Opinion: Priorities and Platforms

Apple rubs many people the wrong way. And that’s fine: Apple is a very controversial corporation. The Cupertino corporation is controversial not only in their products, or in their presentations, or in their successes, or even in their failures.

Apple is controversial in the very ideal that drives them: they choose. They’re in charge. For better or for worse, Apple believes in itself, in its own ability to decide what is best for consumers. The original iPhone, and the OS that it ran, was the realization of this belief – you could have any color wallpaper on the homescreen, as long as it was black. Want to change your icons from the tastefully-designed, Apple-approved ones? Ha! What about that lockscreen wallpaper? Now that was changeable, though the most obvious way to do so only offered Apple’s pre-approved images. And what about third-party apps? Well, if you consider shortcuts to websites optimized for the iPhone, then absolutely – but nothing native.

Obviously, this has changed as both competition and new insights have infiltrated the iPhone and Apple as a whole. But fundamentally, the concept is the same: you buy an iPhone because Apple says its the best – the best battery life, the best camera, the best apps, the best overall package. And, frankly, they have an amazing track record.

These notions are repulsive to some people. These people are typically more tech-savvy, in some ways – and are often portrayed as more intelligent by the hit-and-run media campaigns of competitors.¬†This is completely incorrect, and if you submit to the idea that Apple users are nothing more than “sheep” – or, inversely, that Android or Windows Phone users are simply fanboys – then I have some nice, scenic ocean-front property for you in the heart of Kansas.

Instead, these choices are based on priorities. iOS users have a different set of priorities than their Android or Windows Phone counterparts – it’s that simple. In my experience, Android enthusiasts (note that I say “enthusiasts,” and not “users” – there is a massive difference in the usage patterns of enthusiasts versus users) tend to gravitate towards wanting to customize their phone. Whether by themes, or rooting, Android users enjoy the feeling of something new without actually having to purchase a new device. This habit, which I personally know very well, is dandy. The downside is that productivity does take a hit. Android is the best OS for people with these priorities.

Windows Phone enthusiasts are similar to iOS users, but are entrenched in the Windows ecosystem – sorry guys, but with the low marketshare of your platform, that’s the biggest reason I see for wanting to be on it (other than the Metro UI). And honestly, Microsoft has a decent ecosystem: from Office to Xbox, they have all the bases covered. With Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8, they’re also finally beginning to combine every aspect of their technological empire, and are creating a very persuasive platform in the process.

iOS enthusiasts want, as Microsoft once stated in regards to their own OS, to “get in, get out, and get on” with their lives. That message applies to both iOS and Windows Phone, in many ways. Both Apple and Microsoft have made a number of decisions in regards to their offerings that consumers can’t change. They felt that their ideas were the best, and that most consumers would actually prefer the stock design. This is almost always true – of course, the chinks in the armor do appear from time.

For instance, Apple’s iOS 6 mapping solution, which has been slammed by many people for various issues. On Android, one can install an alternative mapping application, and then give it the tie-ins and permissions to, more or less, be completely integrated with the rest of the system, effectively replacing Google Maps completely. This can’t happen on iOS, so iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad users are stuck with a less-than-stellar mobile maps app until Apple can improve it.

This is a trade-off. Apple will continue to be successful as long as they have a favorable ratio of trade-offs to functionality, design, and performance. For example, while iOS 6′s maps are definitely an inferior product compared to what Google has on Android, and Microsoft has on Windows Phone, iOS still has the best mobile web browser available. And while my homescreen looks very similar to anyone else with an iPhone that isn’t jailbroken, no other platform has a task manager as brilliantly simple as Clear.

In the end, one’s platform preference boils down to a hierarchy of needs. For many, as evidenced by the strong yearly sales, iOS is the best option. For many others, Android fulfills their needs quite nicely. And for still more out there, Windows Phone and BlackBerry still exist. So while the¬†competing¬†corporations feed off of the lunacy created by high-profile launches and controversial commercials, enthusiasts – those who power the platforms they embrace – will gravitate towards what is best for them.

I have found what is best for me, and after three years on Android, I’m a full-time iPhone (ab)user.

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