PA reviews are opinionated readings of the spec sheet. And if you end all of your articles with "what do you think" why are surprised of the flame wars. As users before said, everybody has their bias and to be objectionable is not easy that's why experts are paid so high. you can not expect this from the general public, especially when your reading base mostly teenagers.

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