Are Apple users superior?

February 1, 2013: 7:15 AM ET

Do Apple's mobile devices lead in the U.S. because of technological elitism? Of course not.

121214110356-iphone-5-gallery-horizontalFORTUNE -- Veteran tech journalist Dan Lyons is the newly installed editor-in-chief of ReadWrite. Perhaps as a way of drawing new attention to the site, he published a diatribe on Tuesday in which he explained away Apple's (AAPL) leadership of the U.S. mobile-device market as being a result of class bigotry. Apple leads because people buy its products to feel superior to the unwashed masses who use Android (GOOG), he says.

It's an obvious bit of linkbait, but that doesn't mean Lyons is merely trolling ("linkbait" isn't tantamount to "worthless" -- not always). He seems to truly believe his thesis:

...Apple and its cheerleaders in the States don't just criticize Android phones; they also criticize Android users, depicting them as low-class people who are uneducated, poor, cheap and too lacking in "taste" (a favorite Apple fanboy word) to pay for an Apple product and instead willing to settle for a low-price knockoff.

Lyons is well known as a reliable Apple-slapper. To prove his argument, he scoured the Internet to find bloggers and tweeters who have said dumb, insulting things about Android users. Of course, if you scour the Internet, you can find people saying dumb, insulting things about anything. But nearly all his examples are from random people on Twitter and bloggers most people have never heard of. Some of them referred to Android users as "ghetto," which Lyons explicitly says is the reason for Apple's leadership of the U.S. market (whereas Android is the leader worldwide).

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There is a tiny nugget of truth to what Lyons is saying: Android has largely caught up to iOS in quality, and many Android phones are as good as, or better than, the iPhone. Consumers often make choices based on considerations other than pure, objective criteria like technical specifications. Often, they buy things that they feel mesh with their worldviews or their personalities, even if those things don't represent the most rational buying decision. Mercedes-Benz, Rolex, and countless other products have counted on this phenomenon for their very existence.

But to leap from that to basically calling owners of Apple products a bunch of class bigots is to distort reality. Further, plenty of people do choose Apple products based on pure, objective criteria. Many of them simply don't want to spend a ton of time comparing, and they know Apple's products are high quality, so that's what they buy. Lyons himself notes that many Android products are inferior, others are better. But with Apple, at least you know what you are getting.

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In many cases, consumers already own Apple computers, and like them, so they want to stay in the ecosystem. Apple fans are often referred to as "fanboys" -- and Lyons does that here, three times. But most Apple fans aren't delusional and dogmatic -- they recognize the problems and hassles that come with owning Apple products, but have made the rational decision that, since all tech products have problems, they'd rather deal with Apple's than with those of competing products with which they are not as familiar. Most Apple buyers are not "fanboys" (or "fangirls" -- note how male-dominated all these nerdy, technocultural arguments are). "Fanboys" make up a tiny segment of the Apple-buying population, and they get way too much attention.

Finally, it's hard not to recognize the irony of standing up for the dignity of poor, downtrodden smartphone owners. To apply the cliche, this is a First World problem if there ever was one.

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