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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The cult of Apple

A+UMass+Boston+student+holding+his+iPhone+with+the+home+screen+open.

A UMass Boston student holding his iPhone with the home screen open.

Ask the average college student to tell you about the famous technology company named Apple and you might get a few different answers. Some may consider it to be a tech company focused on developing high-end software and hardware. Others may tell you it’s just your average consumer electronics company, competing with companies like Samsung. While these answers may be partially accurate, Apple is not your average consumer electronics company. For years, Apple has defined itself with slick white technology brandishing the iconic Apple logo. While it might make you uncomfortable to hear this, Apple is and has been a luxury tech brand, marketing its products as a status symbol in well-developed countries. As someone who has never owned an Apple product—and has no plans to—I have existed on the outside of the Apple ecosystem my entire life. From the outside looking in, what Apple has is a cult-like following created by their intricate ecosystem of software and hardware. Through many metrics, it is clear to see that Apple has created a cult of loyal customers willing to dump their hard-earned cash into the next big product they release. Apple is past being your average tech company and is a luxury tech company with its users using their Apple tech as a status symbol.
            To understand how Apple has created such a cult following, it is important to understand the demographics of Apple users. According to a survey completed by Verizon, nearly ¼ of all college students own an iPhone (1). NPD Group’s 2009 Household Penetration Study in 2009 concluded that “36 percent of Apple computer owners reported household incomes greater than $100,000, compared to 21 percent of all consumers” (2). The same study also found that Apple households owned more technology. The study asserts, “Apple households also owned double the number of consumer electronic devices compared to the average computer-owning household at the time.” Another study done by economists at the University of Chicago found that owning Apple products is one of the best indicators of wealth. The study asserts the following, “Across all years in our data, no individual brand is as predictive of being high-income as owning an Apple iPhone in 2016” (3). It is clear based on the data that Apple is no longer a simple technology company but has established itself as a wealth and status symbol.
            When Apple sells you an iPhone, iPad or Apple Watch, you might think they’re just selling you a piece of technology. While on the surface this may be true, digging deeper will lead you to see exactly what Apple is selling you. Apple is selling you a lifestyle. The ways the pieces of tech seamlessly integrate make leaving the system, once you’ve bought one piece of technology, impossible. Being able to use iCloud across your devices, being read your texts on your watch or your Mac, are all key factors in keeping Apple users tethered to the Apple ecosystem. It is clear once you buy one piece of their technology: It would be foolish to not continue buying their tech. You can’t stop at just buying an iPhone, you must then buy an iPad and an Apple Watch. This ecosystem has created intentionally exclusionary tech that disadvantages those not in the ingroup. The ingroup bias that results from Apple intentionally isolating technology creates less than desirable social situations for those not in the loop.
Just this month, Google Senior Vice President Hiroshi Lockheimer attacked the intentionally exclusionary technology created by Apple. The situation arose from the way iMessage displays text messages, as Insider reported, “When iPhone users exchange messages using iMessage they appear in blue bubbles, whereas messages sent to iPhones from users of Google’s Android mobile operating system appear in green” (4). This creates a situation where Android users such as myself are immediately seen to be not in the in-group once a text conversation begins. Vice President Hiroshi Lockheimer attacked Apple for this feature writing on Twitter, “Apple’s iMessage lock-in is a documented strategy. Using peer pressure and bullying as a way to sell products is disingenuous for a company that has humanity and equity as a core part of its marketing. The standards exist today to fix this” (5). The iMessage strategy is not the only exclusionary tactic used by Apple. Features such as FaceTime and group text messages are all features intentionally designed to exclude those not on Apple.
Apple is no longer a tech company focused on marketing its iPhone to businesspeople, its iPad to students, or its Macs to graphic designers. Apple sells you an experience, not a product. This ecosystem sold by Apple is arguably their most valuable product. As the Tech Journeyman says, “Apple’s most valuable product is not the iPhone or the Mac. That would be the wall garden experience that is the ecosystem that is uniquely Apple” (6).
 
(1)https://www.verizon.com/business/small-business-essentials/resources/over-24-college-students-own-iphones-033128530/#:~:text=A%20precise%20statistic%20on%20the,own%20and%20operate%20iPhone%20devices.
(2)https://appleinsider.com/articles/18/07/09/researchers-claim-iphone-and-ipad-ownership-is-a-wealth-indicator
(3)https://appleinsider.com/articles/18/07/09/researchers-claim-iphone-and-ipad-ownership-is-a-wealth-indicator
(4)https://www.businessinsider.com/google-apple-imessage-iphones-android-green-blue-bubbles-peer-pressure-2022-1
(5)https://www.businessinsider.com/google-apple-imessage-iphones-android-green-blue-bubbles-peer-pressure-2022-1
(6)  https://techjourneyman.com/blog/apple-ecosystem-explained/