iOS 8: fueling the Apple faithful and trolling Android lovers?

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.
iOS 8: fueling the Apple faithful and trolling Android lovers?
Here's the flat out truth: iOS 8 is a huge update that brings long-awaited features to iPhone and iPad users and make the Apple faithful very happy. It is also going to fuel plenty of Android faithful who see this as nothing more than Apple rehashing features that have been available on Google's platform for a long time. The trouble is that both sides are exactly right, but I'm starting to wonder if Apple isn't actually trolling its haters a bit.

If you're an Apple hater, you probably either believe that A) Apple users are complete idiots, B) Apple execs are complete idiots, and/or C) Both. Unfortunately, none are true (or at least no more true than any company/user base has its share of people who don't think things through). Apple users are simply people who prefer a certain experience, exactly like how Android users prefer a certain experience. And, Apple execs are actually incredibly intelligent people. It is absolutely impossible to build a company that successful otherwise. 

All press is good press

We all know that Apple tends to hold back certain features that some would consider to be basic functionality. But, Apple has been doing this for a long time, so I find it easy to believe that there is more to this than you might expect. Holding back features "until they are perfect" has five major effects, all of which benefit Apple: 

  1. It creates the impression (true or not) that Apple spends more time getting features right than the competition. 
  2. It gives Apple an unending list of features to target.
  3. It increases the time Apple has to filter that list to only the features users want the most.
  4. It fuels the rumor mill between announcements with speculation over what features will come next.
  5. It artificially boosts announcement news because of traffic from Apple haters coming to rage about the latest update.

In terms of benefit number one, the standard Apple response is that the company likes to focus on a few things to make sure that they are done as best as can be. This, of course, is basically marketing gibberish meant to imply that Apple is different, and other companies don't focus enough and spread themselves too thin, which isn't really true; it's just Marketing 101. Tons of companies do the exact same thing. Fox News calls itself "fair and balanced" not only to add that idea to its brand (regardless of its accuracy), but to imply that other news organizations aren't fair and balanced.

But, you know what are two other pieces of Marketing 101? The last two items on that list, which amounts to making the public do your marketing for you, and keeping in mind that there is no such thing as bad publicity. While there are plenty of websites dedicated to Apple's cause, there are also plenty of websites taking the opposite view who are doing just as much to fuel the Apple train as anyone else. It reminds me of the movie "Private Parts" about Howard Stern where it is said that his fans listened to him for an average of an hour and twenty minutes per day, while his haters listened for an average of two and a half hours per day. 

I have trouble with this phenomenon because I really cannot grasp the mindset of a fanboy, regardless of which side you support, especially considering that the rage has the opposite effect than what is intended. My philosophy is simple: let people choose what they want, because it is all a subjective exercise to find what works best for you. I am a tinkerer, which is why I prefer Android and I have a MacBook that triple boots MacOS, Windows, and Ubuntu (depending on my mood). My wife and my sisters don't want to be bothered with too much of a learning curve, so I steered them towards Apple. My mother just wanted something to use for light email and web browsing (I suggested an iPad), and light texting and taking photos, so I suggested a Nokia Lumia 928 (because Windows Phone is also good for those with eyesight that is degrading a bit and it was free through Verizon at the time.) At the end of the day, it's just a matter of what works for what you need. 

Of course, in the mind of a fanboy, there is a need to rationalize their choice by somehow proving all other choices to be wrong. This is impossible when you're talking about subjective choice, but fanboys like to (wrongly) claim that these are objective absolutes. And, I believe that Apple uses this to its advantage, because remember: there's no such thing as bad press. Some outlets are praising Apple for the updates it unveiled today, and some are saying that once again Apple has "stolen" ideas from the competition, and regardless of the tone of the news there are scores of people in the comment threads generating activity and spreading the news of what Apple has announced. All press is good press. 

Fanboy rage has the opposite of the intended effect

This is why I'm starting to think that Apple is actually trolling its haters. I don't personally subscribe to the idea that Apple, or any company, can really "steal" an idea at this point, mostly because the ideas that are supposedly being "stolen" weren't original to begin with. Android didn't invent the idea of a universal sharing menu, those things have existed in web browsers for years. Android didn't invent the idea of widgets either, or Windows Phone with live tiles. Android didn't invent the idea of alternative keyboards either. I've been changing keyboards on my PC since I first got one twenty years ago; I even tried out Dvorak for a while, but it didn't stick. Apple knows that a good idea is a good idea, but Apple also knows that every time it announces an update with a feature that is new for iOS, but not exactly "new" in general, there will be an army of haters and Android faithful ready to inadvertently spread the word. 

This again, makes very little sense to me. In my mind, what Apple announced today will mean huge changes for iOS users, which should be for the better. I know that one of the few frustrations my wife has had with iOS is that she couldn't simply share a photo directly to Instagram from the Photos app. The changes announced today will fix that issue, though I doubt she'll even notice the other changes that iOS extensions will cause. 

And, that's really the point. The changes that Apple announced will be a benefit for those who have already chosen iOS as their platform. They may lead to some who were on the fence to choose iOS. But in general, those who had wanted these features like universal sharing and widgets before are probably already using Android. And, if you're an Android user, changes that Apple announce have absolutely no effect on you, so raging against Apple just serves to feed Apple's marketing machine. Your traffic boosts links, and most average users who can have their opinion swayed have no interest in going anywhere near the pits of hate that are the comment threads. 

Feeding the machine

More than likely, Apple understands all of this. Apple knows that adding these features will make its loyal base happy, but it will also rankle those who think that blasting hate actually has any effect other than to start fights and attract those who already believe the same as you. The net effect towards those who would have chosen iOS over Android anyway? Zero. But, any article talking about the updates Apple get traffic boosts because of the comment thread activity. All press is good press, and it's easy to believe that Apple is playing the game (at least in part) to exploit its trolls. Trolling the trolls, as it were. 

This is not to say that the main reason for updating iOS the way it does is for the sole reason to annoy its haters. The biggest reason to add in the features it has is to make sure that users don't leave iOS for Android, which means getting feature parity wherever it makes sense. Adding in extensions to allow for easier sharing makes perfect sense, as does the way that Apple has brought in widgets. Apple doesn't want to mess too much with its icon grid, because it needs to keep iOS familiar to entrenched users, but widgets are useful. Remember, HTC found that 80% of users didn't bother with widgets, and so Apple is certainly not going to mess with its home screens for a minority of users. Keeping widgets in the notification tray also allows Apple to limit how often they need to update. 

At the end of the day, Apple has to keep its users happy, and all of the updates coming in iOS 8 should do just that. But, if Apple can annoy its haters in the process, it has reason to do that as well. Some still cling to the old argument about it all being about Apple's hypocrisy concerning stealing and Apple's history of lawsuits, but that argument doesn't really stand anymore. Since Tim Cook took over, Apple hasn't been litigious, and has been working recently at settling lawsuits, not filling them. You can say what you want about Apple and how it does its work, but ultimately, if the users are happy and continue to choose the product, that's their choice. Apple's update strategy shouldn't have anything to do with those who don't use Apple products, but haters have made it their business. And, in doing so, they give a greater voice to Apple itself, which probably isn't the intention. Apple probably won't give up the free publicity any time soon, so there's only one way to end it. 


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