Punching down: should Apple fans mock the Pixel 2’s missing headphone jack?

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Yesterday, Google announced two new flagship phones: the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL. Because they offer the premiere stock Android experience, and because they boast great hardware (like a terrific camera), the devices will likely prove very popular with those outside the Apple bubble.

Some pundits inside the Apple ecosystem weren’t quite so receptive. Instead of praising Google’s improved design chops or its industry-leading AI features, they mocked Google for removing the Pixel’s analog headphone jack.

Now, maybe turnabout is fair play. Last year, Google poked fun at Apple for nixing the 3.5mm port on the iPhone 7. So why shouldn’t Apple-focused writers do the same thing, now that the Pixel has followed suit?

For me, the problem lies in Apple’s dominant market position. Apple’s handset business dwarfs Google’s in both unit sales and profit.[1] Whereas the iPhone has made Apple tremendously powerful, supremely confident, and unfathomably rich, the Pixel remains little more than a side project for Google.

So when Apple fans snarkily ridicule other companies’ devices, they do so from a lofty perch; it feels like “punching down” on Apple’s behalf. That may not be wrong, per se, but it’s not very funny, either. The world’s most dominant technology firm doesn’t need an army of apologists, patrolling the Internet for proof that Apple was right. Apple can look out for itself; it’s no longer the downtrodden underdog of the 1990s, struggling just to stay afloat.

Yes, this is a double standard. Is it fair if Google aficionados snidely deride the iPhone, while Apple’s followers hold their tongues? Maybe not. But when your team is winning, good sportsmanship demands that you dial down the trash talk. After all, nobody likes a sore winner. ■

  1. Google has likely shipped 1–2 million of the original Pixel since its October 2016 launch, whereas Apple sells over 200 million iPhones each year. Its dominance doesn’t end there; from a marketing perspective, Cupertino owns the mobile mindshare and can suck the atmosphere from the room with every announcement. Technologically, Apple’s A-series chips decimate the competition in benchmark tests. And finally, Apple’s strategic decisions steer the entire industry, charting the course in everything from hardware deprecation (e.g. the headphone jack) to accessory sales (the iPhone will make Qi chargers ubiquitous) to software features (every flagship phone now includes a ‘portrait mode’).