Print 35 comment(s) - last by Moishe.. on Dec 22 at 4:02 PM

When did the end user become a beta tester?

There is a surplus of gadgets on the market today and many are only marginally different from other devices on the market. Many of the devices are coming to market with such small changes (compared to previous models) that consumers just don’t see the need to “upgrade”. In addition, some consumers feel that gadgets are also coming out with new features that are being pushed before they are ready to buy them.
So-called "gadget fatigue" is when gadgets start to pile up in the inventory of some makers ahead of consumer demand. This is part of what happened with the HP TouchPad and the Blackberry Playbook that caused them to fail in the market place.
A new study published by Underwriters Laboratories entitled “Navigating the Product Mindset” found that nearly 90% of gadget makers think they are at or ahead of the curve.
Forbes reports that the fast upgrade schedule that some are keeping in the gadget world has consumers wondering what's driving he pace of upgrading. There are two things that can be driving it Forbes opines. One is that technology is changing so quickly that it is outpacing the desire for consumers to get new features. The other possibility is that the companies are pushing devices out so quickly to keep up with the competitive market, that products are coming out with minimal changes to them.
Today’s consumer is no stranger to the fact that many gadgets like smartphones and tablets on the market today are seemingly pushed out so fast that significant bugs are encountered by early adopters. Recently, products like the iPhone 4S and Kindle Fire have been criticized for early problems. In Apple’s case, many users have been plagued with poor iPhone 4S battery life, even after the company released an update to address the problem. Amazon says that an update to the Kindle Fire is coming to address performance issues and feature omissions.
Many consumers think that if the development cycle slowed the issues that end users have to deal with today would decrease. Products that are launched without major issues would make many more likely to upgrade when new versions launched down the road.

Source: Forbes

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It'll get worse before it gets better
By Stuka on 12/19/2011 12:36:31 PM , Rating: 5
This relates to a problem I've seen in all computerized devices for at least the last 15yrs. The mantra is "Buy me now, Patch me later". Gone are the days that a car maker would exhaustively test the functionality of a headunit with only a couple tiny revisions to hardware to improve faults in the products lifespan. Now we have in-dash computers which are riddled with bugs because there's no reason not to expect the consumer to patch it later. Used to be 95% functionality was acceptable for market introduction.. now it seems 90% is normal.. soon it will be 80%.

I won't even bother with the "now in white" micro-update procedure. I will not upgrade without significant advancement, not sure why others will.

RE: It'll get worse before it gets better
By web2dot0 on 12/19/2011 12:42:06 PM , Rating: 2
It's nothing about "Buy me now, patch me later". The trouble is the pace in which technology evolves. In order to compete, you must come out with features that match your competitors. Hence the vicious cycle. The beast feeds on itself.

The reality remains. Consumers want the latest and greatest features. If they don't buy the phones, wouldn't you think that the manufacturers will listen? The invisible hand my friend.

Sooner or later, this escalating problem will boil to the top and the consumer will lash back. In the meantime, don't expect anything different. It's what the consumer want.

By x10Unit1 on 12/19/2011 1:03:13 PM , Rating: 3
See - GHz war. Remember when the cool thing was to have the highest GHz rated CPU? They would come out in 100 MHz intervals even if the CPU in question was underclocked by 300-400 MHz.

This is still a growing phase for the smartphone market. We are going to see this happening for a while. The best company to look at to keep a pulse on this trend is Apple. If they continue to release phones with minor updates and still get the sales they do, the rest of the market will follow suit, just at a faster pace.

Remember, you don't have the most bleeding edge phone. In fact, I wouldn't recommend it. Let all of the "beta" testers work out the bugs for the first 2-4 months, then if you still like it upgrade. Keep all of the boxes, documentation, and accessories for maximum resale value and trade up. That is what I do. Seems to work pretty well.

RE: It'll get worse before it gets better
By Stuka on 12/20/2011 12:02:03 PM , Rating: 2
You are right, but your point is really the same as mine. The companies as a collective have created the problem due to market pressure (real or perceived). Patching, which was initially intended to be a last resort to fix glaring issues, is becoming a standard of practice. The Kindle Fire is a good example.. the iPhone 4 antenna..

