Wow. Josh Topolsky is mad. And that by itself is fine — he’s clearly passionate about technology, which is great. What’s not fine is the fact that he’s way off-base in his rant. So far off-base that I need to respond.
First and foremost, Topolsky has decided to turn my thoughts on the Galaxy Nexus into full on class warfare between Android and iOS. That is, he twists my comparison of attention to detail into an argument about rich vs. poor people.
I mean, he actually tries to do this.
One little problem.
The Galaxy Nexus starts at $299. The iPhone 4S starts at $199. (Both with contracts, obviously.) In other words, by Topolsky’s own standards, the Galaxy Nexus is the premium product. It’s the one rich people will buy. It’s the one the 1% should buy.
And let’s be clear, that’s what this is really about. Topolsky tries to paint it like he’s the first person to have this revelation: iPhone users think they’re upper class compared to the plebeian Android users. I remember writing that the G1 was like a shitty version of the iPhone in 2008 — and it kicked off the same debate. It’s been had every year since.
Topolsky seems to be attempting to leverage the newfound fervor over class warfare given the 99% vs. 1% Occupy movement to mold some sort of point. It’s ridiculous. Again, his argument crumbles before it gets any foothold because the Galaxy Nexus is $100 more than the baseline iPhone 4S. It’s the luxury player in the market.
Read it for yourself. Topolsky’s point number two:
2: “It’s probably hard for a Mercedes owner to describe to a Honda owner how attention to detail makes their driving experience better.” Or rather, it’s hard for a rich person to explain to a middle- or low-income person why expensive things are empirically better.
This is so outrageous and insulting, it’s hard to believe MG could type the words without being embarrassed and quickly deleting them.
I mean, sidenote to MG — read your words out loud. How are you not embarrassed by them?
For starters, it assumes a childish, simplistic, and pedantic worldview: expensive things or those that are ascribed more value by a segment of the population are inherently “better” than other things. Obviously everyone wants and needs the more expensive thing if they have an opportunity to get it. The Mercedes really is better than the Honda.
It assumes that given the situation, you would always choose the more expensive item, and that your needs or wants couldn’t possibly be out of alignment with the features or luxury offered by a more expensive product.
More insultingly, it suggests that as a person who is not part of whatever elite group MG believes exists, you couldn’t even really understand why the Mercedes is superior.
As a friend of mine said to me when discussing my tweet, just because you give consumer goods different values than I do doesn’t mean you don’t / can’t know what I know.
Okay Josh, I read my words out loud. They still sound pretty good to me as an (albeit simplistic) comparison. Your entire post, on the other hand, makes you sound like a fool.
(Before I begin, for the record, I think The Verge is great. After years of basically no attention to the product side of blogging, The Verge has made it cool again. And the content, for the most part, is even better. This is the way a tech blog should be done IMO.)
There’s actually a larger problem I have with Topolsky and technology coverage in general, in this context. It’s way too vanilla.
I read Topolsky’s review of the Galaxy Nexus when he wrote it a month ago. There’s no denying it’s thorough. But it lack one critical element: a stance.
The Galaxy Nexus is the best Android phone ever made. It’s one of the best smartphones ever made, and with a couple of minor tweaks (particularly to the camera), it could be the best smartphone ever produced.
Since day one, I’ve been waiting for an Android device that lived up to the promise of such a powerful OS. I think I can stop waiting now.
"One." "Could." "I think."
Okay. Great. I think.
In other words, the iPhone 4S is super-duper swell and the Galaxy Nexus is golly gee fantastic. Head-to-head, they’d probably hug each other to death while smiling the whole time. Free rainbow ice cream cones for everyone! Ain’t life grand?
I don’t know about you, but when I read my favorite technology writers, I want an opinion. Is the iPhone 4S the best smartphone, or is it the Galaxy Nexus? I need to buy one, I can’t buy both. Topolsky never gives us that. Instead, he pussyfoots around it. One is great at some things, the other is great at others. Barf.
Fucking pick one. I bet that even now he won’t.
This is the problem I have with most technology reviews these days. Everyone seems so afraid to say how they really feel about the device. And more often than not, that’s exactly what readers want.
To be honest, I’m not sure we can trust Topolsky anyway. A month ago, I wrote a column for TechCrunch entitled: The Death Of The Spec. The most outspoken critic of that post? Topolsky.
For the record, specs matter. They really do. Not always, and not always for obvious reasons, but you’re in a vacuum if you think otherwise.
Also, pronouncing stuff as “dead” is usually a sign that it’s very much alive.
And yes, of course, experience is what matters. I have written editorials on it. But there is a very good reason to consider specs.
An informed consumer should understand the potential as well as the actualization of that potential. They are both significant.
And then, just yesterday, he writes a post for The Washington Post essentially saying the hardware spec is dead. I mean, read the thing for yourself. At this rate, I fully expect Topolsky to be comparing the Galaxy Nexus to a Honda and the iPhone 4S to a Mercedes by next week.
Finally, Google had one request of me for the Galaxy Nexus review: that I be honest. And I was. Immediately after I posted, I heard through the grapevine that they appreciated my honesty and actually agreed with many of my points.
Here’s a little tidbit from the other side of things: “Yes Men” are great for publicity, but companies actually tend to despise them. They want the truth. All the best companies do. Negative feedback is much more valuable than slobbery kisses.
Topolsky may think he’s standing up for Android with his misguided attack. Or liberty. Or the 99%. Or something. But he’s actually standing up for his own ego. And it’s writing checks his words can’t cash.