Sunk Cost, Blindly Loyal iPhone fans and Designer’s Bias



“Apple faithful admit to ‘blind loyalty’ to their iPhones in a UK survey” (link) – read the tweet from CNET that flashed by this morning. It got me thinking. As a long time iPhone owner and and an ardent admirer of many things Apple, I can certainly be considered loyal. However, I’d like to believe that I am objective even in my loyalty, so as not to be blind. Or am I?

As big a fan as I may be of products designed by Apple, I do recognize that like anything man made they are not perfect. Further more I recognize that there are other companies that can produce products that are designed well to serve the needs of the customers they target more than adequately. But this objectivity can often go missing from Apple “fans” – present company included. Thus many are often deservedly branded as cultists. These Apple fanatics will often simply dismiss everything else regardless the merits. For example if I said – as I have indeed said many times, that Windows 7 (certainly not 8!) is a perfectly good if not excellent OS that is just as usable as Mac OSX,  I’d get mauled in some circles. I may be exaggerating – though not by much.

Lets leave aside for a moment that Apple does indeed deserve plenty of loyalty for the excellent design, user experience and customer service that they offer. What else could be responsible for this “blind loyalty”? Allow me to go off on a slight tangent in order to present my hypothesis.

Right after the CNET tweet, I read another – this one by @frogdesign.  The article (link here) is a quick and worthwhile read for anyone in general and designers in particular. It describes the design process used to iterate and test new mobile banking concepts for rural Indonesia. The gist of this article is that the designers on the project tried to very cognizant of and steer clear of what they termed “designer’s bias.” This would be the tendency for designers to become attached to the solutions or concepts they have invested time in. The article tries to explain this bias using the business concept of “Sunk Cost”.  To quote the article – “Behavioral economists explain the concept (i.e. Sunk Cost) as when someone places more value on a thing once they have contributed time or money to it.”

You probably see where I am going with this now. Could it be that the “blind loyalty” that Apple/iPhone fans exhibit is related to their rather high investment in the product? These are expensive products after all.  If you believe that, you could also believe that the same thing likely applies to designers and developers as well. They invest a significant amount of their time acquiring skills and then developing on a particular platform. That probably explains all the passion in those iOS versus Android battles.  Certainly seems to me like a factor  – amongst others as well. In fact I would venture so far as to say developers and designers are likely biased towards the first platform that they worked on.

What do you think?

One Comment

  1. Ravi

    Nice article. Here’s my 2¢ on blind loyalty.

    Design, User Interface, Customer service and branding – Apple has done this extremely well. But we forget one big aspect – iTunes. Though it started as a simple app to load the music into the iPods of late and to create playlists, it has morphed into a very simple interface, especially for the non-technical consumers, to amalgamate all the different mini landscapes within Apple’s ecosystem, those being the computers (Mac and Windows included), iPhones, iPads, iPods, App Store, Music Store, photos, music and the likes. No other company has managed to do this successfully yet. They bank on simplicity and have hit the mother lode and rightfully so. I use Macs, iPads, Nexus and a Samsung galaxy. The simplicity of the iTunes was too restricting for me but at the same time, I miss the unified interface to manage the content in my Android phone. It’s a double-edged sword. That’s just the way it goes, I guess.

    All that said, I have been really disappointed with Apple as a company. I see them cutting corners in their quality and is evident in a couple of different areas. To me it seems like Microsoft’s experience all over. Once Microsoft got bit, it got to their heads. They thought that they were invincible. Apple and Google showed them otherwise. I believe that Apple is going through the same experience. It’s up to them to learn and survive or meander aimlessly. Only time will tell.

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