I’m Not an Apple Fanboy

For the foreseeable future I plan to use some version of an iPhone for my cell phone, a Mac for my computer, and an iPad for my tablet. I plan to pick up an Apple Watch as my first and future smart watches, and I continue to sink more money into powerful apps that would not follow me if I ever did decide to switch out of the Apple ecosystem.

But while I love their products, and follow their news closely, I am loathe to call myself an “Apple Fanboy,” and I think approaching Apple—or any company—as a fan is not a positive thing.

I subscribe to r/Apple, and listen to the Mac Power Users podcast and am a member of their Facebook group. I see a lot of posts on there, and miss very little from the RSS feeds of MacRumors, 9to5Mac, and AppleInsider among other blogs that focus on topics related to— or exclusive to the Apple ecosystem. On some of these sites (such as the MPU group), I see healthy discussion that allows me to get more out of my devices, and sometimes discourse over broader tech ideas. However, I see a lot of very different coverage from some Apple news sites or communities I visit.

First, I want to acknowledge something about the sites whose content I’m discussing. Apple is one of the biggest companies in the world, and there’s a lot of discussion from an investment perspective that happens. And it’s not just these sites I’ve mentioned that do it; I see a great deal of web coverage out there on any tech companies that is also market discussion. It’s hard to separate, and there’s certainly an audience of people who aren’t geeks who have an interest in Apple (or any tech company for that matter) that is purely financial.

Regardless of the motive for the coverage, I see a lot of content that seeks to defend Apple regardless of its errors. Recently, this has been discussion about the Macbook/Macbook Pro keyboard issues, battery throttling, or the market performance of Apple’s product lines in 2018. There is great effort to take legitimate grievances about how Apple has handled problems they’ve caused themselves and dismiss them. Obviously, in the broader climate of news coverage, this happens in far more nefarious and impactful ways than discussing dust under some keys, but it’s nevertheless strange to see sites dedicated to covering Apple exclusively dismissing these problems in their editorials.

I’ve also seen responses to accusations about Apple stagnating, that focus entirely on the sales of Apple compared to its competitors and making the wrong conclusions. When people complain, for example, that iOS’s notification system is archaic and a problem, Android’s fragmentation isn’t the answer. Or when the Touch Bar on the 2016–17 Macbook Pros is highlighted as missing the mark, Microsoft’s bad Surface sales [1] fails to solve Apple’s own failure. There is a current reward to Apple playing it relatively safe in choosing new features, but Apple would probably be seeing the same revenue with an iOS release that added some keyboard buttons to the iPhone that are arbitrarily locked to the iPad.

There are certainly cases to be made in defense of Apple in these instances, but the nature of most of the arguments I’m seeing is somewhat disingenuous. With the battery throttling, for example, it was somewhat blown out of proportion in its severity[2], but the people writing Apple a free pass on their deceptive comments and lack of transparency aren’t giving us a more accountable tech sector.

And while Apple’s received a few knocks of bad press recently, I don’t want to cast this as a 2018 issue in coverage. The same approach to issues like labor with Foxconn and Steve Jobs’s professional behavior is a problem. While I don’t think that a tech blogger ultimately should be held to the whole book of journalistic ethics, things are still out of perspective. And community members and fans of Apple products shouldn’t get a free pass either. Too much criticism that could actually improve products and services is met by a cadre of internet knights who feel that one of the five richest companies on Earth need their defending.

I don’t want to leave this post as some sort of hit piece on Apple itself. There are ways Apple has impressed me as a company, particularly by encouraging iPhone users to sign up for Donate Life, and the stance they took over the San Bernardino[3]. And regardless of their failings as a company, the products have still very much earned my preference. At the end of the day, I’m much more critical of Apple’s treatment by its fans than the company itself.

  1. I know this is the only story/narrative I’m sourcing in this article, but there are two reasons. The first is that I don’t want to individually call out any individuals who I’m criticizing in the Apple press for a number of a reasons. The second is that I know this is the single point in this post someone would be most inclined to leave an angry comment about.  ↩

  2. My iPhone 6 is feeling pretty slow these days, but I don’t think that older phones being less desirable is anything new. I don’t think any more iPhone users have gone out to get new phones due to throttling than Galaxy users have gone out to get new phones due to lack of updates or battery degradation that doesn’t see throttling. All the same, the problems with other phones don’t vindicate Apple’s missteps on their own. This sort of “look at this other company,” deflection is what I see 11 year-olds doing when they’re reprimanded for being on their phones. It’s not an acceptable standard for adults, much less multibillion dollar companies.  ↩

  3. While it’s easy today to see the positive PR that built, and be cynical about Apple’s privacy stance as nothing other than marketing, it was a ballsy move at the time. It’s easy to forget how much negative reaction there was to this in general.  ↩