Tech Devil: Freedom of Choice Restricts Technological Progress

Back in December I bought a new phone at Best Buy. I went in knowing exactly which phone I was getting; Many people aren't as lucky. When I walked into the mobile phone section of the store there an employee was trying to help an older lady buy a phone. "Trying" is the keyword there. He was throwing out specs that not only don't matter to the lady, but they don't matter at all. I'd bet the average consumer doesn't care if it has a 1.4 or 1.5mhz processor or if it has 1 GB or 1.5 GB of RAM. People want a phone that will run the apps they want, make calls, and last them a while. Same goes for laptops. Obviously everyone has their own personal preferences in terms of screen size and portability, but we have reached a point where there are so many choices when it comes to buying consumer electronics that it's impossible to actually make a choice. In my mind there are really only four phones and five laptops on the market worth buying, but consumers are subject to 50+ phones and 25+ laptops. We must stop this constant production. It's detrimental to the progress of technology. We need to simplify.

The main reason I love Apple products is the same reason they're succeeding and making a boatload of money: simplicity. They make one or two incredible products that have a simple design, are easy to use, and are very high quality. Compare that to, say, Motorola. Motorola has continuously released a large number of average-quality, not so easy to use, and mediocre-looking phones. Just by looking at how much money each company has made in the last quarter it's obvious who has the stronger business plan. Now people will argue Apple made more partly because of their loyal fan base. Well how do you think they got there? By releasing a bunch of poor-quality phones every month just to try and make as much money as possible? Nope. Apple kept it simple and just made a great product.

Now this doesn't mean you can't buy the low-end LG Android phones, but if you're going to buy something that you're going to use and rely on every day, you might as well spend the money on something that will last. I'm not some Apple fan who buys the newest and shiniest thing that they release, but I do appreciate the fact that they're doing it right and more companies need to follow. HTC announced last month that they're going to try to focus on their Hero line of phones and cut back on releasing a new one every month or so. Patrick Rhone has a post on making “Final Choices” and I believe a phone or laptop fits the category of things you should take the time and invest in good-quality gear.

I think we'd all rather walk into Best Buy and see five or six phones that are all well-built and can do anything we need it to instead of the current mayhem. A lot of my frustration stems from the marketing behind all the phones and laptops. Leo Babauta, an author who writes about minimalism and simplicity, has many posts about technology, and one quote sticks out in particular: "The only kind of marketing you need is an amazing product. If it’s good, people will spread the word for you. All other kind of marketing is disingenuous". Again, Apple succeeds because its marketing is based on the fact that it makes great products. If Samsung or LG took this to heart, we'd see less and less phones on the market but they'd all be high-quality devices that won't cause us frustrations. So, from now on, lets agree to keep it simple.


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