We see them every few months – a new “study” that finds iPhone Users have more sex; or shows how BlackBerry users are typically professional types. Every time, a ripple goes through the smartphone communities. Across different phone enthusiast sites (‘Berry, Android, Nokia, Apple) we collectively say “that’s stupid, most people I know are nothing like that”. We talk back and forth about how ridiculous the study is, and we then agree that the methodology must be flawed.
Then we turn around and engage in a variation of the same stereotyping ourselves, in the discussions we participate in every day. Some examples:
- iSheep only buy iPhones because they’re brainwashed.
- People only use BlackBerry because they’re required to by work.
- Fandroids are all geeks who only care about specs.
- And universally: you’re such a fanboy/girl. (Many variants of this are seen in response to a comment about why someone likes a feature.)
But I’ve noticed a pattern across different enthusiast sites. People will hotly repudiate these characterizations of themselves. Yet even as they do this, they continue to characterize the “opponent” enthusiasts in the same negative light that they don’t want cast on themselves.
You can see it at any mobile enthusiast site: BGR, Crackberry, BerryReview, AndroidCentral, TiPb and many more.
- Very few people reading these enthusiast sites are “typical device users” – because typical device users seldom find themselves at enthusiast sites. Let’s face it – if we’re here regularly, we’re at least a little obsessed with the subject matter. To us, our phone is NOT just a tool for getting things done – it’s a personal relationship, no matter which type of phone you prefer.
- The people who comment on enthusiast sites are even further from the typical device user — just by virtue of the fact that they’re commenting on an enthusiast site.
- With very rare exception, these devices are not marketed to the enthusiast. We buy on loyalty (our conviction that our platform is better), features, and specs. The target consumer buys based price, appearance, perceived functionality [appearance part 2], what their friends have [app. part 3], and user experience [app. part 4].
If you look at Apple, do you honestly believe that millions and millions of customers buy their devices because Steve Jobs appeared to them in a dream – with turtleneck and halo — and told them to drink the Kool-Aid?
Or that all the millions of Android purchasers really don’t care about anything but hardware specs? Based on at least on my own experience observing people in stores, I’m comfortable in saying that most of them aren’t even *aware* of the hardware specs.
If you do believe that (or some slightly less obvious version of the same), why? Do you only like your BlackBerry because you’re required to have it for work?
To most people, a smartphone is a smartphone. It’s a tool for making calls, playing games, sending messages. They don’t use but a fraction of what it’s capable of. And the phone that does that best (as determined by perceptions based on marketing and friends) is the one that they pick.
Even though many stereotypes have a kernel of truth, the majority of stereotypes don’t apply to the majority of people they’re used to label. If you find that a stereotype doesn’t apply to you, there’s a fair chance that its counterpart doesn’t apply to the guy you’re arguing with.
When people start identifying themselves not just with, but as their phones (eg: I’m an Android, I’m a BlackBerry, I’m an iPhone) it may be time to take a step back for a fresh breath of perspective. Paradoxically, the behavior of these individuals often reinforces the stereotypes that they hate having applied to them.