“Why don’t you have an iPhone?”
My roommate asks me this when the camera on my old Android isn’t quite up to snuff. My classmate poses the same question when I ask him to AirDrop something to my MacBook, and my friends from home can’t refrain from asking when we video chat on Snapchat rather than FaceTime. It’s a mundane question, really, but it’s one I’ve heard for so many years that I’ve begun seeing red when I hear it. I know it isn’t, but it feels derogatory in a special way — like a poke at the fact that I am, somehow, behind because my cellphone is not an Apple product or because iPhones are too expensive for me. It implies that obtaining an iPhone is easy for everyone, and therefore everyone should do it.
Recently, I have been looking to buy a new phone. Mine is getting a little old and I’ll be studying abroad this summer, so the time feels right. Over the many hours I have spent researching cell phones, that question has been rattling around in my head: “Why don’t you just buy an iPhone?” Trust me, I have looked into getting one. I have wrestled with myself in knock-down-drag-out fights over the years of teasing about my phones I have endured and whether or not I am prepared to succumb to the Apple allure. Each time I gravitate towards an iPhone, however, I am harshly reminded of the divide that exists between the Androids I have long been loyal to and the iPhones everyone wishes I would buy. There is a divide, and its enormity is difficult to ignore as I grow older, much wiser and more financially independent. So, after many nights of laying awake dealing with my first-world problems, I have taken a step back to consider this rift and why I still refuse to cross it.
I am no stranger to the classism of technology. My first smartphone was a birthday gift in eighth grade — a Motorola of some kind, and I’ve had Motorolas since. I am a creature of habit. My entire family uses Androids and I do not come from a background that can easily and regularly get up the money for more expensive iPhones. However, I went to a small private school in the deep South and now I attend one of the most expensive out-of-state public universities in the United States. For the past 16 years, I have mingled among the financially elite, and with this comes the pressure of technological elitism that I have found stems mostly from the iPhone and the belief that it is, if not the best, then the only phone worth having. This has hardened me towards iPhones in an “old man that lives by the sea alone, angry and cold” sort of way. But it is not just the people that have contributed to my own hardheartedness, or even the social divide between Androids and iPhones. Apple itself is to blame in some capacity.
When I found out that my texts show up in a green bubble on my friends’ iPhones, my world was rocked. Not everyone had to see that I had an Android in the physical sense, but everyone I texted with would become privy to that knowledge anyways. Then, in 2021, when internal records revealed that Apple made Android texts green as part of a move to keep iMessage an Apple exclusive, things made a little more sense. This move sentenced everyone outside of the Apple ecosystem to death by the dreaded green chat bubble. In a way, Apple was attempting to exclude an entire group of consumers from their product by creating a feeling of “ostracism that comes with a green text” for the iPhone-less. Now “Why don’t you have an iPhone?” had a friend: “Oh … Why are your texts green?”
It isn’t just the act of ostracizing Android users that makes me wary of the iPhone — it’s the villainization of Android phones. I assume we’ve all seen a movie in which a character handles a cell phone of some kind. You’ve most likely imagined an iPhone in their hand, but I would ask you whether or not that character was a good guy or bad guy because, while Apple allows their products to be used on-screen in films, the brand does not allow antagonists to use their devices. According to Apple, the brand only wants its products to be shown “in the best light, in a manner or context that reflects favorably on the Apple products and on Apple Inc.” Whether intentionally or not, this ruling creates a subconscious bias against Android users. A connection is made in the minds of viewers: the iPhone is the device of winners, and Android users always get beaten by the winners.
My standards for a new phone aren’t too high — a good camera, decent storage and fast processing should all do the trick. As I approach this upgrade with an elevated sense of financial independence, however, I feel locked in by the expectation that I will leave the world of Androids behind and join the more sophisticated race of the iPhone. Well, tough luck and all that.
In an inexplicable sort of way, I almost hoped that writing this article would soften me towards the iPhone and convince me of its merits, thus making my phone purchase an easier decision. If anything, I have been further hardened by what I’ve uncovered here and have finally managed to get to the true root of why I refuse to cross the divide and buy an iPhone: spite. Could I feasibly afford an iPhone at this point in my life? Yes. Could my pride afford to ignore the technological elitism I have encountered, or Apple’s efforts to alienate Androids? Absolutely not. Let me be clear: I have nothing against the physical iPhone itself or its general user base. In fact, I reserve the right to change my mind and purchase one in the future, but at this time I object far too strongly to the treatment of Androids and their users as socially “lesser” than to cross to the Apple side of the cell phone spectrum. Years of being interrogated about my phone choice by even my closest friends has made me far too spiteful, and I am prepared to admit that. Because spite, to quote my father, is not a pretty color, but boy does it look good on me.
Daily Arts Writer Maddie Agne can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.