Michael Sherman with his Nexus 4.

Two years ago, I was a 12-year old Apple fanboy.

Not only did I spend most of my waking hours shuffling back and forth between an iPhone 4, iPad and MacBook Pro, but I also worshipped the words of Steve Jobs as if he was a deity.

I watched every Apple keynote on my laptop, and if the livestream wasn’t available I’d check out the live blogs. Not only that, my long-term goal was to work for Apple.  At that time, I believed Apple knew what I wanted before I knew I wanted it.

The world has changed so much in the last two years. I switched to the dark side.

Yes, I have become an Android user.

My switch from Apple’s operating system, iOS, is representative of a colossal shift I’ve witnessed among my friends in the teen demographic.

At my high school, the iPhone had the reputation for being the cool phone.  However, that’s no longer the case, and things have shifted in the span of the last year.  It used to be that nearly everyone in my school owned an iPhone.  However, by the end of the last year, I couldn’t walk around school without seeing a Samsung Galaxy S3. I switched to the Nexus S in February of 2012.  I am currently using the Nexus 4.

Martin Scorsese in an Apple ad demonstrating Siri

After interviewing many of the students at my school who have switched to Android from iOS, I heard a few common themes as to why they switched. For one, Samsung’s marketing has worked.

Apple understands the effectiveness of marketing.  The 1984 and Think Different advertising campaigns were some of the most recognizable that have ever been aired on television.  So, how did Apple lose teens?

As of late, Samsung’s marketing campaign has made an effective appeal to the teenage sector, while simultaneously, Apple’s marketing has lost its steam.  Apple started to run ads that showed Zooey Deschanel, Samuel L. Jackson, John Malkovich, and Martin Scorsese demonstrating Siri.  These ads have featured celebrities who have no profound connection with the teenage market because they did not demonstrate any of the ways that teenagers actually use their phones.

More significantly, teenagers did not connect with these celebrities, who seem to reach an older and perhaps less technologically sophisticated audience. None of my friends connected with the characters in the ads.

At the same time, Samsung has been creating advertising that actually features real-use cases for teenagers.  While these ads have not been targeted specifically at teens, any teenager would be interested in a faster way of transferring photos to his or her friends.  In another ad, Samsung demonstrated a new way of transferring music playlists through the tapping of phones, which has been highly enticing for many teenagers.

Samsung’s ad campaign has appealed to teens

Another reason many of us teens switched to Android was the closed-down nature of iOS.  Android offers greater customizability, including being able to add new keyboards, live wallpapers and apps that aren’t from the Google Play Store.  While the Android platform provides this openness, Apple is closed.  You can’t even download new keyboards from the Apple App Store.  This closed-system does not appeal to my generation, who are focused on being individual and unique.

At Apple’s developer conference last week, Apple announced and demonstrated iOS 7.

With this latest version of iOS, Apple continues to play catch-up.  Apple has decided to not open up iOS to more customization, even though that is one of the biggest complaints that teens had with the old iOS.

However, when Tim Cook answered a question at the D11 conference about iOS openness, he had this to say: “I think you will see us open up more in the future. But not to the degree that we put the customer at risk of having a bad experience. But will we open up more?  Yes.”

This leaves the possibility that Apple might open up iOS to customization in the fall, when they release the final version to the public.

Even if Apple opens up a bit, they may have lost my generation. For now, they’ve lost me, a one-time Apple fanboy.

Michael Sherman, 14, a student at Seattle’s Bush School, is a technophile with aspirations to be a future entrepreneur and/or politician. 

[Editor’s Note: Michael’s father, Craig Sherman, is a lawyer at Wilson, Sonsini, Goodrich & Rosati who represents GeekWire.]

Previously on GeekWire: Why I won’t buy another subsidized Android phone (and why you shouldn’t, either)

Post updated to correct reference to Google Play Store.

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  • Jeremy Curcio

    Sorry, but you lost all credibility when you incorrectly used “Android Play Store.”

    • http://geekwire.com Todd Bishop

      Hey Jeremy, apologies, that was an oversight on my part in editing the piece. You’re correct, of course, it’s the Google Play Store. I’ll make the correction now. But you’re being a little harsh, don’t you think?

      • Jeremy Curcio

        I really don’t think I am. The whole tone is “I’m uninformed, so I’ll follow the crowd.” First the crowd was behind Apple so that’s where the author was, now it’s behind Samsung so he jumped ship. He spoke on teenagers love individualism, yet why does he follow his peers from each “cool” gadget to the next?

        • http://geekwire.com Todd Bishop

          I was referring to your blanket statement about losing credibility just by calling it the Android Play Store vs. the Google Play Store. That’s pretty harsh. In any event, if you read the piece, his decision was obviously based on a lot more than just going with the crowd.

