I enjoyed Joshua Topolsky’s rebuttal to the high-fives exchanged between John Gruber and MG Siegler about the Galaxy Nexus allegedly being less polished than iPhones are. I didn’t pick up on some of the cringe that Joshua pointed out, in particular the implication that rich people who have “nicer” stuff will always enjoy some impossible to crack understanding of the finer things in life.
And yet John and MG are totally right. You either see it or you don’t. This is egalitarian, relating to all facets of life, in every nuanced area of preference or priority. For whatever details a given person appreciates and values, far more people will be disinterested and be unlikely to even distinguish differences. How about those Android aficionados? They’ll point to the flexibility afforded by true multitasking, freedom to install unapproved apps, etc. They shake their heads at silly iPhone lovers, hold their phones up high and take pride in these qualities. To them, these are the finer points. This is the “polish.” The rest of us just don’t see it.
For many of us who make, use, or write about software for a living, polish is all about removing from the software as many jarring behaviors as possible. Sweating the small stuff. It’s exactly the details like the persistently stuttering scrolling that MG points out that continue to make Android products appear less polished to us. It’s seriously unnerving. It’s a big freaking deal to us, while other people just don’t see it.
It doesn’t have to relate to expense, and isn’t restricted to a premium class of product. It’s also, of course, not restricted to vision. I can imagine some of my wine-loving friends holding up a $15 bottle of something precious they’d discovered, while expressing disdain for a $200 bottle of swill that somebody else just adores. Nor does it need to be something “high class.” I’m sure a number of hard-working farmworkers could explain to me in agonizing detail why I picked the absolute worst rake and shovel for my garden.
If you’ve got a taste for something, a nose for something, an eye for something, an ear for something, a feel for something, and you find a product that soothes that sense, then you have a special gift: the ability to cast judgement on inferior efforts. Other folks? They’ll either sense it too, or they won’t.