When I started writing about tech I made a promise to myself that I would try my hardest not to just bag on products. That I would take a second to use something, figure out who it might be for, and whether it could live up to the claims of the company who manufactured it. I can’t say I’ve always perfectly executed this regiment, but I’ve found that it has significantly changed my outlook on consumer electronics. I’m no longer satisfied with “thumbs up / thumbs down” reviews. I want to know about experience.
This opens up a whole world of discussion in that almost no product completely fails in its mission. Often, now the exploration of a gadget is better described by how wide or narrow a particular audience might be. In fact, most tech I get my hands on is actually quite good, once I figure out who it might be designed for.
There’s a particular divisiveness surrounding things like phones and tablets. As geek has become somewhat chic, people identify with certain brands, and those brands start to become a visible indication or description of that individual’s personality. Just like clothes, cars, sunglasses, etc, now our gadgets “send a message” to others about who we are. I’ve certainly been guilty of trying to size someone up by looking at what phone they use and how well they take care of it.
We get into visceral debates about minute feature sets, and many sites now play into that by trumping up reviews and feeding communities flame bait. The bummer is many consumers will miss out on a perfect device for themselves because a community of people somehow declared another device superior.
So I propose a challenge: Try something different than what you’re currently using.
By this I don’t mean pick up another phone or tablet and hold it out at arms length like a confused Bonobo for 30 seconds before handing it back to its owner. Test drive something new. Borrow, trade, or buy, but spend a couple days with a device you’re not familiar with. Try a manufacturer you don’t know. Try apps you haven’t played with before. Explore a different set of compromises.
See most of the tech landscape right now is actually good enough to get the basics done. What we end up arguing the most over are the compromises you have to live with in using a phone, tablet, laptop, or computer. Yes. Even that precious glowing rectangle you’re reading this blog on has compromises that you’ve accepted as “normal”.
Why play in one toy store, when you can have all the toys? Sure you might lose out on some synergy, like the way Airplay easily links up to other Apple devices, but you might also find better tailored solutions for the things you like to do. As a brief example, I need my phones to have good cameras, and currently the Nokia Lumia 1020 is the best camera currently bolted to the back of a phone bar none. It’s even better than most of the point & shoot cameras I’ve used. However, I happen to prefer how Android handles file management far better than iOS or Windows Phone. Instead of limiting myself to one or the other, the combo of Lumia 1020 and Nexus 7 tablet has proven to be incredibly formidable. The Windows Phone handles almost all of my daily phone tasks just fine, and the mini-tablet comes in clutch whenever I need a more robust tool set, more file flexibility, or just plain want a larger screen to do work on.
The compromise is no longer a deficiency of one platform preventing me from performing a task, it’s having to use multiple devices.
I’m often a bit taken aback by people’s reactions when they see I’m multi-platform. When I’m using an iPhone and a Windows 8 laptop, or an Android phone and an iPad. That I must be some kind of super geek. TWO operating systems in your brain at the same time? Who could think at that speed?
The truth of the situation though is I care about services. That’s it. Android, iOS, Blackberry, Windows Phone only exist to provide me services. I like using some services on certain devices better than others. It’s about nuance. Folks act like technology is similar to traditional old school tools. Like once you learn how to use a hammer that’s it. You’re done. You can “do” hammering. Computing gear doesn’t work that way.
The platform isn’t the end of the experience, just the beginning.