How we learned to stop worrying and love the cult of Apple worship

The headline you’ve seen splashed over tech blogs across the web: For the first time since 2012, iPhones have outsold Android in the U.S.

It’s clickable, yes, but it’s hardly newsworthy. It’s indicative of brand loyalty bordering on addiction, but don’t take it as a sign that Apple‘s set to finally dominate the mobile market.

In December of 2014, iPhones accounted for a whopping 47.4 percent of all U.S. smartphone sales, while Android models scraped by at a mere 47.6 percent. That’s right, the supposed outstripping of Android comes down to a 0.2 percent margin.

The supposed outstripping of Android comes down to a 0.2 percent margin.

There’s no doubt that iPhones are a solid product with great specs. Play a minute or two with this amazing interactive comparison graph from Product Chart and you’ll notice Apple products peppering the far reaches of all the possible axes. Screen size, check. Resolution, check. Storage space, check. Price, check and double check.

I did a double take, in fact, upon closer inspection of the iPhone’s price tag as listed on the chart above. If you’re willing to line up for the latest and greatest, you’d better be willing to plop down $1044.99 for the 128GB model of the iPhone 6+, but if you decide you might not need that many spare gigs, it’s a mere $959.00 for the 64GB model. Even if thumb extenders aren’t your style and you stick with the plus-less iPhone 6, we’re looking at $744.00 for the relatively dinky 16GB model.

No matter how you slice it, that’s serious lunch money. What is it about the sleekly branded fruit that convinces people to hand over their paycheck?

It’s much the same mentality that charms those who would travel the seven seas onto massive cruise liners instead. Rather than planning out your own island-hopping, it’s about trusting (and paying) the brand to do all your thinking for you.

Don’t worry, it comes with poolboys and bottomless piña coladas.

iPhone as iCandy

I’ll grant that the iPhone has a leg up on the competition in certain departments—including an excellent camera and consistently solid response time—but I’d bet the farm that’s not why most iFanboys opt for one.

I think they’re paying for the Apple logo on the back of their device and the narrative behind it.

Apple has always sold a brilliant, sexy self-contained experience along with its products, one associated with a chic technological utopia. Rather than geeky sci-fi beeps and boops, it’s a social vision of the future, one filled with concepts like “connect” and “imagine.” It goes down easy.

It’s a social vision of the future, one filled with concepts like “connect” and “imagine.” It goes down easy.

The iPhone has managed to become a fashion accessory, equally popular among the wealthy business crowd as it is among wealthy soccer moms. The most recent data I could find regarding Android versus iPhone users comes from Forbes last April, suggesting iPhone diehards in the U.S. tend to be more affluent, more professional (but less techie), and—surprise, surprise—more addicted to their devices than their Android counterparts (Intriguingly, Android users are far more likely to be into hard liquor. Skål!)

If you whip out the unmistakably branded device in public, you’re immediately associated with that slick utopian story, as well as with the money necessary to pave its gleaming streets. The iPhone serves as tangible evidence of belonging to a certain flavor of in-crowd, one that doesn’t like to think.

Let Apple do the thinking for you

Once you’ve bought into the Apple world, you’ll find it warm and cozy inside. A full 59 percent of iUsers freely confessed “blind loyalty” to the brand, according to Forbes. That’s what I mean by calling Apple a cruise ship vacation: It’s luxurious, plastic wrapped, easy.

I don’t want to condemn this as an intrinsically negative quality. I’m typing this story on a MacBook Air. I made the switch from lifelong PC use upon realizing a major advantage of Mac computers: They just work, and they keep on working. It’s just put together as an all-in-one package deal, set up so you have to make as few decisions as possible.

Tech used to be about customization. Any Android device can be tuned to your every whim. But many people have grown accustomed to take their tech with two lumps. Why would you ever want to think your way through how to make your mobile device work for you when you can just buy into what Apple’s selling?

Once you’ve bought in, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll be interested in switching on your noggin. After the cotton-candy experience of the iPhone, futzing with customization options on the Android looks like a big ol’ slice of broccoli pie.

After the cotton-candy experience of the iPhone, futzing with customization options on the Android looks like a big ol’ slice of broccoli pie.

But you have to be okay with Apple’s way of working. In the case of the MacBook, for instance, that means dealing with the company’s crapware, but at least in the case of iPhotoding-dong, the witch is dead.

Same deal with iPhones. (What’s widgets, precious?) Until recently, even custom keyboards were out of the question, and you can directly forget about launchers. Pushing data between apps can only happen if they’ve “properly integrated” to iOS—which makes transferring your stuff into apps like Gmail and Whatsapp a matter of prehistoric copy-paste (see more in Ernest Oppetit’s great Medium piece, “I left Android for iOS… and instantly regretted it”).

The release of iOS 8: Shut up and take my money

Coupled with brand loyalty and ease of use, Apple’s success this winter has much to do with their major event back in September: the release of iOS 8.

Quite simply, the release of the powerful new operating system required devices that were up to the task. As reported just about everywhere (including throughout my personal circles), the iPhone 4 sputtered to a practical halt upon attempting to update, rendering these users device-less.

No way were they about to switch teams—and Christmas was just around the corner.

I don’t think it was some sort of malicious Tim Cook plot in planned obsolescence. It’s how Apple’s always worked and how it will continue to make gobs of money from its dedicated user base: hooking those with enough cash to spend into the polished Apple world, and feeding them bottomless poolside piña coladas at the tap of a button.

Photo via pasukaru76/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)