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Is Apple a cult? New York University Historian says "it obviously is"

We all joke about this "Cult of Apple", but does the Cupertino giant really have some form of religious influence? A historian and NYU professor believes so.

Published onSeptember 29, 2015


Even when working from a garage in the Silicon Valley, Apple co-founder Steve Jobs never saw his products as mere pieces of tech. He had a very strong vision that shaped the way people look at technology. It was a mentality, as well as a way of life, something he later conveyed to the company’s followers. He was seen as some form of tech prophet. And if that’s the case, his company is also to be portrayed as some form of religion; Cupertino is its Mecca and Apple stores are the temples.

We have all heard of the “Cult of Apple”, but when we say this we usually just refer to the intense fervor Apple followers show towards the tech giant and its products. Most of us don’t dig into what really makes Apple some form of cult, but it turns out this company does take plenty of cues from the most popular religions on earth. At least this is what expert Historian and NYU professor Erica Robles-Anderson believes, and she backs up her argument with plenty of evidence.

“They feel iconic, like an emblem of the personal. And yet it’s a cult. Right? It’s so obviously a cult.” -Erica Robles-Anderson, Historian and NYU professor

Inclusion vs exclusivity

We have all seen manufacturers speak of their devices as some form of exclusive product. Apple has never portrayed itself that way. Even if they price their products at much higher rates, they always display a mentality that makes it seem as if iPhones and other Apple products are for everyone. These phones are always simple and natural. We obviously can’t forget that “it just works” phrase, which became some form of unofficial slogan for the company.

The whole point is that Apple makes you feel included. Everyone in this “cult” is working towards a common purpose – there’s some form of unity here. Robles-Anderson brings up the newer Samsung store at SoHo, one of New York’s important shopping districts. They launched with “giant ropes outside, as if anticipating a giant crowd, and big bouncer-looking people in fancy suits.” Needless to say results weren’t as expected, and she believes it’s partly because the Korean manufacturer took that secluding business approach.

“It was a deep misunderstanding about special access, as opposed to what Apple has built, which is the feeling of being in it together, as though you were fighting something, even though it’s the most valuable company in the world.” -Erica Robles-Anderson, Historian and NYU professor

Apple’s cathedrals

In order to further help us understand how Apple achieved this unusual passion from its followers, Erica takes us back to temples. She states that cathedrals and other religious structures were pretty much technology in its times; they were works of art that went beyond what’s possible. And we can see the same influence in Apple’s products, as well as the architecture and interior design they choose for their stores.

The SoHo Apple store is especially unique. Customers have to walk through stone steps, which are wide and deep. Upon reaching the entrance you are met with unnecessarily large doors, which also happen to be quite heavy, similar to those in medieval churches. The store welcomes you with a large skylight and plenty of lights, making the space very bright. Right in front is a wide glass staircase that seems to challenge common sense. In addition, the store uses an excessive amount of clear surfaces, so people can always see each other. This makes both service and interaction with other people very personable.

Robles-Anderson claims places like this make you feel small. In addition, the design makes you feel as if you have entered a different place, and upon entering you feel as if something important is about to happen.


Many temples are built on levels, with different purpose on each floor. This is very common in Mormon temples, for example, in which different levels are used for different things, and you can find different types of religious representatives in each part. In this case, Erica compares Apple Geniuses to priests, and the second floor is where they can be found. In here, they share information and knowledge. It’s said to be more welcoming than the first floor, with plush chairs and a giant screen.


We can all guess where this is going, right? Apple and its followers definitely have some types of ritualistic behavior. Of course, there’s the whole deal with people camping out for days just to get an iPhone. This has become much more than a race to get the latest and greatest product; people do this as some kind of tradition. As Robles-Anderson said, they are working towards something together. They are part of something bigger – think of it as some form of pilgrimage.

She also compares this to biblical traditions like Passover, when Jewish people had to travel to Jerusalem and be at the Holy Temple for a sacrifice to god. She calls these “feast days”. Apple release dates are celebrations.


The meaning of life?

Well, we won’t go as far as saying Apple answers the most important questions to humanity, but Erica does believe that when people come to Apple Stores they are looking for something much deeper than apps, calls and the like. Just head over to your local Apple store and look at the walls. These are adorned by pictures of planets, stars, nature and other imposing symbols being displayed by huge “monolithic devices”. Though they are small on your hand, these devices promise something huge – information.

Google, Android and its partners

There’s no doubt other companies can learn a lot from Apple’s marketing and strategies. Whether you will see the company as a cult or not, we can’t deny they hold a very tight grip on the market, even if Android manufacturers have proven time and again that they can often do a better job at making a gadget.

This is why Apple doesn’t need to be first at anything, they just have to make the strongest impression with what they do, something they are amazingly good at. They target your feelings, psychology, physiology and senses.

nexus 6 vs iphone 6 plus aa (17 of 24)

Let’s face it, most Android manufacturers are bad at marketing. Samsung is likely about the best at it, and as you can see they fail to make its followers very included. HTCmakes amazingly built devices and some would say their designs are among the best, but they can’t make ends meet when convincing people to purchase their phones. And even new Chinese startups are starting to gain more hype than tech veterans like LG, HUAWEI, Sony and others.

Maybe there needs to be some kind of Genius lesson on how to do advertising and marketing right. Shall we have it at this SoHo Apple store?