Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Apple users - the most dangerous cult of all!

Years ago, when looking to buy an MP3 player, I was at Best Buy, figuring that I'd probably pick up an iPod.  Why an iPod?  I dunno.  Isn't that what everybody was getting?  While there, I noticed that there were other, cheaper MP3 players, so I asked the guy what the difference was between those and the iPods. Essentially, he told me that there wasn't much, and Apple products basically charged more for the simple fact that they're Apple products.  I had heard the same from others, so I went with a Sansa, which served me so well that when it came time to get a new one recently, I stuck with that brand.

I definitely wasn't going to get an iPod this time around, not because I am some sort of brand loyalist to Sansa, but I've only had one experience with an iPod, and it was a negative one.  My mother-in-law asked me to add some songs to her iPod from a couple of CDs she had purchased, and I was more than happy to do that for her.  I figured that I could just do what I did with my Sansa, which involves plugging it into the USB port on my computer, then dragging and dropping the MP3 files to a folder on the MP3 player.  Turns out, that's not so simple.  Apparently you have to go through iTunes.  Now, I'm sure that the process isn't exactly difficult, but I resented the fact that I had to jump through hoops - Apple's hoops, that is - just to get some songs on the player.  With my player, I could buy stuff from iTunes, Amazon, or wherever and put it on my device the exact same way; I didn't have to go through any kind of service that Sansa demanded.  Lucky for me, my sister-in-law had an iPod as well, so she was able to do it without me having to figure out the process.  (Again, I'm sure that I could have figured it out; I just resent that there was even one to figure out in the first place.)

There's always been something about Apple that's annoyed me, and I think that it goes back to the days when I worked at Internet Alfredo, a cybercafe in SOMA, many moons ago.  We had both PCs and Macs, and while both could be buggy, the Macs gave me no end of frustration.  Perhaps it was due to the fact that I had a PC at home, so I was more used to them and their idiosyncrasies.  What got me though was that there were some people who would swear up and down as to how much better the Macs were than the PCs, even as the stupid things were breaking down.  And my least-favorite thing about them is that when you had a problem with a floppy disc (remember those?) you couldn't simply press a button and eject it out.  No, you had to drag and drop the icon into the recycle bin.  But what about when the whole stupid computer was frozen and the disc was the reason for it?  Then you had to find a paper clip, straighten it out, and stick the clip into a little hole next to the disc drive.  Brilliant.  What would I do when there was a similar problem with a PC?  I'd push the button next to the drive, and the disc would come out.  Just like with the whole iTunes debacle, this isn't a huge deal, but it's convoluted, and I guess I'm just not a fan of convoluted things.

So, based on my completely unscientific analysis, I stuck with PCs.  I remember those "I'm a Mac.  I'm a PC" commercials, where in one of them the Mac Guy makes the bold assertions that Macs don't "crash" like PCs do.  While it was possible that after my time at the cybercafe, Apple started making crash-free computers, I think you'd have to be pretty gullible to believe it.

I don't have a big story to tell when it comes to getting my first smart phone.  I went with Android, mostly based upon the recommendations of a friend of mine who was a former iPhone user and the guy who worked at the AT&T store.  What also contributed to it was some of the wonkiness that my wife encountered while dealing with getting some files off of her iPhone, and no doubt my past annoyances with Apple products, but for the most part she's been happy with hers.  As for my droid, I'm pretty happy with it. Does it have some buggy things about it?  Yes.  But I expected that.

Brand loyalty is a strange thing to me, and Apple certainly seems to have its loyal fans, although I'm not quite sure why.  It's not like their products are objectively better than the competition.  I've been doing a bit of browsing, and sometimes their stuff is rated lower than Android phones and Sansa MP3 players.  (Check out the video from CNET here, where it seems like it's hard to make a case for Apple making a superior product when it comes to MP3 players, at least - and yeah, it's a bit old, and yeah, I know that most folks just use their phones to listen to music now.  I have my reasons why I still like to have a separate player.)  Even back during my internet cafe days, the most objective analysis on the Apple versus PC debate came from a guy who stated that "it depends on what you want to do".

Maybe I'm imagining things, but there seems to be a devotion to Apple that borders on being a religious following.  The reasons for their loyalty don't seem to be borne out of an objective analysis and truly superior products.  It's as though if Apple's products were to start giving you herpes, there would still be some of them not only buying their products, but defending them.

Now please, if your reaction to this is to leave me an angry comment about how it's your right to own Apple products and that you like them and therefore I should shut the hell up, then you're missing my point.  If you like them, and they've been good to you, then by all means, keep buying them.  Shoot, for all I know, they do make superior products - although I'm not really seeing any real proof of that.  I guess what I'm saying is that the next time you have to buy a phone or computer and your first instinct is to go for an Apple product, just take a moment to realize that it is okay to consider buying something else.  You might even get something that you like even better.

Bonus link:  A comparison of Apple's Siri and Google Now.  If you get the sense that the reviewer, Sharon Vaknin, is super awesome, that's because she is.  And why is she super awesome?  She's a former student of mine.

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