John Topley’s Weblog

Does Buying Apple Gear Turn You Into A Snob?

snob

[with adj.] a person who believes that their tastes in a particular area are superior to those of other people.

A picture of the Apple logo

The question is, does buying Apple gear turn you into a snob? It’s a question that I’ve been thinking about lately. It’s led to me examining my own attitudes and thinking about how they’ve changed over the years.

Anyone who has read my blog lately will know that I love Apple’s products. I’ve blogged often enough about why I like them. I’m now fortunate enough to own four Apple pieces—note the use of the term pieces as if describing art. In order of purchase they are:

  • A 2004 20GB iPod with Click Wheel
  • A 2005 PowerBook G4 12”
  • A 2006 iMac Core 2 Duo 20”
  • A 2007 16GB iPod touch

The Click Wheel iPod was the first Apple product I bought. It was the last iPod before they got colour screens and could display photos. It’s probably the last of that first wave of iPods in the sense that it came with elaborate packaging and lots of accessories, whereas nowadays the packaging is more environmentally friendly and you have to buy things like charging bricks separately. I love the ingenuity of the Click Wheel and the way the backlight fades in and out slowly rather than abruptly.

My 12” PowerBook looks amazing. There’s no clutter or extraneous detail and the underneath looks like something space-age built for NASA for mega bucks. In fact, I was watching the DVD of 2001: A Space Odyssey the other week and I don’t think my PowerBook would look out of place on board the Discovery One, such is the high level of clean detailing.

The iMac is my workhorse but with supermodel looks. There’s so much computer in such a small space. Not having to have a system tower on the floor is liberating. The engineering on the stand hinge that supports the whole computer is stunning.

All I have to say about my iPod touch is that it was sent back in time from the future.

As an exercise, let’s see what my thoughts would be when asked about a non-Apple product. I’ll imagine what they would have been prior to my owning Apple gear and then I’ll write down what they would be now.

The Product: Dell Latitude D530 laptop

A picture of the Dell Latitude D530 laptop

Pre-Apple

Wow! I cannot believe how inexpensive that is! It’s amazing how much bang for your buck you get now. I don’t know how Dell manage to do it. They’re practically giving them away. I’d feel really good if I’d bought that, knowing that I was getting that much power and the very latest version of Windows for so little outlay.

Now

My God, what an ugly laptop! That grey colour is horrible and it looks so utilitarian. I bet it’s got ports sprouting all over its exterior like warts. It’s bound to come with a huge power brick too. I see you can have it with Windows Vista, which in spite of the hardware will run like a dog and thrash the disk to death. Or you can have Windows XP, if you can live with the constant balloons popping up demanding attention and the sleep and resume issues.

It’s not just Dell computers that I now consider an affront to my eyes. Last week I was using an IBM Thinkpad on a training course that not only had a trackpad and a pointing nipple, but five buttons! Give me a multi-gesture trackpad with a large single button underneath anyday. Plus there were the usual assortment of slots, doors and ports. It even had a parallel printer port—has anyone used one of those since the mid-nineties? Worst of all was the dedicated Access IBM button. I mean, why would you want to?!

Lest anyone believe that I’ve completely lost my mind and am now a fully-paid up member of the Steve-one-button-is-all-you-need-Jobs brigade, I feel obliged to point out that I’ve never found Apple’s minimalist hardware aesthetic to be an issue. I simply don’t need any more bells and whistles than they give me. Everything else looks overdone by comparison. There’s no denying that something like an iPhone or an iPod touch does scream “look at me”, but that’s because
well-engineered elegant design is sadly rare in an age of constant product churn when the main differentiator is who can do it for the lowest cost.

I do think that like any cult Apple inspire fierce loyalty and a natural consequence of that is the rejection of non-Apple products. In answer to the original question of whether buying Apple gear turns you into a snob, I think that it probably amplifies any snobbish tendencies that you may already have, but perhaps more than anything it makes you aware of the deficiencies in other products through a heightened appreciation of good design. Is that so bad?

Comments

There are 6 comments on this post. Comments are closed.

  • avatar zato3
    01 April 2008 at 09:38

    "I do think that like any cult Apple inspire fierce loyalty" Apple is a "cult"? Since when?

  • avatar John Conners
    01 April 2008 at 17:03

    It's an interesting point. Whereas in years gone by I too would be happy with a powerful laptop irrespective of its appearance I find that nowadays the design comes into it a lot more. It doesn't make any difference at all how nice something looks to how it performs, but I guess with the ubiquity of all this fancy technology you can buy nowadays you have to differentiate on something. And design and appearance is as good as anything - and Apple do it so well.

    But I think you're right, it amplifies that tendency in you. I guess people who're not interested in the aesthetics of a computer will never see the point of paying more to buy Apple products.

  • avatar John Topley
    01 April 2008 at 19:11

    @zato3:

    Many people would consider Apple to exhibit cult-like qualities. They have a charismatic leader and a very loyal following, for example. I think you only have to observe the worrying over the (lack of a) Steve Jobs succession plan amongst Apple cognoscenti to see that Apple are different from the usual MegaCorp.

    @John:

    The great thing about Apple design is that it's more than skin-deep i.e. it doesn't just look great for the sake of it. My favourite example of this is probably the slide to unlock slider in the iPhone/iPod touch user interface. Sure, it looks pretty swish but it also performs the important function of protecting the device from accidentally being unlocked whilst it's in your pocket.

  • avatar Partners in Grime
    10 April 2008 at 03:57

    And Apple implements operating system features in a great way, too.

  • avatar Kim Baddeley
    14 May 2008 at 10:54

    "I was watching the DVD of 2001: A Space Odyssey the other week and I don’t think my PowerBook would look out of place on board the Discovery One"

    So are you admitting it is already 7 years past its sell by date?

    "That grey colour is horrible and it looks so utilitarian. I bet it’s got ports sprouting all over its exterior like warts."

    John, come over to the Dark Side. My Latitude 620 gives me nearly 8 hours battery life...

  • avatar John Topley
    14 May 2008 at 18:29

    @Kim,

    Ha ha! 2001 was actually made in 1968, so I guess you could technically claim it's forty years out of date!

    That's good that you get so much battery life. It means you get to spend more time with Windows and Java...

My God, what an ugly laptop!


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