Updated with comments on methodology below. Also I discuss the results on an LA radio station here. The iPad is one of the more controversial mainstream technology products in recent memory. Some love it, others think it’s pointless. Naturally, the debaters believe that their opinions are about the product. I actually think it’s more about them and their personal differences. Recent MyType survey data backs me up, indicating that behind the controversy is a personality clash between selfish elites and independent geeks. Check out the full iPad Opinion Profile for all the numbers and colorful charts, or keep reading for the highlights.
From March through May of 2010 MyType surveyed over 20,000 of its users on Facebook about Apple’s iPad to reveal the personality traits, values, demographics and interests that drive differences in opinion about the new tablet computer. After weighting the responses to reflect the composition of the general internet-using US population, at least between the ages of 13 and 49 (we need more Beatles’ era users), we were happy to discover that our numbers were in line with results from a recent Forrestor survey.
The first number that jumps out is the 54% that simply aren’t interested in the iPad, i.e. the dark blue and green slices in the pie chart. As would be expected with such a common opinion, a lack of interest in the iPad does not say much about who you are. The real psychographic gold was hiding in the extreme segments: the 3% who either already bought one or plan to buy one very soon (Owners) and the 11% who criticized it as a silly product (Critics).
Selfish Elites, Independent Geeks
Apple’s marketing tends to feature the iPad as a sexy leisure device for watching movies, reading books, browsing the internet and flipping through family photos. Despite this, we found that people interested in business and finance are much more likely to be iPad Owners than those interested in movies, music, books and literature, the arts, the internet, video games, shopping, food and drink, nightlife or family. While this seems at odds with Apple’s marketing, it makes sense in the context of the Owners’ general psychographic profile. iPad Owners are an elite bunch. They’re wealthy, highly educated and sophisticated. They value power and achievement much more than others. They’re also selfish, scoring low on measures of kindness and altruism. As can be seen in the chart below, we found that people with all or most of these qualities, whom we call selfish elites, are roughly 6 times more likely to be an iPad Owner than the average person.
iPad critics, on the other hand, tend to be independent geeks. They prize self-direction, shun conformity, and are interested in video games, computers, electronics, science and the internet. One of the strongest single indicators of being an iPad Critic is a preference for the Linux (a do-it-yourself operating system for super geeks) over Windows or Macintosh. Even Mac users are more likely to criticize the product than Windows users, the PC population being the least geeky of all. If at this point you’re imagining the classic young male geek, your stereotyped imagination is right. iPad Critics do tend to be young men. To add even more color: they tend to have no children and little interest in family.
Why are selfish elites adopting the iPad and independent geeks ridiculing it? We only have data on the who, not the why, but I’ll offer some possible explanations, starting with the geeks.
It Takes a Specific Type of Geek to Hate on the iPad
It may seem odd that geeks are so critical of the iPad. Aren’t geeks the de facto early adopters of all new technology products? Well, it’s complicated. As you can see from the chart above, our independent geeks are in fact more likely than average to be iPad Owners. But why are they even more disproportionately critical? I think it becomes more clear when you zero in on the exact type of geek we’re talking about, since different types of geek like and identify with different kinds of technology. Social Foursquare power users and solo Linux junkies, for instance, may both call themselves geeks but beyond that they won’t have very much in common. MyType’s data indicate that the geeks critical of the iPad are more of the Linux junkie variety: independent, hardcore technology lovers. Think of them as the original, “pure” technology geeks, before geekery gained its mainstream appeal and “social media” entered the lexicon. These guys (and some gals) are known for their strong desire to be in control of their gadgets, compelling them to learn code and tinker with hardware. They’re impressed by technology breakthroughs and advances in speed, storage, and other quantitative qualities. They love to be on the edge of technology, experiencing these advances firsthand.
Now consider the iPad from this hardcore geek perspective. Tablet computers have been around for many years. Touchscreen technology is not new. I’ll let Darren Murph’s assessment on Engadget tell the rest:
I can’t begin to explain how disappointing this device is in the sense of being a usable computer. There’s a 1GHz CPU in there that can’t even be used for multitasking. There’s no camera for video chatting. There’s no way to watch a Flash video and chat within an IRC client at the same time. There’s not even a way to connect a USB device to this without paying Apple extra for an adapter. The iPad is remarkably limited in scope and functionality, and for no good reason. A netbook can run circles around this in terms of actually getting work done, and if I want to enjoy multimedia, I’ll carry around something that can fit in my pocket. As I mentioned, you’ll say I’m just missing the point, but this thing does absolutely nothing for me in its current iteration.
When you think about it this way, the tablet seems like little more than an oversized iPhone. So when it’s heralded as a breakthrough by the media and craved by consumers everywhere, our independent geeks are predictably incredulous. Given the iPad’s promising march towards mainstream adoption, their independent personalities make criticizing the device an almost instinctive reaction.