A bicycle manufacturer won't release a bike with a frame cracking issue and say "we'll have them come in later and get it welded better." A car manufacturer won't deliver a vehicle with a spark plug that randomly fouls with the idea that anyone who complains gets a replacement plug.

With more complex systems comes the need for more complex testing. 30hrs of QA might have worked on a Nokia 5120, but not on a Galaxy II.

And, I do vote with my dollars and never buy V1.0 of anything. I get it, that's why I made my statements. Others don't get it, but they only will if we talk about it.

By Pessimism on 12/21/2011 2:25:56 PM , Rating: 2
If the automaker could save 50 cents a car by doing so, while not being offset by death lawsuits, it would. They have their own plague to deal with, and that plague is bean counters and cheap consumers which enable them.

By fteoath64 on 12/20/2011 12:56:36 AM , Rating: 2
You are right in terms of % functionality that is "enough" to go to market. Yes, bugs abound for all computerized devices. It is a matter of "good enough quality" as companies needed the cash to pursue the next versions and scale forward. In consumer devices, people used it for a specific duration, hence, it has a built-in obsolescence feature that allows some kind of "upgrade"/switch or ditch. This keeps the market alive for more innovations/products.

Some of us think a fast life-cycle is a good thing while others prefer a timed-life-cycle like Apple. Both has its merits but the overall usefulness of the device ensure it gets used the longest duration by the owner. While some would upgrade the moment a new one was available, most prefer to wait until they really need the upgrade. This goes for duration contracts with a carrier due to their business model. If the market is big enough, we shall have many models for a sustained period of time before it collapse into one or two suppliers that actually survive the market forces.

RE: It'll get worse before it gets better
By TSS on 12/20/2011 9:19:38 AM , Rating: 2
I realised this when i heard the PS2 would get internet acces. The first thing that went through my mind that i had to start spending time patching games on consoles now as well. How right i was because now i can't turn on my PS3 to play a game without having to update. The console or the game (or both), doesn't matter, it means i now have to wait 30 minutes before i can start playing after i wanted to start playing. whoopee.

Now my HD decoder and my TV also have internet acces. Aside from my Wii, PS3 and PC ofcourse.

Honestly i think it's just a manner of time before my fridge, microwave and washing machine get internet acces so i can start patching those as well. As well as the lights in my house, yknow so i can turn them off from my smartphone if i leave them on when i go away. But only if the app and your lights are up to date.

By Stuka on 12/20/2011 11:45:08 AM , Rating: 2

The net-aware console thing finally offended me when I bought a game through the PSN and when attempting to play it right after downloading, IT NEEDED AN UPDATE! Should not the download file be updated?! Though this is an implementation issue, more than overall concept issue, it still did not exist on the NES.

By Moishe on 12/22/2011 4:02:10 PM , Rating: 2
This is American "consumerism" culture and it is a source of many of society's ills. We've all been there and many of us still are.

I used to care about having a super nice car, computer, phone, etc. As I've gotten older and more mature I care less about winning some stupid, unwritten competition and I care a lot more about things that really matter, like relationships.

Do I still have a good computer, car, and phone? Hell yes. I have certain hobbies and interests that I need tools to maintain, but my definition of "good" has changed.

For me, my car only has to be reliable and functional. That's good.
My computer has to be able to multi-task, HTPC, play BF3, etc. Not the newest, but it does all that I want it to do.
My phone (WP7.5) does everything I need.

So basically IMO, the idiots in line for the the latest console or phone are just there primarily because they place too high of a value on the status symbol. I'm sure there are exceptions, but it's mostly true. These are the people that upgrade a CPU for 100MHZ and a $400 cost or get rid of a perfectly functional phone for the next version that is a different color or has a slightly higher megapixel camera.... regardless of whether they would use those features.

I love nice things and new things, and stylish things, but they must come paired with a "need" or I won't bother.

