This is a story about Android users and The Verge. If it seems familiar it’s a tale that’s been told before: a tech site produces something that is perceived by a particular community as biased, and that community responds with all the rage that the Internet will allow.
Is the anger 100% justified? Usually not. Does personal opinion ever infect otherwise unbiased tech writing? Probably. As is often the case with such things, there is blame to be laid on both sides. But for that to happen, you need to know the whole story…
It all started with an innocuous hands on video of the just-released Nexus 5, by Verge Assistant Managing Editor Dieter Bohn:
The first sign of trouble that I saw was a link to the video on Google+ by YouTuber Armando Ferreria, with this rather terse comment:
Worst “Hands On” ever.
There are currently 229 additional comments on that post. And it didn’t stop there; the issue kind of blew up over the weekend, and “iVerge” became a trending topic on Google’s nascent social network, seeing lots of Android users posting screen grabs — G+ users love posting screen grabs —of various Verge feeds being removed from various apps.
So why all the hate?
The consensus seems to be that The Verge editorial board has a blanket pro-Apple and anti-Android bias. Some G+ users have gone quite a bit further, bandying about the idea that Apple has paid off the site for lip service. This is posted as an incontestable fact, with no citation or other proof to back it up.
It’s easy to dismiss this as irrational fanboyism. I think that the Android/Google+ community has a legitimate axe to grind; I just don’t think it’s being articulated well.
I don’t believe for a second that there are any clandestine agreements between Apple and The Verge. On an episode of The Vergecast over the summer, Chief Editor Josh Topolsky was extremely critical of iOS7, admitting that a glowing review would be great for the site and its ad revenue, but there were just too many issues with Apple’s new mobile OS.
The consistent message from The Vergecast re: Android vs. Apple is that the latter delivers the superior camera experience, while the former is much better at cloud services. That seems fairly unbiased to me.
Where I think the Google+ army has a legitimate beef is with the crew that does The Verge’s other podcast, The Verge Mobile Show. Too many times I’ve heard some variation of the sweeping statement that Android apps just can’t compare with the quantity and quality of titles available for iOS. This may or may not be true; as an Android user I’m genuinely interested in which apps are better and why. But nothing further is discussed — the sound bite is dropped, mutually accepted as fact, and the hosts move on.
Likewise, in that Nexus 5 video, Dieter demonstrates the “laggy scrolling” endemic to all Android devices with a bizarre finger motion that has no real-world application. Add to that the blanket dismissal of Android cameras as being “not all that impressive” and you can start to see why people on Google+ are pissed off.
I don’t think it’s an anti-Android bias, I think it’s lazy journalism. Hosts of The Verge Mobile Show have repeatedly proven that they don’t get the Android modding community. But statistically insignificant as we may be, the Nexus is our canvas for custom ROMs and whatever else, so it’s a hugely important device for us. And I’ve yet to hear or see anything on The Verge that acknowledges this.
Sorry if all this is insider baseball, but as an Android user writing for a platform-agnostic forum I find it instructive. If nothing else, you’ll now know what #iVerge is if you see it trending again on Google+ or Twitter. Because I’m betting that this isn’t over just yet.