Why I Won't Buy iAnything

Published 2014.01.11

Updated 2014.04.16

I Won't Buy Apple Products ("iAnything", "iStuff") Because:

It's not because of the repeatedly alleged "sweatshop problem" (one of many sources), since so many of the products we Americans purchase are made under similar conditions. What conditions? Mainly, labor practices that would be illegal (and usually considered immoral by Western standards) in the United States, such as employing children (and replacing them before inspectors show up), imprisoning anyone who attempts to start a union, forcing workers to use neurotoxins, blacklisting workers who ask about overtime for going beyond their standard 12-hour shifts, refusing medical attention to workers injured on the job, and so on. Other companies are involved in this too.

But perhaps Apple is in a better position than other electronics manufacturers to do something about it. Despite having only 12.1 percent of the smartphone market share, Apple is gleaning 56 percent of all the profit in that market. Unlike other electronics makers, Apple was the world's second-most profitable company in 2012 (behind Exxon Mobil), and is now the world's most "valuable" brand, surpassing behemoths like Coca-Cola and McDonald's. It's also become the most valuable company in the history of the world. Unlike competitors with slim profit margins or less recognizability, Apple is rich and powerful enough to put pressure on its manufacturers — not to cut costs even further, but — to treat the workers less inhumanely.

No, that's not why I won't by iStuff.

It's also not because of the blandness and meh-ness of so many of Apple's products.

I don't need all my gadgets to be flashy and have a million options (though it's nice sometimes). I just need them to work, and that's exactly the draw of Apple computers — Macs — at least according to fanboys like Ken Rockwell (here): "It just works... It runs smoothly for months at a time." Of course, Rockwell goes on to say that Macs have "Beautiful Menus and Lovely Screens", which were "designed by artists to look great". Of course "looking great" is subjective; some people think skinny fashion models are attractive. I have to disagree with him there; I've always thought Macs' menus were ugly and boring. If they were designed by artists, maybe these are the same artists who design sidewalks.

Unfortunately, I know it's not entirely true that "Macs just work", having spent a bunch of my free time these past few years volunteering on internet help forums. Mac users have as many computer problems as non-Mac users. (No, of course you don't, because you're a pro. Lots of Mac users aren't pros.) Macs do get infected, and they do lock up without apparent explanation. Old non-Macs have the Blue Screen Of Death, and some Mac users see the "the gray screen".

It's also not the software compatibility thing — which isn't the issue it used to be. Sure, I enjoy just being able to download a program and install it without checking to make sure there's a Mac version available, but just about everything I'd need anyway is available for Macs. In the smartphone world, it's more even. Since Apple kind of led the parade, you can get the apps you need for the iPhone. Some good ones are only available for the iPhone. But, much like the old PC-Mac debate, Android Is For Tinkerers, iOS Is Not.

But all those factors do apply, even if they're not my main reasons for not buying iAnything. Do I want to buy from a hugely profitable company that continues to exploit its low-level workers? No. Do I want my product to be more customizable and less bland? Yes.

But on to the real reasons I won't by iAnything.

Reason 1: Someone else said it better than I could:

"Apple is a mass market company with a simple lineup. Their strategy is to appeal to as many people as possible... They make easy-to-use computers that do most of what most people would want. As I said before, they're a good choice for a lot of people. The problem is that they can't afford to make products for everyone."

Call it lack of choice, or inability to customize. I don't mean it's bad for you to buy a Mac or iPhone; that would be silly, like me saying you can't be a vegan because I want to eat meat. But for me, shopping for Apple products feels claustrophobic, like very solid walls are being built around me.

Reason 2: Apple's "Leadership" and "Innovation" in the field of restricting software and content.

Apple endorses and supports DRM, technology that gives the seller control of a device or product after it's been purchased. In the iPhone world, Apple severely restricts app developers. (By contrast, the Android market is much more open and permissive to both developers and users.) Apple blocks apps that it deems objectionable. The company has been known to disallow books in its iTunes store based on word choice.

Reason 3: Apple is a patent troll.

As a somewhat absurd example, Apple claims they own the "page turn", the graphical user interface that looks like a page is turning. (They filed for and received this patent in 2012, despite the page turn having existed for decades.) They've also patented the "musical note" icon. And unlike many companies with patents, Apple is known to aggressively pursue lawsuits against anyone who sneezes near one of their patents.

Reason 4: Apple has taken tax evasion to the next level.

As much as you and I hate to pay taxes, we all enjoy the benefits of those taxes — roads, schools, police and firefighters and EMTs, just to name a few. One reason we pay so dearly for those things is because big companies have learned how to avoid paying their fair share. "Even among tech companies, Apple's [tax] rates are low."

"Without such tactics, Apple’s federal tax bill in the United States most likely would have been $2.4 billion higher last year... As it stands, the company paid ... a tax rate of 9.8 percent ... By comparison, Wal-Mart last year paid worldwide ... a tax rate of 24 percent, which is about average for non-tech companies."

Reason 5: They cost so much more than anything else.

Reason 6: Reverse psychology often works on me.

If too many well-intentioned people gush at me: "Oh, you have to buy this. It's the best!", then I probably won't do it. Those very people are keeping me off Facebook. Those people kept me from seeing "Passion of the Christ" — maybe not in your town, but where I lived, every single person from 0 through 105 told me I "had" to see that movie. I still haven't.

Reason 7: I don't want to be guilty by association.

Next time you get that smug feeling about your iDevice and pass that along verbally to a friend or co-worker, please video yourself doing it. Then watch that video a week later to see how pitiful it seems. I don't want to look like that.

Reason 8: Those first few things I listed that I said weren't really reasons? They were.

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