Fake worries
By Pirks on 12/19/2011 12:46:03 PM , Rating: 2
All these long lines in Apple stores clearly show that consumers don't care if there are problems in early versions of the product. People want their iToy as quick as possible and the joy of owning one makes them think "ah, this doesn't work, that doesn't work, whatever, but I GOT IT FIRST AFTER STANDING IN LINE FOR THREE NIGHTS WOOHOOO!!!! I'M THE BEST!"

"You should never underestimate the predictability of stupidity"
(C) Bullet Tooth Tony

RE: Fake worries
By ShaolinSoccer on 12/19/2011 7:40:36 PM , Rating: 2
I don't get it. Aren't you the guy that normally sticks up for Apple? Or are you just trying to get +points for free? lol...

Or are you being sarcastic?

RE: Fake worries
By Subzero0000 on 12/19/2011 8:08:27 PM , Rating: 3
Well, at least Apple only release new devices per year.

Android platform is pretty much a mess. New devices every damn month.
I have long decided to stick with my current Android phone and say no to "latest/greatest" Android.
Even when they don't provide update firmware, I just don't care anymore.

RE: Fake worries
By Subzero0000 on 12/19/2011 8:46:03 PM , Rating: 2
Samsung has as much problems with their phones as Apple. They just don't get the same attention.

I found bugs in Samsung Gio, Ace, Galaxy S, mostly with the touch-screen, then some unstable OS.
And the few times that I visit the maintenance stop, I have seen a lot of people got problems with Galaxy S2.

I think part of the difference is Android devices are so scattered that their bugs never get enough "concentration".

And a bit of fans-related, 'cus I think Apple fans are more attached/committed to their devices, that's why they tend to report issues all over the place.
For Android/Samsung, most of their customers don't really care much, their phones get abandoned all the time. So they just get over it.

RE: Fake worries
By spread on 12/19/2011 10:39:14 PM , Rating: 2
People are stupid, they love their shiny toys. And it is a toy, most people cant use these portable devices to their full potential, especially the locked down Apple devices.

On the other hand, thanks to Apple taking charge we've seen a surge of ARM chips flooding the market and finally having some potential to stir up competiton and innovation against Intel in the high powered CPU market.

By Qapa on 12/19/2011 12:58:42 PM , Rating: 2
Too tired to read. I just agree with the subject!!!

PS: On that note, Apple seems simplistic: 1 phone per year... and even that, some years it is not easy to justify an upgrade.

(Not interested in any branding with this post)

RE: Fatigue-d...
By invidious on 12/19/2011 2:38:39 PM , Rating: 2
One a year is still too frequent IMO. It seems like every other upgrade from Apple is an actual major upgrade and the other years are just incrimental speed increases. Incrimental speed increases are fine when there is actually software demand pushing for it, but that just doesn't seem to be the case.

Of course with Apple it is more about having something new and trendy to sell more than having something to compete with its competitors. But it has the same diluting effect on the market. For most people's uses a brand new iPhone 4 is more than enough for their needs, but when the 4s is sitting next to it costing more people dont understand the difference.

Although I guess the customers could ask siri what the difference is.

RE: Fatigue-d...
By Subzero0000 on 12/19/2011 9:11:08 PM , Rating: 2
oh, so you say once a year is too frequent.
I own an Android phone and I'd think that's ironic.

Let's see, there are... Samsung Galaxy Gio, Galaxy Ace, Galaxy Y, Galaxy W, Galaxy R, Galaxy S, Galaxy S+, Galaxy S2, Galaxy Nexus, Galaxy Note.

S2 and Nexus cost as much as iPhone4S, but only Nexus has the latest OS. That means S2 is already outdated, which was only released this year if I remember correctly.

My brother upgraded his 3GS to 4GS, which is a pretty big difference.
But his 3GS worked well for two years, and even get iOS 5 officially, even if some features are disabled, he still able to play apps that requires latest firmware.
None of these would happen in Android platform.

RE: Fatigue-d...
By Dr of crap on 12/20/2011 3:30:55 PM , Rating: 2
So why even study the difference.
In essence all it has to do is
1- make/receive calls
2- make/receive texts
3- access the internet if you desire
And for that you need that many phone choices?
Just give me the free upgrade phone and I'm happy!
Don't care who makes it or what kind (3G/4G) it is.
It's all marketing anyway!

