An informal study by the BBC appears to reveal that Apple customers react to the brand with religious fervor. To do this the Beeb got a team of neuroscientists to perform an MRI on the brain of an admitted Apple fanatic-Alex Brooks, editor of World of Apple – and showed him images of Apple products. According to the BBC’s Alex Riley and Adam Boome, the researchers said that the brain response was the same as when a religious person sees religious images.
For those of us who write about the iPhone, this explains a lot. If you have the chance to read the comments to my column when I say anything at all about an iPhone or an iPad, you notice that even the slightest negative comment elicits an extreme reaction. In fact the reaction is a lot like what you see if you criticize someone’s belief in God or their particular religious sect. Well, almost-I haven’t noticed any Apple terrorists out there.
No doubt you can already tell that the BBC study is flawed. There’s no random sample, the sample size of 1 is statistically meaningless, and there’s no control group. However, this is a phenomenon that clearly needs further study.
I propose that the National Academy of Sciences assemble a group of approximately 1,000 iPhone users, 1,000 Android users and 1,000 BlackBerry users. This will allow the detailed study of religious fervor in Apple and Android users. The BlackBerry users would be the control group since they just don’t care about their smartphones all that much, a fact that as a BlackBerry user myself I can understand fully.
After we’ve spent the required $73.4 billion (about twice what it will cost AT&T to buy T-Mobile, you’ll note) that such government-run studies require as their Minimum Increment of Science, we’ll then know several important things for sure. First of all we’ll have it confirmed that iPhone users are intense about their iPhones to the point of it being a religious matter.
We’ll likely see that Android users have equal fervor with Android phones as their object of worship. Just show them a ThunderBolt, for example, and their pupils will dilate, their palms will get all sweaty, and their heart rate and breathing will increase. They’ll start to speak in tongues, saying things like “Honeycomb,” “Froyo,” and “Gingerbread.”
It’s Time to Evangelize BlackBerry Users
With both groups it will seem as if they’re headed to some kind of phoned-in ecstasy, but this is a religious response. Praise the phone for that.
The BlackBerry users, meanwhile, would watch all of this with passing interest and then go back to work, secure in the knowledge that when the iPhone and Android finally return from their rapture due to limited battery life, they’ll still be able to do their work.
Of course, as a BlackBerry user it might be fun to watch all of this transpire, but there’s an important message here. RIM, probably driven by the Canadian sense of politeness and fair play, has never tried to make the BlackBerry into a religious object. Instead the company focused on making a really good device that has a battery that lasts longer than a day. But that’s not good enough. What the BlackBerry needs is Jim Balsillie in a black, long sleeved T-shirt evangelizing the unconverted. They need to actively recruit rabid fans who will go out and preach to the multitudes about the greatness of RIM.
Alas, only Apple and Android phones seem to have such masses of the converted. This should be easy enough to arrange since RIM already has annual BlackBerry meetings, there’s a group of would-be fanatics gathered at Crackberry.com, and there are already gazillions of users. But for some reason, the fanaticism has never taken hold.
My daughter, who studies such things when she’s not busy with computer science and physics, tells me that the true Apple and Android believers are a lot like religious fanatics and fanatic atheists. She suggests that the Apple fanatics are the religious ones, but suggests that the Android fanatics are just as passionate in their belief that their path to mobile nirvana is the right one. She also suggests that the Apple religious fanatics aren’t going to get caught up in this debate because they don’t believe in the existence of Android devices.
The implications of this phone worship are immense. It means that the Windows Phone 7 will never be successful until it develops a cult following. Unfortunately, Microsoft’s days as a cult influencer are behind it, so regardless of how good the Windows phone might be, it’s doomed unless Steve Ballmer can somehow elevate it to god-like status. The same, of course is true of the BlackBerry, which will need a cult of its own-perhaps driven by the people at Crackberry.
But that’s the price of success in the wireless phone business these days. Create a cult with deep religious fervor or perish. Phone, protect us.