The Smartphone Ceasefire
Apple booster Daniel Eran Dilger wrote a long screed about how Apple rules and Google drools. He makes some good points (it’s hard to argue with Apple’s business acumen, while Google’s is genuinely more puzzling), though relies heavily on “they all said” when, in fact, I heard nobody say that. I’m sure somebody, somewhere said that Symbian would knock Apple off its pedestal, but I was pretty late to acknowledge Symbian’s utter collapse, it seemed like pretty much everybody was saying differently, and even I wasn’t saying that Symbian was going to eat Apple’s lunch. I just thought they would survive, and I was more optimistic than most people seemed at the time.
It coincides to some extent with what has become one of the overwhelming themes of the smartphone wars. Actually, not the wars, but the wars between boosters. A huge sense of defensiveness. It hasn’t exactly been symmetrical. Early on it was much more the Android fans that were defensive and were, in retrospect, by far the more hyper participants in arguments about which ecosphere was superior. Apple fans were less defensive and mostly dismissive. Dilger rallies a degree of defensiveness in the other direction.
Ultimately, the truths seem quite clear. Apple isn’t the only game in town, or the biggest in terms of marketshare, but its business model is amazingly profitable and that’s what matters. Both to Apple, and to an extent to its fans as it gives them something to point to. To Android fans, marketshare does matter and Android’s dominance there is the most important thing. Not as a bragging point, though it’s used as that, but mostly as a solidified alternative to Apple’s extremely limited range of smartphones.
Looking back at my own animosity towards Apple, I suspect that a lot of it was rooted in the fear that there actually wouldn’t be an alternative. Especially once Microsoft made clear that it was going much closer to the iPhone route (in terms of a restricted, closed OS), I was worried that Apple’s model was so effective that the Windows Mobile model actually wouldn’t have a successor.
But Android persevered, and I’m mostly past worrying about that. Even if Android were to falter, or be displaced by Tizen or something else, it’s been demonstrated that there is a huge market for alternatives to the iPhone. That the “fractured market” isn’t prohibitive and isn’t exclusive to a sufficiently intuitive, functional device that suits my needs (a flexible power device), the needs of my wife (a device with a keyboard that’s easy to use), and the needs of my family (a sufficient, inexpensive device).
If Google quits, someone else will step up. I am free to have device preferences that Apple doesn’t want to deliver on. Which, ultimately, is the primary problem I ever had with them. It wasn’t that their devices weren’t good. It was simply that they weren’t what I wanted. If it is what you want, you should absolutely get one. That, more than anything, has lead to a live-and-let-live attitude. For the most part. For the past year, excluding when Apple was trying to take my phone off the market, I have tried to take this to heart:
Nobody cares what kind of smartphone you believe in. It’s not a religion. It’s not your local sports team even. Stop being a soldier. You are not a soldier. You are just wrong. Shut up. You there, with the blog, in the comments, in the pages of the newspaper or the magazine or on Twitter or Facebook. Whatever your opinion is, as soon as you employ it in partisan fashion, it’s deeply and profoundly wrong. Just by sharing it, you are wrong. And nobody cares. Except for the people who do. And they are wrong too. Myself included.
“But, but, but,” I hear you stammering like some sort of horrible person who has mistaken a code base for a system of moral beliefs, “the screen is too big and not big enough.” No. You’re wrong. It’s just right. It’s just right for whoever is holding it, unless it’s not, in which case they’ll decide that it is wrong on their own and get a different one. And then they’ll be right, while you’ll still be wrong.
And I don’t care if Apple is brilliant, or stupid. I don’t care that they have no desire to produce the sort of phone I want to use. I don’t care if their screens aren’t as big as I would prefer. I don’t care if they have no keyboard, no external card, no removable battery. I don’t care if they block the sort of apps I want to use. None of that matters. Nor should it matter to Applytes that my phone sometimes crashes. Nor should they care if Google’s experiment with Motorola failed. Nor should they care if OS updates are less frequent. Nor should they care if I have to deal with bloatware that they don’t. Unless you’re considering buying one, it really doesn’t matter.
They’ve got their phone. I’ve got mine. And fortunately for all there is indeed plenty of room for both.