By Michael Fisher | August 21, 2012 4:55 PM
Even before I started working for Pocketnow, I was a platform whore.
From Blackberry to Windows Mobile to Sidekick to PalmOS to webOS to Android to Windows Phone … the list is, as Top Gun‘s Slider might say, “long but distinguished.” And it’s been well-covered here on Pocketnow, in a shameless piece of self-indulgence you should read, so you know where I’m coming from.
The thing is: with one exception, no smartphone platform has ever held my interest long enough for me to stick with it for longer than a year. This never-ending quest for novelty has had its perks – it got me the expertise needed to land this job, for one, and it gave me enough perspective to avoid becoming too blind a fanboy – but it’s also had its down-sides. Chief among them: smartphones are more expensive than drugs.
That might be what keeps most people anchored to their smartphone platform of choice, especially in the hostile economic climate that most people are facing these days. That new device on a competing platform may look pretty, but its $300 price tag plus the cost of switching ecosystems really, really doesn’t.
But money can’t be the only reason we users tend to stay loyal to the platforms that get our dopamine flowing. After all, irresponsible handling of money is what got us into this economic quagmire in the first place, and I’ve spent enough time in retail -on both sides of the counter- to know exactly how careful people aren’t with their hard-earned dollars. And, as I pointed out in the above link (I know you don’t click them, so I’ll just do a little hand-holding for you here), switching ecosystems really doesn’t cost that much after all. Yeah, I linked it again. Big whoop.
For me, switching to my current platform was done out of necessity. I’d just lost my previous day job (I was a full-time voiceover artist, so you’d think I’d be better at sounding sonorous on the Pocketnow Weekly podcast) and could no longer afford to maintain two lines for my personal use. Actually, I could barely afford one line, given the data requirements I was dealing with. So some compromises were in order: my dual-existence on webOS and Windows Phone came to an end, and I sold even more of my soul to our Mountain View overlords by ditching an SMS plan entirely and using Google Voice for all my texting needs. Android it was, then, and with the promise of Nexus-level functionality still bright in those days, the Galaxy Nexus LTE on Verizon Wireless became my new home.
The device itself may have proven disappointing, but the switch to Android turned out to be quite smooth given how deeply I already relied on Google’s ecosystem. Today, Google’s hooks are buried so deeply into my mobile life that it would be very difficult for me to jump ship to another platform for my daily driver. That’s the whole idea behind specialized ecosystems; most people are willing to sacrifice OS mobility for convenience, and convenience is something that operating system creators like Google, Apple, and Microsoft are pretty good at delivering – so long as you stick to using their own particular suites of products. So the ecosystem is the first factor that locks people in to a platform.
But all that is useless without a network (unless you’re talking about portable media players or WiFi tablets, in which case … get out of my conversation). And the wireless carriers who own those networks have a strong tendency to meddle in major ways, including which phones are carried by which companies. It’s called “carrier exclusivity,” and it’s really annoying for customers who don’t want anything to do with the carrier that secures it for a particular phone. Even for those folks who live in areas with wide availability of unlocked devices, sometimes radio band incompatibility means no matter how much you want that device, it’ll never work on your carrier. And sometimes that wireless provider is the only one that’ll work for you, because of coverage, or budgetary constraints, or still being stuck sharing a family plan with your ex-wife “because it’s just easier that way.” Whatever the reason, a carrier is a huge impediment to platform-jumping.
My imagination is butting up against the limits of my patience, which means it’s probably time for an afternoon cocktail. That, or I should get back to work on reviewing the Motorola Photon Q 4G LTE, a product with a name so long I ran out of breath just thinking about it. But speaking of Motorola, let’s talk about one last boon to platform loyalty: Manufacturer fans.
One of the notes I took during the discussion that led to this article ended with, ” … for example, if you love Samsung you’ll probably stick with buying Samsung.” Boy howdy, is that true.
Back in the days when the tech community was much smaller and message board threads would balloon into the hundreds of pages at the merest mention of a CDMA-vs-GSM battle, I was a vocal Samsung cheerleader. I wasn’t blind to other products or dismissive of other OEMs, but when it came to mobile phones, I preferred Samsung products above all others. I found the company’s build quality, UI work, and even ringtones superior to the other options available to me as an early-21st century Sprint customer. That kept me coming back to Samsung phones for a number of years, and it even informed my buying decisions in other areas. I’m not even being funny when I say that my roommate and I at one point considered buying a Samsung-sourced microwave oven to extend the manufacturer’s presence in our apartment.
These days, manufacturer preferences have fallen by the wayside somewhat, as OEMs are less intimately associated with software (Apple excepted). Customers have a huge array of choice when it comes to Android phones, for example; one no longer needs to buy an HTC device to run Google’s OS. Even the much-smaller Windows Phone platform offers buyers a choice of top-tier hardware manufacturers. Standouts like Nokia offer some compelling differentiators to encourage buyers to choose them, of course, and the same is true of OEMs in the Android landscape. With all the pressure those companies exert by way of their unique features, manufacturer preference continues to serve as a heavy anchor tied to the ankles of those who would otherwise consider jumping ship.
That’s the most compelling trifecta of factors keeping people glued to their OSes of choice that I can think of, but there’s more out there. Drop us a line in the comments with what keeps you stuck on your favorite platform. Seriously, do it. I even took the usual italics off this comment request; that’s how hard I mean it. Even though we may not always respond here at Pocketnow, we’re always watching. Like Santa Claus, or the CIA. And we want to know why you’re still married to your favorite platform. Have at it!