"Everyone Else Has One" Is a Perfectly Good Reason to Buy an iPhone

It's not even better, it's just popular. You only want one because you see everyone else has one. These are some of the more common reasons people avoid the iPhone. It's a perfectly natural reflex—it just also happens to be a dumb one.

It's easy to forget that the tech we use is so communal, communicative. It's the reason that the first thing I ask anyone deciding if they should buy a PS4 or an Xbox One (after "Are you sure you need a new console?", which holds just as true for a phone) is, What are your friends getting? Because that matters, just like it mattered if your friends had a Game Gear or a Game Boy. What platform you're on determines whether you can play with, or even interact with your friends. (I was the idiot with the Game Gear; no one played with me.) And much like you can't join your friends' Battlefield teams if you've got an Xbox One and they're all on PS4, different platforms make it harder to connect in a lot of small but noticeable ways.

Nothing slams on the brakes in a conversation faster than having to explain which emoji you just sent, because it's showing up as a box, or figuring out if an app is on Android (probably, but often not) or Windows Phone (hahahahahaha). I’d know, I’ve been using those two operating systems for the past three years now. And in thinking about getting an iPhone this year, all those little benefits—having the same games ecosystem as friends or people I’m dating, or even just iMessages occasionally popping up on my desktop chat, instead of having to dig SMS out of a phone or browser—started seeming like nice things to have. It's not that Game Center or iMessage are technologically better than the alternatives. But they're a hell of a lot more convenient.

Which is all a roundabout way of saying "installed base matters," but it's also more personal than that. More users on an OS will bring developers and content and faster access to more stuff you want, sure. But that doesn't exactly matter if your whole family and all your friends just went Samsung, and you're sitting there with an iPhone, with no one to iMessage. So context matters too, and it can change in a hurry. Just a few years ago, “everyone has one” was a good reason to be on BBM.

That’s why Apple, Google, and the rest are going to such crazy lengths to keep the customers they have. And so we get a bunch of platform-specific apps and services, the FaceTimes and the iMessages, the Photo Streams and the AirDrops. Look, chances are you're not going to use AirDrop all that much. Just the same as you're not going to use Samsung's S Beam or Bump after Google assimilates it into Android. But every now and then, you'll need to send a file, remember that AirDrop even exists, and be glad for it, and for having the same phone as whomever you’re trading with. Hell, maybe you'll even find uses for the truly pointless crap; a friend of mine and her roommate use Find My Friends to tell when the apartment is empty for, uhm, extracurricular activities. And the shared Photo Stream feature in iOS 7 probably won't be widely used, but it's a wonderful little idea for groups of friends or family.

The point is, these are all, generally, mostly useless features. They’re useless when Apple does them, just like when Samsung does them. They're filler and smoke at a keynote, and not much more. But leave a bunch of dumb, unnecessary toys in a room with you and your friends or family, and you’ll eventually find a use for them. And maybe those “dumb” toys are the only ones some of your friends or relatives are willing to use—and just by the law of averages, more of those sorts of folks, the ones you can’t talk into using WhatsApp or Oovoo, are more likely to be locked into Apple.

(Yes, preening with a new iPhonethe new iPhone—is still an embarrassment. But it's a muted sort of attention these days. You're not the nerd-hermit explaining how her strange and immeasurable mystery phone works. [Just try explaining a Lumia 1020's oversampling at Thanksgiving.] It's a practiced and comfortable sort of, "Oh, is that the new iPhone?" and "Yeah, it's great, want to check it out?" and maybe "Oh, hm, that seems about right. Your Uncle Rich was thinking about getting one of those.")

These are all sensible and defensible reasons to settle into the herd and brand an iPhone holster and Apple logo onto your face for the foreseeable future. Or, depending on your social circles, to stick with Android or a Samsung variant or even Windows Phone. Cell phone users should move in herds to make the most of their environments. I'm sure Windows Phone's Rooms would be perfectly pleasant if I could ever get someone, even other reviewers, to join one with me.

Now, all these reasons go out the window if Apple slips on too many banana peels and all of a sudden doesn't have a competitive horse in the race. There's value to setting up shop wherever your friends are, but not if you're all left living in squalor. If there were, Rent would be a romantic comedy.

Does any of this mean you should go out and buy an iPhone specifically because your friends did? God no. Do and buy whatever the hell you want. Honestly, Android's probably a better bet if you don't care about any of this. But if you do care about being able to take advantage of everything a phone and its ecosystem has to offer, don't let yourself get shamed into thinking that there's something wrong with doing what your friends do. That's literally what friends are for.