My Phone is Better Than Yours––And it Always Will Be: A Tale of Brand Loyalty

It was an outrage. They weren’t taking pre-orders. After years of snatching up my hastily-reserved devices like clockwork, I was going to be subjected to languishing in mobs that would reinforce my high-school algebra teacher’s assertion that a segment is a finite length, but a line goes on…forever. I may not get the color I want! I may not get the right capacity! Apple had betrayed me. Somehow, though, they still got my business. They still got me excited. The uncannily accurate specs (and even the names) of the new 2013 iPhones had leaked out months ago. Did that stop me from get my fanboy undies in a bunch? I’ll let the Apple stickers plastering my stereo system speak to that, but there were actual reasons for excitement.

Let’s face it: this was me. Okay, I may have jumped a little higher.

The iPhone 5c and 5s heralded a new direction for the next generation of devices for the fruity tech giant. They frothed news anchors to a frenzy, and set the stock market on fire. In a marketplace where there are more hip new phones than hip new people to use them, I sometimes wonder why I always go back to one brand for the device that I use the most. It’s insane. Android users advocate for their platform harder than anyone I’ve ever known. Within that clique are a dozen different factions, comprised of manufacturer preferences, operating system tweaks, and yes, even down to which keyboard is best. In true Apple fashion, I had always called this divisive loyalty “Android fragmentation.” They had so many choices that they were blinded to the big picture. I had considered switching, sometimes, briefly, like one considers jumping their car into a lake instead of going to their physics lab, but never seriously. I had never truly thought about abandoning my beloved Apple–– Until something life-changing happened.

Last month, I murdered my iPhone 4s in Lake Texoma. Amidst the sad, empty void that was my life without a smartphone, I began to think. I was free. Free! Free from Apple’s “walled garden” mentality and overbearing restrictions! Free from the tyranny of small screens and tinny speakers! I could do anything. I could do the unthinkable. I could… (Wait for it.) Switch to Android. I had been spoon-fed enough of Apple’s masterful ads, shiny surfaces, and eloquent British designers. I was done! Do you hear me?! Done!! This led me on a quest to research which Google Box was king of all wireless rectangles. Was it the Samsung Galaxy S IV? The HTC One? How about the Moto X? I consulted with AT&T. Their return policy was clear: fourteen days from purchase. That landed me right about at the announcement of the new iPhone. An idea began to form in my head: I could buy my favorite Android phone, test it out for two weeks, then, if I loved it, I would keep it. If not, then I would return it, and hop back on the Apple band-wagon, fresh new iPhone in hand. It was flawless. Elated by my stroke of genius, I consulted with friends and, of course, the internet.

Excuse me while my chronic indecision paralyzes me.

“Which Android phone is best?” I Googled. Some sites recommended Samsung’s newest Galaxy offering. Some said that HTC had rallied its flagging creativity, and returned to dominate all smartphones with the One. My research was relentless. I checked camera reviews, measuring the megapixels, low-light performance, and pixelation. I compared screen size and dpi (dots-per-inch). I watched those stupid “drop tests” that flood YouTube every time a new phone launches. It was exhaustive––and also exhausting. What every website said, without exemption, was that it came down to personal preference. No, I thought. I have to find the BEST Android phone. It had to be out there. So the search continued.

After several days, I had landed on the HTC One: a beast of a phone, with a quad-core processor, imposing rear camera, and devilish industrial design. Its screen was huge. It dwarfed my old iPhone, at 4.7″ diagonally vs. 3.5″. Everything about this phone screamed better. I had a handful of close friends who had already jumped onboard HTC’s aluminum flagship, and set sail for Smartphone Paradise. My mind was made. I unboxed the cellular monster and got to work fiddling with it. The Beats soundbars were phenomenal. Stereo, high-fidelity sound blasted from above and below the screen, waking me up instantly. The front and rear cameras were gorgeous, if a little prone to favoring blues. I hurriedly downloaded a new launcher for my home screen, new backgrounds, the Google keyboard, apps for notifications, apps for user control, widgets to show weather, news, and phone statistics. I told everyone I knew that I had options! I had options! Look at all my options! It was heaven.

It’s like a refrigerator and Starscream had a lovechild.

Then, something curious happened: one day, a friend texted me.

“Why is your iMessage turned off?” she asked. I told her that I no longer had iMessage. I was using Android.

“Oh. That’s a shame,” she said. “I miss seeing you type when you’re composing a message.”

I didn’t think much of it at the time. Such a little thing couldn’t possibly bother me when I had the raw, bull-like power of the HTC One to play with in the virtual pasture of Google’s app store. Yet, the longer I kept the One, the more I missed seeing the little “typing” bubble in iMessage. I missed having iCloud sync with my Mac. I missed the smaller screen of the iPhone, which let me easily use it with one hand. Something had happened to the powerful HTC One: The sheen wore off. I had options. I had options. I had… Too many options. I no longer wanted to fiddle with it. No one made cases for the phone, and just in everyday use, I had nicked and scratched the pretty, beveled edges into oblivion. The gorgeous camera began to feel a little too gorgeous, to the point of looking fake. Finally, after trying to FaceTime someone and obviously failing, I admitted it: I missed Apple.

Okay, Steve. You got me.

Fast-forward two weeks. I’m typing this article, and beside me, on my desk, sits my new iPhone 5s, like that Yellow Version Pikachu that has been in the family for years. It doesn’t have the biggest screen. It doesn’t have the most megapixels. The memory isn’t that big, and there are no speakers on the front. It isn’t very customizable. It is nothing like the HTC One. By all accounts, I should have enjoyed the One more than I enjoy this phone. But I don’t. I love my iPhone. And you know what? At the end of the day, all of the fanboys, from Apple to Google, and even those three kids with Windows phones, will go home with the handsets of their choosing, because that phone is what works for them. It’s what they love, and that’s okay. I am invested in an ecosystem that I am comfortable with, and the same goes for every other loyal customer of every brand, ever. So, the next time someone harangues you for not using their (phone/tablet/TV/computer/knitting needle) brand of choice, just tell them that their phone is excellent because it is their phone; your phone is excellent because it is your phone. That will always hold true.

…Unless you own a BlackBerry.

~Thomas

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