5 things tech buyers just don't care about

5 things tech buyers just don't care about

Summary: One of the biggest mistakes companies make is not realizing that times have moved on. We're no longer in the 1990s and it isn't PCs that people want. But I still see modern products being marketed as though we're still partying like it's 1999.

TOPICS: Hardware
Replacing the battery in a Samsung Galaxy S5
(Source: iFixit)

There are two ways to go about making and selling a product. One way is to come up with a bunch of features and incorporate those into a product and try to sell it, and the other way is to find out what customers want and build a product that matches their needs. Unfortunately, most companies choose the former over the latter, and as a result history is littered with the remains of technology that just never made it.

Stop making this basic mistake!

While more and more people are now buying technology, both for home use and business/work/BYOD, competition is also at an all time high, and so are the chances that people won't care about whatever new product hits the market.

One of the biggest mistakes companies make is not realizing that times have moved on. We're no longer in the 1990s and it isn't PCs that people want. But I still see modern products being marketed as though we're still partying like it's 1999.

Here are five things that tech buyers just don't care about any more. OK, I accept that this might not apply to you (or me) but as far as the keyboard tapping, screen-swiping masses are concerned, these things are irrelevant.


People just aren't cracking open PCs to install new RAM, CUs, GPUs, or hard drives like we once did.

Part of the reason is that devices are powerful enough to do everything that users want from them, partly it's down to price and the fact that it's cheaper to replace then it is to upgrade, and partly it's down to upgrade cycles being aggressively short.

In fact, upgradeability is a negative for a lot of buyers because it means devices that are unnecessarily big and have parts like screws that can fall off.


Hand-in-hand with not caring about upgradeability, consumers are also unmoved by repairability.

While sites such as iFixit should be commended for the work they do, repairing gadgets is not for the masses. Even with fantastic instructions repairs are far from easy, and when you factor in the parts and tools (plus the risk of the repair not working) then it's usually cheaper to replace then it is to repair.

Optional extras

Does your gizmo come with an optional keyboard/cover/solar charger/death-ray attachment that differentiates your gizmo from all the competition?

I have bad news for you. Unless that killer bit of kit is in the box then the majority of customers (or potential customers) won't care because they'll never buy it (about the only exception here is for Apple products, but most of the accessories sold for those are third-party).

Replaceable battery

Were you the sort of person who when they bought a new device you also bought a spare battery, and maybe even a desk charger? Yeah, me too. But I have news for you. We're extinct.

No one wants to bother carrying spare batteries with them these days because batteries last longer and USB charging is ubiquitous. Replaceable batteries mean bigger devices, parts to fall off, and parts to lose.

Future features

Your device better come with a raft of cool features out of the box, because consumers have no time or patience to wait for things to happen.

Take something like the Binauric speaker. Cool idea that is has features that might be activated in the future, but what are the chances of these features coming to life, especially if the product isn't a roaring success? I've seen too many products come to market with promises of "jam tomorrow" where the product died a death from being ignored and the jam never came.

Topic: Hardware

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • And that's why the quality of devices has decreased

    For the consumer, none of those things may matter but that also means that most tech products today are all but disposable.

    The consumer market is just a long slog to the bottom in terms of quality and durability: if it breaks toss it and buy a new one. I'd rather have the ability to upgrade a device as higher capacity upgrade components come down in price, or even as my needs for the device change, and I'll happily pay a higher price for that ability.
    • Slog to the bottom...

      I think the slog to the bottom is the commoditization process. A smartphone made of plastic is cheaper and will sell to a wider audience than a metal and glass one. A phone running an open source OS will be cheaper than one running a proprietary one... hackers are often young kids, so cheaper is better and open is more hackable. There are high quality systems out there, priced a bit higher, perhaps a bit more closed in nature. People scoff at them and buy the cheap stuff, then complain about the decline of such products. :-)
    • The problem is

      a lot of the electronic gadgets are just too expensive to throw out, rather than repair.

      A colleague has a flurrying side-line is smartphone repairs. Given that an iPhone starts at around $965 over here in Europe and replacing the touch screen can be done for under $50, a lot of people reapair their damaged devices. The same goes for replacement batteries for smartphones.

      The pricing also means that a lot of people will be using that device for several years, before they consider replacing it.

      I bought an iPhone 3GS when it was launched, this was finally retired last month - although it was replaced by a Lumia 620, which cost less than $150, so if it only lasts 2 years, that isn't too bad.
      • The problem is that they go wrong in the first place

        I agree that the decent kit is too expensive to throw out.

        But I'd far rather that it didn't go wrong in the first place, than that I can fix it.

        The problem with iFixit is that their teardown reviews are totally orientated toward repairability rather than durability.

        This is understandable, since it's how they may their money

        But they should not represent repairability over durability as being better for the customer.

        Most repairable products will be trashed anyway once they fail. And it's bar better for the customer not to need to go through the repair process.

        If a product lasts twice as long, it doesn't really matter if it's a little harder to recycle.
        Henry 3 Dogg
  • First world problems....

    Adrian, there are a whole bunch of people out there who may not have the skills to upgrade/update their stuff, but they won't hesitate to call me up and offer a cup of coffee if I come over and look at their device to 'fix it up' rather than buy a new one. People still want to upgrade because they can't afford to replace.
    • Upgrade/Repair preferred, only if easy. WE WANT, TURNKEY, not futzing!