By Adam M on 12/19/2011 6:57:04 PM , Rating: 2
Choice is great. Everyone loves choice. Advancements are great, everyone loves those too. What I don't like is the focus on getting a new customer over keeping existing customers happy. My phone, the Evo was put on an EOL list one year after I got it. I will not get ICS, I will not get any more updates or support and yet I still have a year of commitment to wait out. I am sure by the time my commitment ends there will be all kinds of new features at higher processing speeds, and I am sure what ever I get will be obsolete by the time I get it home.....

By ShaolinSoccer on 12/19/2011 7:46:57 PM , Rating: 2
I also have an Evo but I'm ok with the OS version it has now. It's much better running than how it was when I first got it. I can totally wait til next year to upgrade to a better phone that has ICS.

By ShaolinSoccer on 12/19/2011 7:49:08 PM , Rating: 1
Oh and one more thing, can't you just root it and put ICS on it? I haven't read much about it but I'm sure it's possible?

By Adam M on 12/20/2011 7:57:27 PM , Rating: 2
Of course, and I have been considering rooting. This is beside the point. I am not well versed when it comes to rooting, jail breaking or in programming in general but I know that it has been simplified for people who can do a little reading. I don't think anyone should be expected to potentially brick their phone in order to keep up with improved features, especially when it also violates the warranty and terms of service. The majority of customers buy their products with no intention of altering stock firmware. More to the point, carriers should support the phone for at least as long as the ask you to commit to service for that device. The "promised" 18 months of updates, falls short of the 24 month commitment required to get a decent price for the given device.

You don't need to buy *anything*
By ssj3gohan on 12/20/2011 8:38:00 AM , Rating: 1
I don't get it. You don't need to buy any new stuff. Your phone, any phone, will be just as good in 3 or 4 years as it is now. I still use the first Android phone, because with a bit of modding it can run contemporary android just fine and does everything I expect from it. I just don't expect webpages to render lightning fast like on an SGS2 or 3D games to run. But in five years from now, I might have a samsung galaxy S2. Same goes for computer hardware: today's super low end, $200 second hand components are just as good as the ultra high end five years ago. It suffices for every and any game up to that period, and runs all productivity and editing software just as well. It's five times cheaper than a new, best system to boot. What's not to like? Bragging rights to your friends? Come on, grow up.

Really, you don't have to feverishly stay ahead of the rest all the time. Just try living a year, maybe two years behind the curve. You'll still be able to do super hip and cool stuff, impress your friends and you save yourself a lot of bullshit gadget fatigue or whatchamacallit and money.

RE: You don't need to buy *anything*
By B-Unit on 12/20/2011 1:11:17 PM , Rating: 2
You take it a bit far, but I feel the issue is that everyone seems to think that every new device release is aimed at them. Its not, the new releases are targeted at A)customers who haven't made the jump to smartphones yet and B) those whos contracts are coming due.

If you have more money than sense and have to have the latest and greatest, then so be it, but dont blame the manufacturers for your lack of patience. By the same token, if you already have a smartphone, and its less than 2 years old, stop complaining that something better is already out. Its called progress, and noone ever said you have to be on each step of said progress.

By coldpower27 on 12/20/2011 6:22:59 PM , Rating: 2
Well more precisely, it will do what it does now in 3-4 years, as long as you don't break it or anything.

If I kept my first Android phone now it would be so so as that was a Sony Xperia X10 from Apr 2010, it didn't have a beautiful that is what allures me most about smartphones. I am stopped for now on the Galaxy S II, I won't upgrade for just a res bump alone on the same screen tech. ala the Galaxy Nexus.

It's about can you deal with not having the latest and greatest anymore.

Hurts Innovation too...
By Ramstark on 12/19/2011 1:06:07 PM , Rating: 2
Besides, the companies that work only to "get quickly into the market", risking patents battles that are hugely expensive for them, hurt innovation when kicking off a product that has very few differences with the ones out there...
When a product offers only one little, tiny, new characteristic (cof...Siri...cofcof) Everyone is obliged to praise it...Innovation should be the only thing that really gets praised (and purchased) by consumers...