Criticism of Apple has become an almost instinctive reaction for this group as well. The company has a growing reputation for intentionally limiting user choice. It chooses which apps it will allow users to have access to. To even join club you must buy an Apple device, which offers few customization options. It’s a completely closed platform. This grates independent geeks the wrong way. They need maximum control over their gadgets.
Bashing the iPad is, in a way, an identity statement for independent geeks. As a mainstream, closed-platform device whose major claim to fame is ease of use and sex appeal, the iPad is everything that they are not.
The Power Tool for Selfish Elites
What do selfish elites see in the iPad that others don’t? Perhaps nothing. Five hundred dollars is a lot to spend on an untested product, maybe it’s just a matter of affordability. The data, however, show that people who have all the traits of the selfish elite except wealth are much more likely than the average non-wealthy person to wish they can afford an iPad. Also, the upper class as a whole is more likely to be undecided about the iPad or simply not want it. It’s only when we narrow in on multiple elite traits, including sophistication, achievement, education and wealth, that we see a strong likelihood of being an iPad Owner.
So “elite” is in this case not simply a synonym for “rich”, but more specifically refers to a constellation of characteristics that defines a leadership class, including intellectuals, political influencers, business executives, and so on (as well as young, rising members of this class). These high performance professionals tend to be screen-bound workaholics. It’s no wonder, then, that they flock to a device that makes it incredibly convenient to bring screen work with you, even to traditionally screen-less places like the plane, the bed and the bathroom. A Sybase study found that the number one reason consumers would use the iPad is for working on the go.
And the selfishness? It is plausible to me that the selfish are more likely than non-selfish elites to jump on the opportunity to take work and the web deeper into their lives. The unselfish are less likely to be single-mindedly ambitious and more likely to be attuned to the needs of their families and other private, offline pursuits. Also keep in mind that all of these personality correlations are independent. Perhaps simply the willingness to shell out hundreds of dollars for an unproven personal device correlates with selfishness, regardless of whether we’re talking about elites or average people.
The characteristics of a product’s early adopters define its image, or at least make a strong statement about how the product is perceived. The results of MyType’s iPad Opinion profile suggest that the tablet computer is seen more as a power tool for elites than as the newest gadget for technology geeks.
A Handful of Other Interesting Results
Our iPad Opinion Profile is full of charts focused on specific personality traits, demographics, and offbeat measures like “biggest sin”. Here’s a sample with bonus off-the-cuff commentary.
The iPad Sin
We asked survey respondents to identify which of the Seven Sins they’re most susceptible to. iPad Owners are guilty of the two sins of indulgence: lust and gluttony. Is the iPad itself an indulgence? This fits with the Owner’s “selfish elite” profile.
Religious People are “In the Know” on the iPad
While we’re in religious territory, here’s a surprising finding: of all levels of religiosity, from devoutly religious to non-religious, devoutly religious people are most likely to know what the iPad is. Do people talk about the new tablet at church? What explains this?
Ethnic Minorities are also “In the Know”
Koreans and Chinese in the US are over 8 times and 5 times more likely, respectively, to know what the iPad is and US residents of both Middle Eastern and African descent are more than twice as likely.
Parents Love the iPad
Parents are much more likely to be iPad Owners than non-parents. Parents are also more likely to not even know what the iPad is. Maybe this is a good advertising opportunity for Apple.
If you want more, check out the full report.
Comments on Methodology
Bottom Line MyType’s data, which can be seen in the full report, was collected and normalized with reasonable rigor. Any interpretation of the data, however, is clearly subjective. MyType made an honest effort to tease out the main themes of the data, but feel free to come to your own conclusions.
Data Collection We inserted the iPad question into our psychology quizzes, so respondents were not self-selecting based on their desire to answer a question about the iPad. We use a number of methodologies to eliminate bad respondents, described in the full report.
Data Measures For demographics we used pretty standard questions, many modeled after the census. For psychological traits we used Colin DeYoung’s Big Five Aspect Scales and Schalom Schwartz’s Values Survey, both well-respected instruments in academic psychology.
Sample Normalization We normalized our data to reflect the age, gender, and personality distribution of the US (for people ages 13-49, we did not have enough data for people 50 and over). Our respondents were naturally well distributed across geographic regions, income brackets, and other important demographic measures.
Confidence Virtually all of our hundreds of correlations were significant at p < .05, and a vast majority were significant at p < .01.
Selfish Elite and Independent Geek Population Segments These segments were created by selecting only people who matched multiple profile characteristics. Selfish elites, for instance, had to be unkind and/or unaltruistic, have a household income of $100k or more, have a college degree, score high on power and/or achievement seeking, score high on sophistication, etc. Similar multi-dimensional profiling was done for independent geeks.
More detail on MyType’s methodology can be found at the bottom of the full report.Share