A quick thought here. We recently published our holiday tablet buying guide, and I’ll be releasing our phone guide later this week, but going through the list of candidates something struck me.
We keep saddling non-tech-y folks with under-powered hardware.
There’s this idea that because someone might not be super tech savvy, that all the bells and whistles of a premier smartphone will be wasted on them.
“Why would I want to spend money on stuff I might not use if I just want to check my email and make phone calls?”
This might be true to a degree. Sure, you might not use all the crazy gestures in Touchwiz for example. You might not be doing a lot of HD gaming. However, the other benefits of a premier phone greatly improve the experience for pretty much every activity you can perform on a smartphone.
Running down the list, a bigger brighter screen might be very helpful for older audiences. I’m starting to notice an age push into phablet territory. Not for the multi-tasking capabilities I might use it for, but just for larger text and keyboards.
Improved processing power smooths out the UI. You’ll have fewer mis-taps from that annoying “is it doing what I want it to” lag. Fewer hiccups moving between applications. When people say things like “I just want it to work” this is often one of the culprits.
I posit that one of the reasons people might not explore their phone’s app ecosystem is getting the basics done on low end hardware can be painful. If it takes seconds to open up a calendar app, and it stutters while scrolling through your contacts, why would you want to try a game, or another social service which will slow your phone down even more?
The tech savvy can understand some of these compromises, but most people don’t want to have to figure out why their phones are misbehaving. It’s similar to the discussion I hear between Mac and PC users. When someone says their iPhone is way better than the Android they used to use, and they’re comparing an iPhone 5 to a four year old Droid Eris which they got for cheap, because hey, it’s a smartphone too. Sort of…
I’m not saying people should live outside their means, but a little savvy shopping can net you a MUCH better experience. Combined with the fact that tech devalues quickly, why not go for the premier handset? I’ve already written editorials about the death of the mid-range market. Right now you can probably pick up an HTC One, Galaxy S4, or LG G2 for the same price as any of those companies mid range phones. Sure, we’ll probably start talking about New HTC’s and Galaxy S5’s early next year, but right now the cutting edge gear can be had at close to the same price as the mediocre stuff.
Next year I think we’ll see more companies tackle the entry level user experience. Nokia scored a HUGE hit with the Lumia 520 offering up an amazing bang for buck on a phone you can often find for less than $100 off contract. Motorola just announced the Moto G, which should help improve the Android experience in developing countries. I would expect Samsung, LG, Huawei, Lenovo, etc to follow suit next year too.
For those of us who are a bit more savvy, those of us who often recommend products to family and friends, I think we could be doing a better job of raising alternatives. Whenever we hear “Oh I don’t need all that other stuff” to be able to point out some of the benefits. If someone can afford to spend a little money on a phone, the high end might be the way to go.
Even if they just use it for “the basics”.