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We Can’t All Be Right: Smartphones and Brand Loyalty

Here’s a fun experiment: find someone using an iPhone, tell them that the Evo is better, and see how much time they spend telling you how wrong you are. For an even better time, find an Evo user and tell them the iPhone is better. Hoo boy do they get angry.

It’s an interesting thing, brand loyalty. Whether you prefer Coke over Pepsi or you’re a Dapper Dan man (dammit), many of us simply won’t accept the competition’s product despite the fact that at least half the time it’s the same thing, and the other half of the time it’s slightly better. Uh, and the third half of the time it’s slightly worse. Fractions were never my forte.

Yet it seems that no brand loyalties are fiercer than with smartphones and their operating systems. The video above demonstrates the (slightly exaggerated) experiences of a Best Buy employee selling phones. Even though he misses the mark on some of the comparisons (4g speeds on the Evo are maybe 20-30% faster, not “three times” faster), the Evo does currently outperform the iPhone 4 in a lot of areas, yet customers want what they want. Even with antenna issues.

I’m not saying it’s only iPhone users who are guilty of brand loyalty (or blindness). Blackberry users love their Blackberrys. Droid users love their Droids. I even know some Palm Pre users who stand up for their phones like abused spouses.

"Remember, if anyone asks, what happened? That's right, you fell down the stairs"

Personally, I think we just like what we have, because it’s what we know. For the longest time I wouldn’t touch Macs because I always had PCs and I knew they were better. But there came a point where I needed a built-in camera and some better multimedia software (you know, for my webcam stripper career), so I finally caved and bought a Macbook. I’ve been a Mac user ever since.

Joel Johnson took an interesting approach to the subject in an article on Gizmodo with the Durden-esque title “You Are Not Your Phone”. It’s mostly about Apple’s handling of the antenna issues, but he also reminds us to separate ourselves from brands, and individual products from brands. Here’s my favorite bit:

“It’s facile to attempt to criticize a company’s entire product line, but that’s what the childish attempt to do every single dreary day on the internet. Apple sucks! Microsoft rules! That’s the discourse that keeps fanboy bonfires flaming, too distracted by the entertaining heat to realize they’re burning up their own collective power.

Things are things. Companies make things. Some things perfect. Some things not so perfect.”

And yet, some of us take it so personally when someone insults our phone. And we love (especially iPhone and Android users) to tell everyone how ours is far superior. Sure, we love what we have. But we can’t all be right.

Anyway, I’d love to hear your thoughts on why we’re so obsessed with defending our brand. Or why you think your phone is better than anything ever. C’mon, you know you wanna.

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18 comments

  • People like to be on “teams.” It’s really no different from people becoming die-hard fans of pro sports teams. Those pro sports teams are companies selling a product to those fans, but the fans make something much more personal out of the experience. I think the us-versus-them mentality is just part of our collective psychological make-up, perhaps a remnant of our caveman roots when clans were a necessary part of survival.

  • @Chris: NICE find. Some really interesting stuff in there. I love the bit about people with brain damage to their emotional centers being unable to decide on cereals because of the emotional disconnect.

    @Creed: You make a good point, there’s definitely something very deep-rooted in us wanting to be a part of our team, especially when it comes to sports. I’m sure, evolution-wise, there was always value in being a loyal member in your “tribe”

  • Last night, my New Balance-wearing husband bought a pair of Asics, and I told him it was like the day my Chevy-driving dad suddenly bought a Toyota. He thought I was out of my mind…mostly because he hadn’t noticed he’d been wearing New Balance for as long as I’d known him.

    I’m going to replace my dying first-Gen iPhone with another iPhone, but when my friend whips out his Evo, I’m not going to get into a pissing contest with him. For years and years, I was one of Those People about Coke and Pepsi, and I don’t want to be one of Those People anymore. They’re not interesting to talk to.

  • I don’t think it should be about whether a brand’s products are better than another brand’s, although that technically matters, but rather a user’s preference. People argue all the time about it but really it should just be about what they personally want to be using.

  • I seriously considered an iPhone when it came time to move up to a smartphone. The deciding factor was the lack of a physical keyboard as I found trying to type on the iPhone difficult.

    When I was more into games I was in the past a PC loyalist because of the lack of games for the Mac. Now that my computer use has shifted away from games really the only thing keeping me from a Mac is the cost. I just don’t have the minimum 1K CDN funds to buy one.

    The only thing that bothers me about being a Blackberry user is anyone who makes aps is more likely to make them for the iPhone and ignore the other platforms. Even when it comes to accessories when I went to my local asian Night Market they had all these blinged out iPhone cases and skins but nothing blingy for Blackberry. We like shiny things too!

    I love my Bold 9700. Oh and when it comes to Coke VS Pepsi, I’m a Dr. Pepper gal all the way.

  • I don’t really consider myself a “fanboy” but I do have a problem with companies that use proprietary protocols and technology to try and lock you into their products. I’m not just talking about Apple, but also other companies like Sony. I also really dislike DRM. I still won’t buy movies or TV shows off of the internet because of the DRM. I’d rather buy them and rip them so I know they will play on all my devices.

    I have no problem with proprietary technologies, but I want to be able to use my stuff if companies stop supporting it or start making inferior products.

