Lovers and haters divided by Apple

Malfunction: The launch by Apple chief executive Tim Cook of the iPhone 6 and the Apple Watch.
Malfunction: The launch by Apple chief executive Tim Cook of the iPhone 6 and the Apple Watch.
Awkward: The finger touch between Apple chief executive Tim Cook and U2's Bono. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty

Awkward: The finger touch between Apple chief executive Tim Cook and U2's Bono. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty

The fanboys are high-fiving the imminent arrival of the latest iPhones and salivating at the prospect of next year's launch of the Apple Watch, the first new product category since the iPad in 2010.

True believers and opportunists have already begun forming queues outside Apple stores. And between now and Friday, when the new iPhones go on sale, the air will be thick with iPhone-related vibes.

But not everyone is excited. Apple haters loathe everything about the company and its products with a passion equal to that of the fanboys, those who adore and embrace all things Apple and are also known as Appleholics, Macheads, Macaddicts and Macolytes.

The haters, sometimes described as the Tea Party of the tech world in reference to the divisive, conservative faction of the Republican Party, abhor what they perceive as Apple's arrogance.

They rail against its walled-garden strategy, whereby almost everything that connects to an Apple product must be part of Apple's own universe of technology and play by its rules. Even something as utilitarian as the cables that connect Apple devices to the power supply need to be bespoke.

This animus has intensified as Apple has grown in size, power and reach to become not only the world's biggest tech company, but the biggest company full stop.

The critics just can't fathom why people are so enamoured with a brand that has become the epitome of big business, far removed from its free-thinking, counter-cultural roots.

"Some people hate Apple," writes Mike Elgan in a post on the Cult of Mac website. "Other people hate people who hate Apple. Many of these haters have turned pro, leading to a lucrative 'hater industrial complex'."

And that industry is in full swing. Open season usually coincides with the time of year when new or updated Apple products are launched.

Most of this hate materialises as harmless trolling. There are digs at Apple and its devices for high prices (the so-called Apple tax), for derivative enhancements and, mostly, for the hype.

And there was much hand rubbing and many tut-tuts when the live stream of Apple's big announcement on Tuesday suffered a broadcast malfunction before returning with the Mandarin translation in place of the English language feed.

Even Bono and U2, who appeared on stage with Apple chief executive Tim Cook to launch their album as a giveaway to Apple's 500 million iTunes users, copped some of the Apple-bound flak.

Buzzfeed declared the moment when Cook touched index fingers with Bono as the "most awkward moment of the Apple event".

And when another guest, gaming executive Tommy Krul, appeared on stage with a purple infinity scarf draped around his neck, the Twitterverse went into meltdown and the #scarfguy hashtag went into orbit.

Rivalry and sledging have been constants in the world of consumer technology ever since the industry's coming of age about four decades ago.

Over the years the binary world of technology has been the scene of format wars, console wars, browser wars, patent wars and operating system wars.

There were skirmishes between the compact cassette and the 8-track, Betamax and VHS, Blu-ray and HD-DVD, Navigator and Explorer, Nokia and Motorola, Sega and Nintendo, Xbox and PlayStation and, more recently, Google and Facebook.

Apple itself has had a long history of mudslinging. First it was IBM and Microsoft and today it's Samsung and Google, which owns Android, the smartphone operating system that is used around the world by scores of phone manufacturers.

These rivalries have been a manifestation of both corporate Darwinism and consumer preference. They are the inevitable consequence of a contest between brands, standards and philosophies in an industry that has always been a magnet for visionaries and creative idealists … and the odd evil genius.

Today, one of the biggest rivalries – between iPhone and Android – also plays out along socio-economic lines.

Mapbox, a mapping start-up based in Washington DC, recently published a map of the world tracking more than 280 million tweets, showing the operating system of the phone used.

What it shows is a social divide along smartphone operating systems. Tweets from iPhones are more likely to come from affluent suburbs. Tweets from Android phones, the operating system owned by Google, invariably come from the poorer areas.

Increasingly, we are being defined not by the car we drive or the clothes we wear, but by the technology we use. The technology we use most is the one we always have in hand. That means our mobiles define us. Don't you just hate it when that happens?

This story Lovers and haters divided by Apple first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.