          • Jeremy Curcio

            Of course I read the piece, after all, the store mix up was in the 6th from last paragraph. Perhaps my original statement was too broad. That mix up was the final nail in the coffin of credibility. By misrepresenting the largest app store on the platform it shows a lack of insight of the platform and thus likely uninformed decision making process when choosing his platform.

            “At my high school, the iPhone had the reputation for being the cool phone. However, that’s no longer the case, and things have shifted in the span of the last year.”

            Shift from one platform to the other as part of the group, but then speaks on a need for individualism.

            “This closed-system does not appeal to my generation, who are focused on being individual and unique.”

          • Guest

            The point about being individual applies to how Android is free and open to customization and how iOS is not.

          • ray

            apple fanboy’s trolling here

          • AppleDefault

            Jeremy lost all credibility when he responded.

  • Guest


    Earlier this year, Michael Sherman (“MikeS”), a 14-year-old iPhone user, switched to Android. What can you learn from this to apply to your startup experience?

    1. CONVICTIONS START EARLY IN LIFE BUT DON’T LAST FOREVER. When you started your company, you had a pretty bold business plan, but you pivoted, didn’t you? Start strong, pivot strong, pivot often, and you’ll finish strong.

    2. IPHONE AND ANDROID ARE FUNGIBLE. Even the most seasoned of men will switch between phones after their two-year contract period ends. Is your product compatible with both OSes? How adaptible is it to emergent platforms like Windows Phone and BlackBerry 10?

    3. ACT AND REACT. Apple certainly didn’t anticipate MikeS leaving its ranks. Are you prepared for what you would do if a multinational company bought one of your competitors, made it free, and allowed hundreds of OEMs to distort it for their own profit? Act now, but react to external events as well.

    Congrats to MikeS on the switch and happy startupping!

    • Jeremy Curcio

      “FIVE STARTUP LESSONS…” You only listed three, what are the other two?

      • Jac Fitzgerald


  • Jefferson

    This is NOT news. Post it to reddit or some web forum dedicated to the topic. This kind of substanceless content destroys the usefulness of this site. No offense to Michael–he’s just speaking his mind. This site is putting more and more filler crap in my rss inbox. Less posts with more quality please!

    • Guest

      Any fool can criticize, condemn, and complain – and most fools do.
      ~ Dale Carnegie, 1888-1955

  • notusingkids

    This is astro-turfing of the worst sort. 12 year old/teens don’t watch TV. So, it’s immaterial that Apple is advertising to an older demographic. The “closed-down” nature issue is bs also. Most teens could care less about “open vs. closed”. They would care though that android phones from Verizon and others are loaded with crapware and useless screen launchers on their “open” phone.

    • Jefferson

      Totally agreed. If I could have had my own iPhone, iPad, and MacBook at the age of 14, I would have been a grateful and blessed kid. I’m guessing he didn’t work his ass off to pay for any of it, not is he paying the monthly bill. Apple can’t “lose” you until you’re actually the one paying the bill.

      • guest

        Excellent logic. Well, except for that fact that when little Johnny starts asking for an S4 instead of an iPhone 5, or a Galaxy Tab instead of an iPad, or a Chromebook instead of a MB, which do you think his parents are going to buy him, particular when the cost is the same or in most cases less? If you and your alter ego there don’t see the shift he’s talking about, then you’re not around the younger generation very often. Either that or you’re in denial.

      • samljer22

        Logic out of the window on that one; fact.
        someone STILL payed the bills, regardless of who paid
        it thats still a bill that isnt getting paid to apple.

        just because it wasnt “little johnny” that didnt pay
        doesnt magically mean that it was free.

        logic would assume by the time he could pay it himself
        he would stay with apple, or he wont. and he didnt
        it still a lost customer, no matter how you peel your
        half witted “apple”.

        loss is loss, no matter the source – end.

    • Ex-Alliant Turd

      What color is the sky on your planet? Plenty of 12 year old teens watch plenty of TV. And lots of teens care about closed vs open.

    • samljer22

      dont know what planet your on, but as a teacher i can tell you
      every 12 yr old ive come across watches TV
      even if it is crap they put on the disney channel.

  • n8

    Something doesn’t add up. First, he is only 14, how much of a credible fan boy can one be at age 14. Second, he switched a year ago when he was 13. How amazing is it that at 13 he couldn’t walk around high school in the 2011/2012 school year without seeing a phone all over that wasn’t launched until May of 2012!?

    • Guest

      Credible enough that he’s the target market that Apple, Google, Samsung, Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft are all gunning for since they are the ones that buy the most virtual goods with mommy and daddy’s credit cards.