      The cheap, disposible route now taken is a reluctant alternative, not the preference. It only became an alternative, because upgrade/repair is usually arcane to do. I purchased my computers based on upgradability, because it is SO EASY to slide out the hard drive or replace the RAM in my Dell laptops. Far better choice, because the underlying machine is something FAMILIAR. I bought seven used Dell PCs since November '12 for that reason (four lappies, 3 desktops); even though, I'm the lone user. For the later PCs, aren't as easy to upgrade/repair.

      Shopping for a new one, is a royal pain. Too much jargon. That's a major reason why PC sales have tanked, and Win 8 only added to the annoyance. Witness: we have no problem getting our cars fixed, we want to drive the same car we know; we don't want to buy a new car, because it's a complete muddle, to shop among the too-many-models, too-many-makers. Same, for a PC. So to avoid the hassle, we buy a tablet or smartphone, because it's EASIER.

      Then you have the issue of parts not included, which the article calls 'extinct'. WE WANT THE WHOLE KIT BUT NO ONE EVER SELLS IT. So, the added hassle of buying more parts, is too great -- again, all that jargon with part numbers and completing little slips on the back of the manuals, mailing them in, etc. SELL THE KIT.

      One thing that's cool about the Fujitsu S1500 scanner, which doubled in price months after I bought it (and it was not on sale when I bought it at Amazon, so the rise is due to demand) -- one really cool thing about that unit, is that it comes with a complete kit of supplies. So you know what to buy, the next time. You can buy the whole kit again, or just the pieces you need, and they made it EASY to do so.

      Simplify the buying process, make it easy to upgrade or change parts -- a Dell specialty -- and you get return customers for ALL of what you sell. THAT is the better road, and THAT will dampen the throw-away, not-worth-buying-in-the-first-place mode of selling tech stuff, now.
  • I Am Afraid Adrian Is Right on This One

    The day of the "computer doctors" has gone the way of changing your own motor oil - no one wants to do it, proper disposal of the old oil is difficult, and the results are often not as good as your local grease pit. Same goes for computers (and this is coming from a guy who has owned a torx screwdriver for years).
    • Proper disposal of used motor oil is quite easy

      The oil change shops are mandated by federal law to accept oil for recycling and not charge. Been doing it for years and never have a problem or have to even wait.
    • Over here

      in Germany, a lot of workshops have opened up, where you can rent a ramp by the hour to do your own car repairs. They also dispose of the old oil and parts for you, heck you can also rent the wrenches and screwdrivers.

      The same goes for PCs, I'm still regularly called in to keep old clunkers running. 3 years ago, I had to do an upgrade for one family member. Their old 233Mhz Pentium II computer wasn't cutting it any more (an upgrade to the eBay website meant it wouldn't load any more) and they decided to move off of Windows 98 to new quad core PC.

      In the family, they made a round of upgrades a couple of years ago, I think there are only about 6 machine left which are pre 2005, the rest are all 2010 to 2012 vintage.

      The same goes for mobile phones, those with a company phone get a new model every 2 years, those using private phones tend to make them last a good 4 or 5 years, before replacing them or they will buy last years model on eBay at a knock down price.
      • Give us an edit option!

        I just remembered, the girls still have their Macs, a Mac mini and a MacBook Pro 13" from 2008, so there is still some middle ground out there.
  • ZDnet

    Is it just me or does every article ZDNET come out with basically try to kill the IT support field?
    • Yes and no

      For the Microsoft field, yes they try to act like it is dying, but they support the Apple field which is a whole new ball game supporting those. They do not "just work" as they say they do.
    • The pc is dead

      Ur permitted time to grieve but eventually u need to find some closure. It's time to move on. I have and so should u.
      • You go ahead corn..

        Not everyone has unlimited dough to spend on toys. Some of us use our current equipment, love our current equipment, and want to extend it's life. Yeah, we may be old or old-fashioned to you, but the "buy the toy, show the toy, break the toy and throw it away" phase of our life is over. When the "toy" starts costing a monthly mortgage payment, it becomes a useless "way of life".
        • My thoughts exactly when M$...

          ...told me my XP toy should be quarantined from the web.
          • As I said, some of us can't buy "toys"

            I replaced with Windows 7. I own Windows 8.1 and Android, too. But then, I paid a lot less than "new" for those "toys", and expect a lot less. "Time marches on.." alright, but I just object to paying for each step all over again..
          • Huh???

            ur arguments have ceased making sense
      • Obviously spelling is dead too.

      • Not here

        the company I work for has around 50 employees and every one of them is working on a PC or a terminal connected to a Windows or Linux terminal server.

        None of them could do their work on a tablet or smartphone - some have smartphones or tablets as companion devices, but >90% of the work is still done on a PC. The tablet just isn't a suitable replacement for a PC for a deskbound job, such as programmer, analyst, accountant etc.

        There are jobs where alternatives can and do work well, but in many instances they are a hinderance to productivity. We are seeing a change, but it isn't going kill off the PC over night. We need a good alternative to the keyboard, before tablets can really take off as a desktop replacement. It is like saying that the Smart for2 is a great, economical little town car, so all big rigs are obsolete and will disappear from our roads.

        Well, yes, if you are using a Kenworth to commute to the office, a Smart makes more sense, but if you are hauling 50 tonnes of goods across the country, it doesn't make any sense at all.
  • People just make do with what's available

    Rather than buy a 2nd battery, which you can do with most phones now, everyone just buys an extra juice pack. I don't see the difference. And if you don't think they buy them, look at how many are on the market.