You Sense It Or You Don’t

December 15th, 2011

I enjoyed Joshua Topolsky’s rebuttal to the high-fives exchanged between John Gruber and MG Siegler about the Galaxy Nexus allegedly being less polished than iPhones are. I didn’t pick up on some of the cringe that Joshua pointed out, in particular the implication that rich people who have “nicer” stuff will always enjoy some impossible to crack understanding of the finer things in life.

And yet John and MG are totally right. You either see it or you don’t. This is egalitarian, relating to all facets of life, in every nuanced area of preference or priority. For whatever details a given person appreciates and values, far more people will be disinterested and be unlikely to even distinguish differences. How about those Android aficionados? They’ll point to the flexibility afforded by true multitasking, freedom to install unapproved apps, etc. They shake their heads at silly iPhone lovers, hold their phones up high and take pride in these qualities. To them, these are the finer points. This is the “polish.” The rest of us just don’t see it.

For many of us who make, use, or write about software for a living, polish is all about removing from the software as many jarring behaviors as possible. Sweating the small stuff. It’s exactly the details like the persistently stuttering scrolling that MG points out that continue to make Android products appear less polished to us. It’s seriously unnerving. It’s a big freaking deal to us, while other people just don’t see it.

It doesn’t have to relate to expense, and isn’t restricted to a premium class of product. It’s also, of course, not restricted to vision. I can imagine some of my wine-loving friends holding up a $15 bottle of something precious they’d discovered, while expressing disdain for a $200 bottle of swill that somebody else just adores. Nor does it need to be something “high class.” I’m sure a number of hard-working farmworkers could explain to me in agonizing detail why I picked the absolute worst rake and shovel for my garden.

If you’ve got a taste for something, a nose for something, an eye for something, an ear for something, a feel for something, and you find a product that soothes that sense, then you have a special gift: the ability to cast judgement on inferior efforts. Other folks? They’ll either sense it too, or they won’t.

13 Responses to “You Sense It Or You Don’t”

  1. Rogelio Gudino Says:

    Joshua is mixing feelings here, because he fails to see that the argument of the Mercedes is not about “class”, it’s just about “quality”. Isn’t he aware that the Galaxy Nexus is more expensive than the iPhone?

    All Android phones and iPhones are pretty much in the same price range because of monthly fees.

    So I would say he’s feelings are that he feels a “low-class” because that’s how Android feels, cheap. Turns out it’s quite expensive, sometimes more expensive than an iPhone.

    The day Android phones sell contract free, pay-to-go, and in the same price range as an iPod Touch (maybe a bit more expensive because of the phone capabilities), then I’ll understand Joshua’s “horseshit”.

  2. JulesLt Says:


    He pretty much ignores MG Siegler’s point that he (MG Siegler) drives a Honda, not a Mercedes. His point was that the appeal of the Mercedes is lost on someone who doesn’t care.

    It’s true that in most cases the aficionado’s product tends to be more expensive – but then that is less to do with class, and more to do with how markets work.

    Although class does come into it, given that often has more to do with snobbery and status symbols, than to do with how wealthy you are – which is why a Mercedes is more ‘classy’ than a far more expensive Ferrari.

  3. Michael McWatters Says:

    The analogy struck me as off. A Honda is a very high quality, reliable, great value-for-money automobile. The Mercedes, while expensive and filled with gadgets, ranks almost near the bottom of customer satisfaction. In some ways, except for price, the analogy is backwards.

  4. Michael McWatters Says:

    ^Whoops. I think my comment was based on old information, before Mercedes embarked on it’s mid-2000s quality initiative. But my point about the Honda being a bad parallel for an Android still holds true (IMHO). I think of the comparison as being between a Honda (iOS) and a really cool kit car.

  5. Robert Smelser Says:

    I always love your eminently reasonable perspectives, Daniel. Good post.

  6. Daniel Pink Says:

    Well said. It feels so elitist saying that other people don’t get something. Nice to be reminded that it is all really just about your own personal perspective and the context of the situation.

  7. Harold Tessmann III Says:

    I think the arguments, both in Topolsky”™s rebuttal and in all related comment sections, involve a mixture of projection and reading of things not stated. Take, for example, Michael McWatters”™s reply. If you read what Siegler actually wrote, he mentions how the attention to detail affects the driving experience: handling, control response, road noise, etc. He mentions nothing about Honda”™s (alleged) reliability, value for money, or even overall customer satisfaction. This is also a danger of using analogies: people will, deliberately and not, stretch them beyond the points of parallelism and well into irrationality.

  8. Jon Crawford Says:

    Android is Linux on a phone and shares the UI and UX characteristics of the platform.

  9. M.M. Says:

    As a designer, Josh’s response was laughable; we care about detail because it increases the value of our product either monetarily or through the experience. It’s these very details that change people’s lives through perspective and broaden their views. iPhones changed a market that wasn’t taking advantage of current technology or doing enough research into its own. These devices have changed lives.

    People race to claim that Apple is taking advantage of sheeple, when what I’ve been arguing all along is that Android users just don’t seem to care (or are aware) of the nuances in their OS or the hardware the OS is on that make it unfriendlier than iOS and the devices iOS is on. As a developer, I’ve had to argue why I am choosing a platform that is guaranteed and proven to make me more money, is easier to troubleshoot and maintain and garners more fans/views.

    This whole thing is just so hilarious and I’m glad people are making a big deal out of it.

  10. Dave R. Says:

    @Jon Crawford – both Android and iPhone are based on Unix underpinnings. This is unrelated to their user interfaces.

  11. Luke B. Says:

    I love iOS and Mac with all my heart.

    but at the end of the day, I ask myself, is it ok the world only got iPhone left? The answer is no, that would really suck. We deserve a choice. I am pleased that just as many people choose Android or windows mobile, so those choices continue to exist for those people.

    I just hope we iOS users could love Android too, even it’s not our choice. so we can all in peace.

    Really not a big fan of Samsung, how they keep on claiming they are the best. I think they are a bit cross the line poking and joking at iPhone and iPad. In fact, they just copied most of it themselves despite their denials, people are not stupid.

  12. Darwin Says:

    Josh is a joke. He is about page views and grubbing money from advertisers and that drives his commentary.

  13. Kvisoft Says:

    I like the title you posted – You sense it or you don’t. It reminded me of the famouse: To be or not to be…

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