Some called it the "Jesus phone." Last year Apple's breakthrough iPhone—marketed as a multimedia player, phone and Internet communications device all in one machine—was treated to one of the most successful product launches of all time. Secrecy and suspense around the product gradually gave way to awe and coveting. The already-robust cult of Apple grew ever stronger as the media swooned and rival phone makers rushed knockoffs to market. To date, 6 million people have bought the shiny black toy, making it arguably one of the most popular smartphone models ever.
Get ready for the second coming: the iPhone 3G—which can run only on AT&T's third-generation (3G) cellular network—goes on sale today. Though not quite the spectacle that greeted the iPhone's original release, blog buzz has been percolating for weeks. Official reviews have been mixed, but on balance positive. Everyone, it seems, still loves the iPhone.
Except the ones who don't. For a small, disparate group of passionate technophiles, Steve Jobs & Co. can do no right. They are the haters, the worms in Apple's core. And like modern day William Tells, their quivers are packed with sharply honed data points—aimed directly at the heart of Cupertino. They may be lonely souls who start Facebook groups in search of kindred spirits; they may be enraged bloggers with a flair for satire. They're as likely to be in Sweden or the U.K. as Los Angeles or Seattle. But rest assured, they are out there. And they hate the lovefests that surround a new product launch almost as much as they hate the company itself.
Take George Ouzounian. Writing under his nom de 'Net, Maddox, Ouzounian posted a hilarious (and, be warned, foulmouthed) anti-iPhone screed after the device's release last year. With a decade of experience as a programmer under his belt, Ouzounian provided a somewhat slanted side-by-side comparison of the key features of the original iPhone and his own beloved Nokia E70—the amount of storage on each, ability to operate on different networks, swap out the battery, voice dial, cut and paste, and so on. "The users are so smug about their stupid little iPhone," he tells NEWSWEEK. "They think it's the pinnacle of technology. The people who are impressed by it are not very tech savvy. They just bought into the marketing hype." With a title we can't reprint here, Ouzounian's rant clearly resonated—he says it's been read 3.5 million times, and is the sixth most popular page in the past year on Digg, the article-sharing community.
Still, Ouzounian, 30, is going to refrain from writing about the new iPhone. He says he'll probably just go into his local Apple store and call up his essay on the browser of every single display device and leave it at that. "There's not much new to it," he shrugs. "They added 3G. They're finally catching up with the rest of the universe." In fact, this argument pops up a lot--that much of the iPhone's technology already existed on other phones, including the vaunted third-generation capability. Jay Thompson, a former phone retailer, wrote a much wonkier (and decidedly less funny) essay pointing these facts out in the phonescoop.com discussion forums. In "iPhone Hysteria: Beyond The Hype," Thompson rails against being "married to 'Ma Bell'," hates the touchscreen keyboard and the inability to expand the device's memory. The article proved delicious flame-bait for some commenters ("you're just another whiny hater," writes Deadeye-Jim). "Apple supporters are very vehement," Thompson says.
Not easily dissuaded, Thompson, who says he is holding out for the new BlackBerry Bold, also posted his essay at the Facebook group called I Hate Apple. The group, launched by C. K. McKenzie, 20, a midshipman at the U.S. Naval Academy, has only 226 members—testament to the lonely lot of the Apple hater. But what they lack in numbers, they more than make up for in passion. "Someone's got to hate Apple," says McKenzie. "I'm sick of everyone talking about how great Apple is, how great the iPod is. I was hoping I wasn't the only one out there—that if I built this, they would come." McKenzie's main gripe is that Apple's products tend to be closed systems—the company doesn't provide a platform for tinkerers and amateur developers or programmers to poke around under the hood, and its computers have "almost zero gaming support."
And speaking of games, Apple rage isn't one. Indeed, it is a phenomenon with no geographic bounds. David Robilliard is a Web designer based in Birmigham, England. He started We Hate Macs about a year and a half ago, he says, when he first saw the iconic "Get a Mac" commercials (a bizarro U.K. version of the well-known stateside ads starring hip young Justin Long as "Mac" and doughy humorist John Hodgman as "PC"). "I've always been a PC user and that advert really pissed me off," says Robilliard. "Ninety-six percent of the market uses them! It's an international standard! By using the Mac, you're making the statement: 'Oooh, look at me, I'm so clever.' The whole Mac fanboy thing really annoys me."
Not to be out-annoyed, Swedish Apple agonist Janek Magnusson has launched two sites: I Hate My iPhone and I Hate My iPod. People from all over the world are invited to post their reasons for hating (or defending) their product of choice. Take this excellent sample post from a correspondent in Switzerland: "I bought the iphone the other day and the first call I receive was from my girlfriend who announces she will leave me. i was devastated. Now everytime i look at my ugly iphone i think of that moment." Perhaps for that one pour soul, the iPhone's second coming will accompany a second chance. After all, haters need love, too.