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Typical Users of ______ Devices

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.

17 total comments on this postSubmit your comment!
  1. Great article. This could apply to enthusiasts of any type on any site.

  2. I generally use iSheep to refer to people that only buy Apple products simply because of marketing or their friends (peer pressure) or “just because” they are made by Apple…

    Not that every iphone user is an iSheep…

  3. I like it.
    Although I think you left out the biggest influencer of what phone people buy: the phone that’s being “pushed” at the time by sales reps.

  4. In my experience, the average iPhone user just bought into the marketing of Apple and know nothing about what makes it a great phone.

    Android users want specs, but don’t care for an iPhone.

    Berry users don’t care for anything else other than that they have a phone.

    I personally love my Blackberry because to me, they are the underdog and I tend to support the underdog. I’m also extremely excited about the progress RIM seems to be making and am hoping to see the haters struggle with getting their feet out of their mouths. Lol.

  5. BlackBerry users definitely don’t typically WANT the phone they have. Let’s face it, BlackBerry needs to do something big if they want to stop their slide. They have poor specs, clunky browser (even on 6), limited games… but they do email and calendar very well. I think the hardware build quality is above average, too.

    • I think it also depends on how a user first is exposed to BlackBerry. For instance, if I were not technically inclined, and I got a work-issued BlackBerry with a very restrictive IT policy, I would probably blame the device for “not being able to do much”, rather than the IT policy.

      I can understand why BES users with restrictive IT policies might want something other than a BlackBerry as their personal devices.

      I have a feeling that the newer devices coming later this year and next will have better browsers, better hardware, and more ability to perform “fun” stuff, instead of just messaging and email.

      • Don’t forget the ability to separate business from personal! And then we shall see those work-issued guys you mentioned have a better time with their phones.

      • A restrictive policy wouldn’t help… but RIM is losing the web, multimedia, app and game battles all by themselves.

        Sure the 6.1 devices will be better… but so will their competition (Android 2.4, iPhone 5). The best news for RIM is that it seems their competitors are spending little effort on BlackBerry core strength areas (email and calendar). I’d be shocked if any BlackBerry 6.x device was going to be competitive in other areas.

        • You are such a dork. This will come off a bit pompous but I have to say this to you. I make more than enough money to buy any phone I want, today, screw any contract I have and I have a blackberry. I’ve owned an iPhone and I didn’t like it.

          People who think Blackberry owners can’t afford iPhone (especially in US and Canada where phones are subsidized are simply fools). THe vast majority can own iPhone and choose not to.

          • I wasn’t saying they couldn’t afford other phones… I was saying the majority of BlackBerry users are issued the device by their employer. Don’t get me wrong, it’s the best phone for email and calendar… just substantially worse than iPhone and Android for everything else.

            Hopefully lak611 is right about 6.1 devices–they have a lot of ground to make up and so far their new releases haven’t even kept pace with everyone else in terms of specs, apps, web, multimedia, etc. Luckily for RIM, the others aren’t catching up with them on email and calendar, either.

            • You are right that BB are not as good at other features, but I think you can agree that BB is headed in the right direction. The new leaked Bold Touch and Touch (I can’t believe that will be the name) are really nice looking phones. 6.1 will not match iPhone for the wiz bang app stuff but the next gen BB phones with QNX will actually put them ahead in a lot of stuff.

  6. “I’m a BlackBerry”. I do heavy email every day. I need to get things done while I’m away from the desk (and usually away from the project team).

    The glove fits… Because I actually bought the device based on its core strengths! 🙂

    Took me a month reading about iPhones, WM 6 (well, 6.1 so I could have a working office suit) and Palms and BlackBerries (Android was non around in Brasil then).

    Got what fits my needs, and I can do Youtube and BrickBreaker when too bored… hmm… maybe that last bit was not a good non-fanboy remark. 😉

  7. LOL. A rather pointless debacles IMO…

  8. Nice article, but I have to say that a big appeal of Apple is “me too” -ism. It is for this reason that many apple owners are so afraid of any other product having success and need to feel that everyone else is envious of their phone/computer etc.

    If their product stops being seen as “the cool phone etc.” they will have lost a lot of the value they get out of owning the product.

    I had this experience recently while visiting Canada. About 10 people were at a table in a bar and 6 had blackberries we were all exchanging BBM via PIN code scanning and talking about BBM. The two people (a couple) that were sitting with iPhones had the follwiing response “but we have cool phones.” No one was BTW putting them down at all. However, it was very important to them to be seen as having cool phones.

    I’m just saying “being cool” is a huge feature of Apple. If they lose this and I believe they will at some point (it happens to all companies) their stock will plummet because this is a huge feature of their products.

    • That’s probably true, but Apple has been able to maintain their ‘cool’ image for quite some time… and nobody does it better. I don’t see that happening anytime soon. Regardless, it’s Android that is picking up marketshare–not RIM. Unless RIM does a major turnaround with 6.1 devices, I imagine RIM will continue to lose marketshare–not just to Apple, but even more so to Android.

      • Of course Android is going to pick up market share everyone and his brother is making android phones.

        This market share stuff is a non issue. It only looks like BB is losing market share because it was classified as a smartphone early on. Think about it, 5 years ago it would look like RIM had a big share of the “smart phone” market, but the truth is smart phones were a tiny portion of the market so in reality RIM had a tiny portion of the phone market. It still does but who cares it’s growing.

        Now step back and look at the phone market. If you view it as a whole the company that has really lost a big share is Nokia, and what company is in trouble? Nokia.

        Nokia has lost a lot to Apple, Android, but also a lot to RIM and their curve phones.

        Who knows when it will happen but cracks are starting. Daniel put up this psot and as I commented on the page people touting around iPad look a lot less cool than they think. Even if you disagree with me you have to say it’s good for a laugh (so enjoy):

  9. I’m the kind of person who ignores the labels. I’m actually more inclined to run away from some blog that’s completely anti-ios or anti-blackberry than not simply because the whole thing is unnecessary.

    At the end of the day, what does the “typical user phenomena really mean?” The only people who should really care are marketers, but they just care to put fuel to the fires.

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