Few thought this could ever happen.
With a drive and determination that extended all the way to the '80s, Apple
(NASDAQ:AAPL) was thought to have one section of the industry cornered. No other tech company could come close to its model of perfection, forged through sheer gumption, pride, and a healthy dose of synergy. It was unparalleled, impenetrable, and irrefutable.
But with the loss of its visionary leader and forerunner -- one might say the galvanizing spirit behind this paradigm -- Apple has regrettably fallen behind in a market it once dominated with an abundance of confidence. Having perhaps grown too complacent and inward, the company faltered in recent years and allowed itself to be surpassed by a brash new competitor intent on conquering this rigid and unyielding dynasty.
(NASDAQ:GOOG) can now claim to have the most obnoxious fans in tech.
From the days of the online bulletin boards to the modern flame wars between anonymous screen names, Apple zealots have long been the leaders of arrogant cheerleading, bemused conjecture, and smug solipsism. Like the extremists within an otherwise benign ideology, these vainglorious fanatics commandeered the simple enjoyment of a brand and rendered it antagonistic and ugly, polarizing the tech industry and eliminating any shades of gray. In their eyes, no Apple product was less than perfect, and to question its excellence was heresy and an invitation to be eviscerated in an all-caps comment.
But as the curtain lowered on the Steve Jobs era and the Tim Cook Age was ushered in, those iPhones and iPads lost a bit of their gleam in the keynote stage lights. What was once innovative and unquestionably revolutionary seemed second-rate, even antiquated, as compared to their ambitious and enterprising competitors.
Indeed, Google and its Android platform and devices have made huge strides in the industry and have outdone Apple in a number of ways. Sales numbers, app numbers, market share, and some product reviews have gone to Android's favor, leaving Apple -- and its fans -- with a bit of a black eye.
So what happens when a company is on top? Well, in the case of Apple, some of its fans got pretty arrogant. And the very same thing has happened to Google. Although the attitude and rhetoric have been growing for the past few years, it all came to a head on Halloween.
Last week, Google finally unveiled the latest version of Android and its new flagship device, the Nexus 5. While both products were met with early praise, the tech site The Verge showed mitigated excitement. In a couple hands-on videos and a webcast later in the day, staffers expressed approval, albeit muted, for the releases, but lamented the smartphone's minor shortcomings.
In an even tone some might find dismissive, assistant managing editor Dieter Bohn rattled through the features of the Nexus 5, noting a slight lag in scrolling through the Google Chrome browser, a notoriously poor-performing app, and mentioned that "all Android devices" tend to have the problem. (Some theorized he meant "all Nexus devices," which wouldn't be too much of an off-base assessment.) Bohn regarded the device's ceramic buttons -- "for whatever that's worth," he relates -- and took a wait-and-see approach to its camera performance. "Usually Android cameras aren't that impressive," Bohn said. While seemingly inflammatory, when compared to the iPhone 5S or Nokia's
(NYSE:NOK) Lumia line for Windows Phone
(NASDAQ:MSFT), there is definite room for improvement, however solid and serviceable by and large.
Upon posting online, the video was met with very swift outrage in the Android community. But things didn't hit a fever pitch until the live Vergecast later in the day.
Verge Co-Founder and Editor-in-Chief Joshua Topolsky expressed disappointment that the camera wasn't better for a flagship device. He attempted to take a few pictures in the studio and showed frustration that the shutter wasn't fast enough. He and colleagues Nilay Patel and Paul Miller traded a few snarky barbs about Android cameras, but ultimately left the final grade up to the official review, which was to be written by Topolsky -- a professed, Moto X-carrying fan of Android.
Nevertheless, the fans' response was vitriolic -- despite the fact that none of them had even been in the same room as the Nexus 5, let alone given it a thorough test run.
The hashtag #iVerge began trending on Twitter
(NYSE:TWTR) and Google Plus, accusing the site of having an Apple bias. The site's comment section as well as Reddit's Android subreddit exploded with rancor. Users questioned why anyone would even dare give credence to The Verge, seemingly renowned for looking at everything through Cupertino-colored glasses. These comments were among the posts:
"Wtf is this supposed to be? This is the worst hands-on video I've seen in a long ass time."
"It's funny when stupid iSheep try to talk trash about andriod [sic]… and leave it to the verge to try to walk us through an operating system they clearly don't know very well…"
"The Verge already has a shaky enough reputation. Reviews like this do not help."
"The backlash is warranted."
However, amidst all the venom and umbrage, there was one shining example of self-reflection. At the top of a Reddit comment thread
, one user wrote, "I can't tell if The Verge is being an iShill or we Android fanboys can't take any criticism whatsoever."
It was a comforting moment of self-awareness you didn't see much from Apple zealots during the iPhone's heyday. But despite the introspective pause in the hate-spew, the damage has been done and the baton had been passed. Android fanatics have clearly proven to now lead the industry in knee-jerk, hysterical overreactions to mild criticism.
Perhaps it's a reflection of the extremes in our political spectrum or our overall inability to find a medium within two viewpoints. But it's regrettable that the tradition of immediately lashing out at someone with a differing opinion on an iPhone's inability to cut and paste has continued into discussions of a less-than-perfect Android camera.
But for whatever the reason and wherever the zealotry is headed, everyone needs to take the paraphrased advice from the intro to the much-beloved cable show Mystery Science Theater 3000
"Just repeat to yourself, 'It's just a phone, I should really just relax.'"
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