The identity politics of tech are real. We become obsessed with the devices that power our lives, and they can drive us to heated arguments — however preposterous — with anyone who loves a competing product, platform, or service.
It’s frighteningly easy to filter your life through your tech purchases and mistake a criticism against a device or service you use (or the brand that made it) for an unwanted critique of your life choices. Don’t take it personally. These kinds of bitter rivalries have been going on ever since the days of Tesla and Edison, if not earlier.
Here’s a primer on some of the more famous tech arguments in which you’ve probably planted your flag, whether you intended to or not.
When it comes to technology, jumping between different products and platforms is a fact of life for most people. Unless you're a diehard Apple fan or you're obsessed with Samsung, you've probably tested the waters with a competing device at least once before.
Windows vs. Mac
It’s one of the oldest tech allegiances there is, and one that Apple turned into a classic advertising campaign. Are you a PC person or a Mac person?
Like Android and iOS, the Mac versus PC debate comes down to “ease of use” versus “customisation.” Windows 10 has an accessible top layer, but gives users much more access to the computer’s core systems underneath (by default). Macs are designed to make every aspect of the system intuitive, easy to use, and approachable.
To ensure that experience, macOS limits users’ access to core systems of the computer. One could even argue that the simple act of installing a program on Windows is a lot more complicated than on a Mac — uninstalling, too, since with Apple you just have to delete the app directly out of Finder and... OK, we’ll stop pouring gasoline on the fire.
Generally speaking, there are certain types of people who tend to be drawn towards Macs. Creative professionals. Students. People who appreciate form over function (or form and function, depending where your allegiances lie). PCs have certain audiences as well, including programmers, gamers and system builders. At least, we can’t think of many people who want to build a new Mac desktop from scratch.
With the smartphone overtaking the PC as the primary computer in most people’s lives, the Windows versus Mac debate feels like it has mellowed out over the years. There are still hardcore Mac and Windows fans, to be sure, but it seems like everyone largely accepts that both systems have their strengths and weaknesses. Sure, you might never really get a Windows version of Boot Camp for macOS, but even the platforms are playing more nicely together. And Apple, it seems, is more content to highlight what its devices can do versus what Windows devices cannot nowadays.
In my opinion, the biggest factor in the “feud” is that Windows and Mac systems are just different enough to keep them from being completely interchangeable. And when people are used to the nuances of one operating system, the other can feel disorienting—perhaps enough to make them hate it. And if that’s the case, chances are you’re going to run back to your comfort zone, and go on to more vehemently defend your computer of choice.
iOS vs Android
For most of us, our smartphone is the most important piece of technology we own. It’s our primary tool for communication, the first thing we reach for when we want to interact with the world (even if our good friends are sitting right next to us). Go figure that people get extremely huffy when debating the merits of the two major smartphone platforms: Apple’s iOS, which powers the iPhone and iPad, and Google’s Android, which runs on almost everything else.
Like the PC versus Mac debate, iOS and Android users are likely split over customisation and ease of use. Android provides more transparency and lets users tweak their devices more than iOS, while the iPhone famously “just works.” On the flip side, that which makes users’ experiences “simpler,” for lack of a better way to describe it, prevents them from doing all sorts of fun experiments on their iDevices. For many (most) people, that isn’t a problem, but those who prefer—or insist—on having a way out of the “walled garden” might feel stifled by iOS’ limitations.
Android users also (rightly) point out that Apple is very slow to adopt industry-wide hardware improvements. Take OLED displays, for example, or the fabled in-display fingerprint reader we all keep seeing rumours about. Most recently, Apple added dual-SIM card slots to the iPhone Xs, XS Max, and Xr, which was a novel idea back in 2010. That’s a particularly egregious example, but the fact remains that most bleeding edge tech doesn’t make it onto the iPhone until Apple can be sure it works—and mass-produce it.
On the other hand, the iPhone (and iOS by extension) is generally lauded for superior security. Similarly, the iOS App Store, while more tightly regulated, is not weighed down by illegal clones and copycats, some of which can contain malware. (Of course, Apple’s App Review team isn’t perfect.)
Apple vs Samsung
A specific and sizable front in the iPhone vs Android war is the competition between the iPhone and Samsung’s Galaxy series of smartphones. In the last five years, the Galaxy has risen to prominence as the most recognisable Android phone, and the company is quick to advertise the Galaxy S as a great iPhone alternative.
As the two most popular smartphone manufacturers, Apple and Samsung have chased each other for years, adapting each other’s hardware features to achieve some kind of parity. When Apple added its Touch ID fingerprint sensor to the iPhone 5S in 2013, Samsung featured a fingerprint sensor in the Galaxy S5 the following year. Coincidentally, Samsung also debuted integrated wireless charging in the S5, three years before Apple worked it into its first smartphone, the iPhone 8.
