Disorderly Content


The Whole Fanboy Thing

I was up until midnight Thursday night, waiting for Apple to reenable their website so I could get in my order for an iPhone 5. Prior to that moment, and ever since, I've been inundated by articles and blog and forum posts calling me and people like me idiots and fanboys for paying a lot of money for a phone that's no better than alternatives that are already available, often for less. It's not true, and it pisses me off. But even if it were true, it still wouldn't matter.

It's all about stickiness, you see. Nobody's loyalty to a product is forever, and I don't know how much this is about loyalty in the first place. It's about the cost of changing, and about how big a benefit there has to be for the change to be worthwhile. And that got me thinking about my various brand loyalties, and how much it's because I really prefer their products and how much is just enlightened self-interest.

So here are three examples. First is my car; I drive a Toyota Camry Hybrid. It's the first Toyota I've owned. I wasn't prejudiced against Toyota, mind; it just worked out that way. I like the car, I like my local dealer's service department, and I can see myself buying another Toyota when it comes time to replace this one. But I can also see myself buying something else. It wouldn't take much to get me to change. The car would have to be more appealing in some way than Toyota's offering, and their service department would have to be as good. In fact, the combination would have to be significantly better, since they're unlikely to be as convenient. It's nice to have a car dealer within walking distance of home. But the equation is simple: new vehicle + new service > old vehicle + old service.

Example #2 is my camera, now a Nikon D800. I'm much more resistant to changing camera brands than cars. In part that's because cars are way more like each other than cameras, and the differences are easier to learn. But it's also because the camera is only the start of the investment. I have thousands of dollars of lenses, and speedlights, and other accessories, all of which would be useless with another brand of camera. Yes, I could sell all that stuff, but that adds to the hassle factor. And I'd still need to buy replacements for most of it, adding to the cost of changing. In the end, even if I liked a new Canon or Sony or Olympus model better than what Nikon has to offer (and I don't), it would have to be a whole lot better to get me to even consider switching brands. Cameras are a whole lot stickier than cars.

Phone haven't been sticky at all, at least not for me, at least until the iPhone came along. Every phone was so different, and I had so little investment in stuff on or around the phone that each time I came to replace the phone was a clean slate. What I had before had little effect on my new decision, beyond confirming what features did and didn't matter to me.

The iPhone changed that, particularly when the App Store came into existence but even before that. Being a Mac guy at home, the ease of transferring stuff between my computers and my phone (and later my iPad) was and continues to be very appealing. And then there are all the apps I have on my phone. Granted, there are only a dozen or so I use every day, and another few dozen I use on occasion, but they do represent an investment I'd lose if I changed to another brand of phone. More to the point, that new phone would have to offer me most of what I like about the iPhone, and enough that the iPhone couldn't do that would matter to me, to make me go through the hassle of switching. And I haven't seen anything that makes me believe it could pass that test.

To me the iPhone is sticky, and gives me good reason to stay with it. Not as much as my camera gear does, but far more than my car or my audio or video gear. Put another way, from a cost/benefit standpoint the cost is way higher than any benefit I can see. It's not fanboyism. It's just looking at the tradeoffs and deciding what's reasonable and what's not.