On brand loyalty and the iPad 2

iPad 2 versus Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1
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I have mixed feelings about mobile products from Apple.  On the one hand, they are gorgeous.  The hardware is well designed and manufactured, the software interface is fabulous, and the user experience simply delights.  On the other hand, they are made by Apple, and I have a serious problem with their business practices.  

Apple’s closed ecosystem completely turns me off.   But it’s the experience of doing business with Apple on behalf of a previous employer that has permanently soured my ability to truly enjoy Apple products.  To this day I cannot look at an iPhone or an iPad and not get flashbacks.

This is why I carry an AT&T Samsung Captivate running Android 2.2 (Froyo), and conduct all my business using Google apps on my phone.  Samsung and Google are two brands that I dig.  I find Samsung to be almost as good as Apple in hardware product design.  Their mobile business unit is highly innovative and the Galaxy and Galaxy II lines are fantastic.  The cosmetics, fit and finish of their phones are impeccable.  I like their oversaturated displays – even my friends who are die-hard Apple fans have had to concede that the 4″ AMOLED display on my phone is more vibrant than their iPhone 4 display. And It’s Not Apple.  

As for Google, I can’t exactly remember life before Google Apps.  Even my grocery shopping lists are kept as a Google Doc.  And That’s Not Apple, either.

This personal hangup explains why I did not get an iPad2 the minute I decided I needed a tablet device.  Instead I spent weeks researching available choices: Acer IconiaAsus TransformerMotorola Xoom? … etc.

I ended up convincing myself that the Samsung Galaxy Tablet 10.1″ would be the right choice for me.  This thing looks breathtakingly on paper. It’s the same size and weight as the iPad2 (thinner and lighter by a hair – not a meaningful differentiator), but it’s not made by Apple.  

So I eagerly waited for the device to come available at my neighborhood Best Buy on Friday 6-17-2011.  I ran to the store on Saturday in order to play with one, benchmark my experience against the iPad2, then buy the Samsung tab.  I thought it was a shoo-in.

Instead, I found that the device was stunning in every hardware detail… but (GASP AND ALAS) I liked the iOS experience on the iPad2 far better than the Android Honeycomb 3.1 experience on the Samsung Galaxy Tab.  Honeycomb is a fine OS, but it doesn’t hold up a candle to the usability of iOS 4.  And we’ve all read about the wonderful advances in iOS5, coming soon to an Apple device near you.  So I went home depressed… and ordered an iPad2 on line.

If ever there is a cautionary tale about the fickle nature of brand loyalty, this is it. I really, really wanted to get an Android tablet, made by Samsung.  But in the end, the better product won.

Moral of the story: invest in the user experience.  Make it delight the end users.  It will pay off in the end.

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