Apple recently reported that 69% of their revenue came from iPhone 6 sales alone. To date, 74 million people have bought an iPhone 6, a number higher than for any other iPhone. This despite the proliferation of cheap, great Android handsets in the market from the likes of Xiaomi, OnePlus, and Oppo, among many others. With smartphone features being increasingly similar, and performance differences negligible, you would be forgiven for wondering why your friends would splash a thousand bucks on an iPhone, when an Android handset half the price would perform just as well, perhaps better.
The iPhone 6 isn’t even that big a deal. In fact Apple just took the 5s, flattened it with a spatula and rebranded it as the 6. (The camera refused to be flattened along with the rest of the body, unfortunately.) With the iPhone 6, Apple didn’t even try to make anything innovative or novel. But they knew that it would sell anyway. Because, come on, it’s a big iPhone. People want big iPhones.
So when a 12 year old mainland Chinese kid I met asked me this question over lunch, I couldn’t agree more: “Why do people buy iPhones when there are so many cheaper and more powerful phones out there?”
Ironically, what instigated him to ask that question was the iPhone 6 that I was holding in my hand over the dining table.
Wait, didn’t you just diss the iPhone? What’s up with you owning an iPhone?
I got an iPhone precisely to answer the big question that has been stuck in my head for years.
Why do people buy the iPhone?
And after a solid 3 months of using the iPhone, I think I have the answer. People who buy iPhones can really be placed into 2 neat categories.
The first category are a bunch of people known as “sheep”. No, they’re not iSheep, those are a hopeless cause. Sheep are similar to iSheep, just that unlike iSheep, they don’t spend every waking moment of their lives idolising and glorifying a god-forbidden fruit.
Sheep know nothing about processors and RAM and cores; or clock speeds or screen resolutions or pixel size. No, sheep are communal creatures. They think in a herd. They make their decisions based on what everyone else thinks. So when they hear their friends say the iPhone is great, they go down to the store, play with an iPhone for 2 minutes, and after an “Oooohh it’s thin” and a “Woww it’s light” , they whip out their credit card and purchase it without deliberation.
And once the sheep are in the Apple farm, they can’t get out. They obediently graze on the grass in their field and munch on the tender flesh of the Apples. Once in awhile, they see some of their friends going over to another farm known as Samsung, with larger pastures and more space to roam. And sheep being sheep, they scurry after their friends and live in the new farm for awhile, before realising that despite its larger size, the grass there tasted worse than those back at the Apple farm.
And now that the Apple farm’s grown as large as Samsung’s, heck, the sheep are staying there forever.
Bigger iPhones attract sheep like moth to a lamp.
Fortunately though, such sheep have been getting rarer over the years as users start to develop a sense of individuality, and alternatives to iOS such as Android and Windows Phone become more polished. So sheep are now a minority, here in Singapore at least; that doesn’t explain the unfathomable volume of iPhones being sold. Because the vast majority belong to a different category of people: the perfectionists.
Now, you may not think that you’re a perfectionist, but chances are, if you own an iPhone, you belong to this group of people. This isn’t something that I just came up with overnight. It’s from months of experience and primary research (mainly involving asking every single person I knew why they got an iPhone). And it can be summarised in one sentence: The iPhone just works.
It just works. Apps are polished and well-designed, with timely updates; album art and information are flawlessly displayed with iTunes; a camera experience that’s simply unrivalled. It just works. That’s my biggest takeaway from using the iPhone.
Now, I started off as an Android user back in the days of Froyo, before moving on to Windows Phone. And now I’m on iOS. But all this while I’ve never actually been away from any operating system for extended periods of time, since here at Twenty First Tech we get tons of Android and WP review units every month. After using all the OSes and listening to the opinions of others, I understand why people, in general, get the iPhone over other phones. There is this air of trust placed in Apple that it’ll continue to provide the latest and greatest to their consumers through updates to both hardware and software. You are likely to go wrong when picking from the plethora of Android phones out there. But you can’t really go wrong with the iPhone.
Here’s another way to put it: it’s the iPhone. It’s on a whole other category of its own. People don’t say oh look, it’s the Xperia Z or oh look it’s the Galaxy S, because they all belong to this bigger ecosystem called Android. But people do say ohh look! The iPhone, because if you want iOS, you only have one option: the iPhone. And in a certain sense, because of this fact, people have the notion that you can’t really go wrong when picking up an iPhone. It’s the one and only.
So what about those perfectionists? Let’s get to that. iOS is often seen as a perfectionist’s top choice. Because, unlike Android, it’s polished for you. Apple locks down iOS, but in doing so they create the purest experience that they believe is best for you. What most find a boon with Android perfectionists find a bane: Android is too customisable for their liking. Yes, undoubtedly the best thing about Android is the ability for you to customise practically everything to your liking. Hate the launcher? Change it. Hate the font? Get another one. Hate the app icons? Download an icon pack. While many people find such freedom liberating, others prefer to be spoon-fed the user experience. Why should I waste hours customising my phone just so that I can like it? Why can’t Samsung just give me a launcher that I love?
iOS is different. It may be the most locked down operating system in the universe, but its user experience is one that will leave most customers satisfied out-of-the box, without having to spend hours tailoring the experience to your personal liking.
Now, iOS does have its fair share of glitches, and Apple does occasionally screw up its updates, like how iOS 8.0.1 freaking bricked the iPhone. But in general, with the iPhone you do get a nicer, all-round experience when compared to the typical Android launcher.
So iOS is great?
No, I’m not saying that. In fact I would prefer a smartphone running on Android 5.0 Lollipop to iOS 8. The main reason why I got an iPhone over the Nexus 5 was because the latter’s battery life is just so appallingly and unbearably terrible.
But even though I think Android Lollipop is a better operating system than iOS, that’s not the point. The point is that with the iPhone, people are assured that they’re in for an overall satisfying experience, something which is not true for every Android device.
And that is the reason, I’ve noticed, why people keep coming back for the iPhone generation after generation, even after Android hardware have long overtaken the iPhone’s.
As for me, it kind of makes sense to stick to the iPhone. I realised that I am a perfectionist. But more importantly, we don’t get iPhone review units. But we do get tons of Android and WP ones. And so with the iPhone as my personal phone, I’m not really missing out on anything. It’s the best of three worlds.