Market Share, Profits, and Other Poor Arguments for Product Quality

Posted by Matt Birchler
— 2 min read

Apple financial announcements are a real mixed bag for me. On the one hand, it’s interesting to see how well the company is doing, but it also makes some people take odd positions when talking about Apple products.

I’m not going after anyone specifically, but let’s imagine someone debating whether or not a feature that should come to the iPhone. One person eventually says something like, “the iPhone works for 1 billion people, so I guess they don’t think it’s needed.” Or imagine something like, “Apple needs to grow services revenue, so you can’t be that made that they’re pushing them in ads throughout iOS.”

Comments like those are pretty representative of the commentary I sometimes see online. Hell, I even get into the game sometimes when I celebrate Apple Watch sales continuing to rise! But as an old-school Apple fan who got into the company in the mid-90s, this ability to reference Apple’s financial success or market dominance as evidence of their products’ quality is a relatively new phenomenon.

In the 90’s I didn’t have the luxury of falling back on the “lots of people buy Macs, so they must be good” argument that I see about iPhones, iPads, and AirPods today. And if someone told me that Windows must be better because it owned 98% of the PC market, I would have told you to GTFO with that weak argument. Whether it’s computer brands, movies, or music, just because something is the most successful does not mean it is the best version of that thing.

Even today, Microsoft’s software runs on about 94% of personal computers, but you certainly wouldn’t use that as evidence that Windows is good. Similarly, Android controls 86% of the smartphone market, but I bet even fewer of you would say that’s a reason to say it’s better than iOS. And finally, Amazon and Google’s combined 53% share or smart speaker sales has no impact on what you think about letting those speakers into your home.

Maybe you don’t think this applies to you, and many of you will be right, but I think that much like Microsoft fans in the 90s and 2000s, there are a healthy number of Apple fans these days who use the company’s success as the ultimate indicator of their products’ quality.

Oh, and remember this the next time you see someone complain about people talking at length about the new Pixel phones which “aren’t even that popular” or “get disproportionately more coverage than their market share warrants.” ✌️