  • I personally really gets Offended when people talk about my phone (The HTC Evo). But with that bing said I am not a Loyalty Brand person. Here’s an example:
    The other day my best friend just got the (shitty ass) i Phone 4G and she came over later that day, to show me just how “sexy” (her word not mine) it supposedly is. So she starts blabbering on about how “awesome” it is and in the middle of her of diarrea of the mouth, I got a text and I took out my phone to read it. The moment she saw my phone she stopped her very boring explaintion of why (sarcatic tone of voice), The Almighty i Phone 4G is the most Superior of all Cellular Devices in the Universe, to say to me and I quote, ” Your phone sucks my phones Balls”. Not even a second went by, when I snapped back with, ” Your mother Suck my Balls”!

    Now Just because I told my friend that Her mother sucked my balls, does that make me a Crazy Fan Girl? I don’t think so.

  • I’m a driod owner and ever since purchasing, I find that I’m sucked into conversations about it quite often. Generally these are less of the “hey I’m so much cooler than you” and more of the “hey guys, I can play too” type of exchanges, BUT, I’m a woman that can admit when she’s been involved in a number of iphone suuuuux convos.
    My take on the whole deal is that there is so much information out there that breaks down one brand vs the other that we feel as though we have no excuse to buy just because of brand loyalty, we have to either have purchased because we did the research ow pretend we did. Even if we just bought the phone cause of the ads or our friend told us they liked theirs a lot, we try to defend our purchase with specs and tech babble. I mean the only thing worse than being called stupid is being called an misinformed consumer, right?

  • Sheeyit. That’s what I get for listening to the podcast and responding on the site at the same time. Sorry about that, Andy.

    Forrealz, though. O Brother Where Art Thou?

  • I think the iPhone 4, HTC EVO and the Droid X are probably the 3 best subsidized phones on the U.S. market right now. You really can’t go wrong with anyone of them. Each phone has something it does better or worse than the other so it comes down to personal preference. I do a lot of research on gadgets before I buy them, often just to drool over them with no intention of buying them, and from what I found the HTC EVO has what I want and so I now own one.

    And now we come to the part where I sound like an Android fan boy but I’m really just fact checking, I’m probably wrong so let me know.

    As I said, I do a lot of research on products and they’re comparable counterparts so when I read “4g speeds on the Evo are maybe 20-30% faster, not “three times” faster” that really stuck out to me as being incorrect. I wrote the comment below about 2 weeks ago on the youtube page for the video above in response to a statement similar to yours.

    YouTube Quote – “average AT&T 3g speeds are 1.5mbps Down. My EVO, and most speed tests I’ve seen on EVO’s, get an average of 3mbps(2x faster than AT&T) to 4mbps Down and I get up to 6mbps Down in good areas in the Chicago-land area. So that’s roughly 2 to 4 times faster than AT&T’s 3g network. (1 year study of 3g average speeds for 4 main carriers: theflickcast.com/2010/02/24/att-3g-speed-the-fastest-according-to-pc-world/)”

    I’m seriously retarded when it comes to math but isn’t 3mbps 2 times faster than 1.5mbps? I usually get between 3mbps to 4 mbps so 4mbps would be pretty close to 3 times faster. Right? I realize this is only in 4G areas and that 4G areas can be spotty but that’s known, no ones saying otherwise.

    Sorry for the long post, I can’t sleep and I just couldn’t resist. All you apple folk are all right with me. Dig what you dig.

  • @Lee: No prob dude, I actually almost did the same thing to Burnside the other day. And you got it, it was O Brother. You win…uh…a big box of my respect?

    @benodiktine: I’m going off of some of my own experiences observing the Evo (also in Chicago) on 4g vs the iPhone on 3g. Obviously I didn’t go as in-depth as a year-long study, but I saw the Evo to be noticeably faster, but not even close to 3x faster. I didn’t even see speeds of 2x faster. Network speeds depend so much on what city you’re in, what part of what city you’re in, what time of day it is, what you had for breakfast, and the color of your socks for anyone to say how much faster one network is over another in practical, everyday use.

    Search on Youtube for comparison tests and you’ll see where I’m coming from..everyone gets faster speeds on the Evo, but it always varies. To back me up, this guy (the first youtube video that came up for me just now) ends up with an average of about 2mbps on 3g and about 2.6mbps on 4g…which would be between 25-30% faster. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TpjfxQqsb-Y

    Of course, in another spot in the country (or maybe even in the same city) you could have 4g at 300% faster than 3g. I’ve just never seen it.

  • As someone who has been selling cell phones for a little over 3 years now, that last bit cracked me up. No matter how many phones I sell, almost everyone asks stupid questions, chief among them being, “does it come with a charger”? OF COURSE YOUR FUCKING CELL PHONE COMES WITH A CHARGER. Only the most airheaded customers go on to ask if it comes with a case or car charger before I go on to explain what they have included with their phone, which I most always do.

    Also, people who can’t pair bluetooth make me cry. I type this on a laptop which has at some point been paired with:

    – A bluetooth mouse
    – A bluetooth keyboard
    – A bluetooth dongle attached to my printer
    – 3 different cell phones
    – 2 bluetooth headsets
    – a Playstation 3 controller

    I’m probably forgetting something.

  • I’ve long outgrown caring what technology other people use.

    Me? I use an iPhone. I’m gonna buy an iPhone 4. It’s the best solution for me, and I pay attention to this crap.

    I talked my folks into ignoring what the stupid salesdroid told them to buy (blackberry? Really?) and recommended Android because (since they didn’t want to switch to AT&T) I thought that was the best solution for them, and they asked me for my opinion.

    I hope very much that all you people on the Internet get a phone that makes you happy. I do not care what you choose. Why do you care what I choose?