[Article first published as Mobile Tech, Fanaticism, Instagram, Reality. on Blogcritics]
Given all the tech I’ve played with over the years, I’d be comfortable calling myself a Windows/Android guy with some earthy tones of Linux and the occasional smooth draws of Mac. I like to keep up to date and current on what’s going on in commercial tech platforms for two (and a half) reasons. The first is personal – i’m a tech geek, and being more informed and knowing different platforms makes my purchasing decisions more well informed and in line with what I need. The second is professional – my career is primarily one of being the IT and technology alpha nerd, and I’d call geeking out part of my job description. That last “and a half?” The more platforms, operating systems and “sides” I know, the more credibility I have talking tech, and the less I have to deal with folks associating my opinions with being a pure fanboy of any given platform.
Because fanboyism and fangirlism irk me. Ohhh kids it irks me something improper. I like what I like because I’ve tested a lot of things, and through that testing formulated my own opinion based on a wide array of experiences. I like PCs running Windows 7. I prefer Android-powered devices. It’s just how I roll. That doesn’t mean I hate all things Apple – on the contrary I feel the vast majority of their products are really a solid set of devices. And they back that up with sales, as well as a fiercely loyal fan base that in my opinion has supported the "Cult of Mac" moniker that it has come to be known as over the last decade, rivaling the following of some organized religions. But when the iPhone was still pretty much on its own in the touchscreen smartphone game, it was all about “cool.” With the rise of Android, the sentiment of “cool” was somehow converted into one of elitism.
You see kids, the iPhone isn’t iAlone anymore (see what I did there?). It has competition now. What the rise of Android has done is one very major thing sociologically, namely the creation of two completely polarized groups of users: the "I won't touch anything non-Apple" camp and the "Apple is for the computer illiterate, sheep and hipsters locked in groupthink" faction. Adding competition naturally drove the poles of these groups to consider each other the enemy, instead of just two kinds of tech that accomplish similar goals. Hell I’ve never seen anything this heated in consumer tech before, including Intel vs. AMD. That fierce brand loyalty Apple has built does come off as elitist fanaticism sometimes, but at the same time Android side is no less guilty of elitism.
Don’t get me wrong. Like I said, I’m not a fanboy, and acknowledge the guilt of both “sides” when it comes to this sort of fanaticism. My problem is with users. Multiple people I'm friends with and work with run all Mac at their homes, and brag about how their new iPhones are "10x times better" than Android devices – in every iteration of course – 3, 3gs, 4 4s, because they've bought them all. The problem is, they've never touched, much less used an Android device. So how could they possibly know? "But why is it better?" I ask. No joke, most answers dance around "because Apple/Steve Jobs would never make a bad product."
Ok, that may support why it's a good product, but not why it's "100 times better." How was that purchase fueled by anything other than blind brand loyalty? I know people on the other end of the spectrum too, who have purchased top-of-the-line Android smartphones and touted their superiority over iAnything while at the same time having never even held any sort of iPhone in their hands. I have no respect for these kinds of opinions on either side, because they're not based in any kind of logic or fact. And while I see this on both platforms, I do get it more from Apple users than Android users. There is still the minority of users that have actually played with both and have a logical preference one way or the other. THAT I can get on board with. I've used both and I prefer Android. Other colleagues have used both and prefer Apple. Some are warming up to WIndows phones. Fair enough. I can't argue that because they’ve done the research to actually know.
With this so called battle raging on for years, why do I decide to bring this up now? One word, kids: Instagram. That’s right, the photo app loved and adored by scores of iPhone users is no longer Apple exclusive, and as of yesterday was free to download for Android users. Now I never truly realized the wonder of this product – in my eyes it was a photo editing app that allowed a user to put a limited number of effects on a picture, providing one-click sharing to social media. And after I downloaded it myself, my opinion didn’t really change. It’s still nothing more than a handful of post-processing options that allows me to share to social media from within the app. As such my personal reaction, and the reaction of most Android users I know, wasn’t too much more than a collective “Meh” for the day. I just don’t feel the need to make my pictures look like they came from 1977, like one of the named filters the app can do. And I’m perfectly capable of instantly sharing pictures from my phone to Twitter, Facebook and Google+ with the touch of a button. So even having Instagram now, the chances of me regularly using it are fairly slim.
Now for the Apple side. iPhone Instagram fans flooded Twitter upon release of Instagram for Android to not only express their surprise, but their disdain and outright disgust at the mere thought of sharing their precious app with filthy Android users. Go ahead and look up the #instagram hashtag. While some Android users are displaying their pleasure and joy at having this app, and the rest of us really don’t care, tweets from iPhoners are overwhelmingly negative. Check the compilations of hate tweets put together by Android Community and BuzzFeed. Responses ranged from do not follow requests to Android users to feelings of “eww” and “gross” and “fail” to suggestions to perform lewd acts upon and/or kill ourselves. Reading these and actually going through the hashtag search actually made me angry. Not angry because I’m an Android user, but at the pure venom that poured forth from the iPhone community. Apparently android users are “ghetto” and my access to Instagram now makes it “the projects.” Really? We pay $300-$400 for our devices with 2 year contracts, so I hardly see how we’re the poorhouse alternative to the Apple country club. After the anger came jealousy – because this is clearly the most important thing these people have to address all day. Following the jealousy however, was a complete 180 into intense laughter. Why? Because all I had to do to ruin the lives of a million elitist jerks was download a free app to my Droid Razr Maxx that I'll probably never use. So on some level, thanks guys, you made me feel all iPowerful today, and sad for you that this is really all it takes for your world to crumble. I understand it's not ALL iPhone users, but man does that community come off like a bunch of whiny children.
But still, why the hate people? It's not that earth shattering of an app. And I really hate to break it to you folks, but Android didn’t crash your party, we were invited. Instead of being happy that the number of users and photos being available now increasing my a few million and the ability to follow and be followed by Android using friends, hell even instead of being indifferent, iPhone users are clearly filling the stereotypical role of the hipster, complaining that their exclusive underground club’s gone mainstream. It's like the sound of a million fixed gear bicycles grinding to a halt.
Deal with it. This has, if any at all, a marginal effect on your lives. And technology is for everyone. My apologies on behalf of the entirety of the Android community that you’re no longer the only ones that can add simple-minded single-touch “retro” post-processing to camera phone pictures in an exclusive community. On behalf of the OG’s of nerd culture on the other hand, I have demands, not apologies. Give us back cloud computing that made your iCloud possible. Touchscreen tech in general. Video games. Advanced web tools. The stuff my guys had to manually code that you do with a finger tap. Alllll the stuff we nerds had exclusively before they went mainstream to the masses only so you could complain about trivial garbage now.
The bottom line is that everyone wants to be one of the cool kids. Everyone wants to belong to some exclusive club that they can lord over others, as trivial as it may be, when the real truth is that Android devices and iProducts do the SAME. DAMN. STUFF. When someone says "I love Apple and Android is for the dirty" or "Android is awesome, Apple is the evil empire," 95% of the time what they're REALLY saying is "I love mobile technology, and haven't the first damn clue what the real differences between the tech and platforms are."
Because to the 5% of those of us that know - those of us who actually care to know about and understand this tech that rules our very lives instead of form over function, it’s mathematically impossible for us to care less.