RE: Hurts Innovation too...
By fcx56 on 12/19/2011 1:28:44 PM , Rating: 2
Plus a new SoC and camera, sounds exactly like the multitudes of Android device updates. Everyone is guilty in this.

Technology developing too fast?
By aliasfox on 12/19/2011 3:04:06 PM , Rating: 2
No, I'd say hardware's developing too fast. Just think, this year's Droid RAZR/Galaxy S2/iPhone4S are all nearly 2x as fast as last year's Droid 2/Galaxy S/iPhone4, and they're often 3x faster than the Nexus/Droid/iPhone 3Gs of just a couple of years ago, but the average consumer's doing the exact same thing that they did 2-3 years ago. Calling, texting, emailing, mapping, basic websites.

If you're doing the exact same thing you used to do in the exact same way, is there really a point in upgrading? Most people don't see in megahertz and megabytes, most people see what they can/can't do, and the amount of money it will cost them. If they can do 99% the same thing in 100% the same way as last year, then the product's "just about the same, but a little bit faster."

I guess the point that I want to make is that until software engineers are creative enough and come up with something new (and can make it stick), most people will look at a new phone and see very little change from their old phone.

I applaud Siri in the sense that they're trying to do something different. Is it gimmicky? Kind of. Does it work? Sort of. Is it finally something that tries to take advantage of faster hardware, constant internet access, and cloud computing? Yes.

By MadMan007 on 12/20/2011 12:52:05 AM , Rating: 2
I think you have a valid point that people aren't really doing anything new or different with their newer phones. What I'd like to see is better battery life - smartphone battery life stinks, *especially* if you use the 'smartphone' features. This is partly because of stalled manufacturing process advancement but also because battery life seems like a side feature that isn't marketably sexy.

I am going to continue to hold out on a smartphone until 28nm process tech is widespread. I fear though that even then the potential battery life gain will be sucked by by increasingly less important performance increases.

I think it is "stupid consumer" fatigue
By Trisped on 12/20/2011 9:45:38 PM , Rating: 2
An intelligent consumer would not buy a new device just because there is an updated model out. They buy the updated model because it adds something their lacks. Think about it, do people buy a new Sony TV just because it replaced the one they currently have? Do people buy a new house just because it was completed after their current one? No, an intelligent consumer purchases items which add value to their lives.

The expectation that consumers will buy a new (over priced) computer, phone, or tablet every year is absurd. How many new features can you add to a device in a year? How much faster can you make a device in a year? The answer is not much.

By schmandel on 12/21/2011 10:26:16 AM , Rating: 2
So true, it looks like we need a term other than "intelligent consumer" to describe the fish who line up outside Apple stores the night before the iSuppository4GetU2 becomes available ;-)

SSD Makers
By shadowamazon on 12/19/2011 4:24:44 PM , Rating: 2
Need to read this article thoroughly.

HP Touchpad
By wewter on 12/19/2011 6:50:30 PM , Rating: 2

"gadget fatigue" didn't kill the HP Touchpad ..

pricing it the same as the ipad2 did.

It's the one thing I cannot freaking find to buy ... and I want one more than any other gadget -_-

No more worries...
By Omega215D on 12/19/2011 8:32:26 PM , Rating: 2
Since there's a lot of stink going on about SOPA and PIPA without seeing too much news of it here I doubt this story will make it through:

Apple wins a ban on HTC devices

gadget fatigue
By ssobol on 12/20/2011 10:17:25 AM , Rating: 2
Some (perhaps most) of the drive to push out devices is driven by Wall St. Generally, if your company is not continually coming out with new products it is viewed as "a dinosaur" or "behind the times" and the stock price suffers. The CEO's job is to keep the stock price up so they'll do whatever it takes to do that. The focus is on this quarter's results and possibly the next quarter. So the mantra is "ship it now, fix it later".

The other thing is if you lengthened the product cycle to get better distinction between product generations you'd probably need less engineers and certainly less manufacturing capacity. What would happen to all these employees?

"A lot of people pay zero for the cellphone ... That's what it's worth." -- Apple Chief Operating Officer Timothy Cook

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