      • n8

        I define user different from fan boy. But maybe you define them as the same…I’m sure MS would hire you into their marketing department cause they have a hard time separating their fan boys-views of their products from those of the masses.

        • samljer22

          when the “user” lives and breathes it, hes a fanboy
          check your halfassed definition.

  • guest

    Samsung deserves a lot of credit for not only coming up wit great products but also being the first major company to really take on Apple head to head via advertising. Everyone else was too scared to. Their ads were funny and effective. And it’s good to see that they’ve been rewarded for taking that risk.

  • Sean Boyer

    I gotta say that I wish I had your marketing chops at 14 yrs old, Michael! I’m sure you’ll have no trouble working at the tech company of your choice if your technical skills are as strong as your communications skills.

  • Bob

    Ignore the haters. This is one of the better supported and newsworthy pieces I read on GW this week. I enjoyed hearing your perspective and getting a sense for what you’re seeing among your age group. It’s similar to what’s playing out among my kids friends, though they’re in the 25-29 demographic. Congrats!

  • http://moniguzman.com Monica Guzman

    Love this. We don’t hear from teenagers often enough. Thanks for sharing your perspective, Michael. You made me think with your point about customization. When I was in college, MySpace started to become The Thing. Facebook came and overtook it after my senior year in part because it brought uniform order to customized chaos. MySpace pages were a mess of auto-play music, animations and crazy colors. Facebook – you just knew where everything was. Apple has in some ways perfected uniformity for a good experience. But some things cycle. If teens value customization in some ways over this uniform design, that’s interesting.

    • Sam

      Teens actually do not. They just want to be rebels and follow the crowd. Sure, customization is good but it’s not a major selling point. I don’t doubt for a second that this kid switched just to not follow the crowd and be different since everyone had iPhones. He feels “cool” for having switched to android.

      This isn’t every teens outlook. Most teens follow the rest of the crowd. I

  • Mike

    iOS7 really looks great, but those that are otherwise happy with previous versions… Will they even bother to accept the update? The trend now though is going beyond format wars because with some use of the apperating system, platforms, apps & even ecosystems need be the sucker’s game no longer… http://ow.ly/1XJCzJ

  • larry91403

    Is this was substitutes for journalism now-a-days? After 10 years, boy switches from Burger King to McDonalds! Does it really matter? Just last year I switched from Trader Joes to Sprouts. Did you want to write a story about that too? I seem to recall more than 7% of our population is out of work.

  • James Glidewell

    The Bush School is one of the last bastions of Seattle’s elite. Tutition starts at $21K per year – for a high school. Bill Gates went to school there when his daddy was a law firm partner and Mommy was a personal friend of Tom Watson Jr. Michael may or may not be aware that not all kids get to choose between a BMW or Mercedes for their 18th birthday, but what he and his cohorts at an extremely expensive and exclusive school think is not a good indicator of American youth as a whole.

    • Adam

      As a Bush School student, I think your comment is unnecessarily cynical and makes unfair generalizations. Yes, many of the students who attend the school come from affluent families, but that doesn’t mean the student body is comprised solely of spoiled trust fund kids who receive luxury sedans for their 18th birthdays. Thanks to financial aid, most of us do not in fact belong to Seattle’s elite, and many students actually come from relatively low socioeconomic brackets; we’re not a homogeneous student body, and we’re not all spoiled rich kids.

      Sure, it’s a selective school, and it might not be the best indicator of American youth as a whole, but I think one can get a pretty accurate reading on how Apple is connecting with its younger customers by surveying Bush students. Anyway, your comment is mean-spirited, exaggerated, and unnecessary. Also, Bill Gates went to Lakeside, not Bush.

  • Lisa

    My boyfriends 15 year old daughter swore by her Samsung 3 phone all of last year. Guess who just went out and bought an Iphone 5 and LOVES it? That is right. the 15 year old. I asked her what she thought of it (I own an Iphone5 but never told her she should buy one) and she said it was much easier to use!

    • dheeraj

      you guys can’t handle most tech products….if people were in school consisting of a “using technology” class,you would have been one of those dumb students…plz continue to use your dumbed-down overpriced phone while others enjoy a much premium experience at half the price with features that actually make a real world difference.

  • sveta

    nice boy, is it true

  • samljer22

    I need to add the same thing is happening in my age demographic “30-35″
    as well as my students “16-19″ as well as “10-12″
    apple isnt what it once was, end of story.

  • garyniger69

    I’m 14 and I’m also using the nexus 4!

  • dheeraj

    something I tell to all those ppl who still prefer apple over android!!!!
    “A fool and his money are soon Parted”

  • LiquidFire3D.com

    Apple is good making tech cool initially but they fail to innovate beyond that.

    And now watch a star destroyer sized Apple toilet be melted down by an Android.


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