These small disparities are great fuel for fans to feud over. Galaxy users give iPhone users guff over Apple’s slowness to add new features—or in the case of the headphone jack, the company’s quickness to remove important functionalities. Conversely, Apple fans ride high on critics’ breathless praise for the iPhone’s biggest achievements.
If you, like me, are on the Apple bandwagon, it’s time to start thinking about the next phone you’re going to buy now that Apple has debuted the iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro. But there are plenty of other great phones that don’t start with an “i,” too.
Despite the arms race and the squabbles it inspires, the device-specific matchup always play second fiddle to the larger iOS vs Android debate. Many of the features that set the Galaxy and iPhone apart are often intricacies of iOS and Android. The Galaxy has become the gateway device for switching to Android, just as the iPhone was once the gateway smartphone, period.
PlayStation vs. Xbox
It’s a known fact that gamers are some of the pettiest tech fanbases on the planet. I say that with love, but the “console wars”—feuding among fans of dedicated gaming platforms—have been going on since Sega bragged that the Genesis did “what Nintendon’t.”
By choosing one console over another, you’re indicating a controller preference, prioritising a set of exclusive games, and potentially limiting your social circle, since most multiplayer games don’t allow “cross-play” among different consoles. Players have, historically, gotten very defensive about those choices.
Today, the battle is largely two-sided. You have fans of Sony’s PlayStation 4 and Microsoft’s Xbox One. Nintendo also makes a console, the beloved Nintendo Switch, but the company largely gets a pass these days. (Between its lower hardware specs, non-conforming hardware form factor, and annoying friendship codes, comparing the Switch to other consoles is an especially foolish proposition). Since most games come out on both platforms, the distinction mainly comes down to a handful of games.
The next generation of consoles is looming, though. Phil Spencer, head of Microsoft’s Xbox division, says the next Xbox is on the way. Presumably, Sony will launch a new console around the same time. You can expect to read plenty of “PS5 versus Xbox 4” slings and barbs soon.
AMD vs Nvidia
Among PC gamers, the never-ending platform feud centres on your graphics card. It’s easily the most frequently discussed PC component among system builders, because it’s critical to how your games look and feel.
AMD and Nvidia are the two major graphics card manufacturers. While picking a graphics card from either company won’t prevent you from playing games with your friends or any nonsense like that, there’s an inherent competition among PC builders who want to build the best (or fastest) systems possible, which leads fans to take sides.
That said, the rivalry has felt subdued in recent years. While AMD supplies graphics cards for a number of devices—including both the PS4 and Xbox One—Nvidia’s graphics cards have captured the market. There’s a general consensus that Nvidia’s graphics cards are more powerful, and the company is happy to charge a premium around that fact. While many publications might argue that low- and mid-range AMD cards are a better value than their Nvidia counterparts, gamers who want to crank out the most frames per second in the latest titles are more likely to go Nvidia than AMD.
There’s also been a temporary cease-fire due to PC gamers’ larger hatred towards cryptocurrency miners. Over the past 2-3 years, high-end GPUs from either company have become very difficult to acquire thanks to insatiable demand of increasingly ambitious cryptocurrency miners, who have been buying high-end graphics cards to expand their mining operations. Thankfully, even Nvidia itself thinks the crypto-fuelled GPU gold rush is ending, so PC gamers will soon be able to refocus their ire toward each other once again.
Chrome vs. Firefox
Though this rivalry is largely relegated to forums and the nerdier corners of the internet, some people have very strong feelings over what web browser you should use. You have a few options, but the drums generally beat around two main camps: Google Chrome and Mozilla’s recently overhauled Firefox Quantum browser.
Unlike some of these feuds, which can actually seep into casual conversation and/or have some kind of impact on your daily, the web browser debate starts and ends with performance (and whether or not you trust Google).
Since its debut, Chrome has grown in popularity, though its once-stellar reputation has taken a bit of a hit as of late. Examples of Chrome-only sites are more and more common, reminiscent of the days when Microsoft's Internet Explorer dominated the web browser market. It's been shown to be a massive memory hog as well, slowing down machines as users create more and more tabs.
Chrome and Firefox look and feel very similar, but Chrome has an Achilles heel—it’s a gigantic memory hog. Mozilla (and many users) claim that Firefox is generally faster than Chrome, but that disparity is clear in situations where Chrome somehow uses all of your memory. (That said, Chrome tends to load sites and web apps faster, so...)
Many users tolerate Chrome’s memory issues because they’re comfortable with the browser, they like how it integrates with Google’s other sites and services, or they actually stream their browsing to devices like the Google Chromecast. This integration is a serious issue for some security-minded users, however. Between Google search, Chrome, Gmail, Android, and the Google Assistant, they don’t typically like how much data Google is collecting about you across every way you interface with the internet. Mozilla, on the other hand, appears more adverse to online tracking.
This article has been updated since its original publication.