Feature Overload Why Consumer Electronics Are So Complicated

Reid Neubert

It seems like everything is so complicated these days, especially anything electronic . which is more and more products everyday.

Why are they so complex? "Hey, our cell phone takes pictures, sharpens knives, mows the lawn, pays your bills, steers your car, and cooks dinner, all by voice command!" Give us a break!

Unfortunately, the reason so many electronic products are stuffed with features is that it is relatively cheap to add features to them! Do we consumers really want or need those functions? That is an entirely different question. Often, the answer is no. But the manufacturers add them, in many cases, simply so they can advertise that they have more features.

It costs a lot more to carefully determine what features are most wanted and to design products so that they are feature-rich, yet easy and intuitive for people to use. That is why this vital step is often shortcut.

Ever had trouble figuring out how to program your VCR? Did you ever think that perhaps it's not really your fault? It's the fault of the engineers who designed a lousy user interface to the product. And you think they are bad? Try using a combination VCR-DVD player!

There is second reason why manufacturers keep cramming more questionable features into products. In the case of products like cell phones, sales have slowed down because most people who wanted one have one. So, the phone manufacturers keep adding features in order to try to find ones that motivate people to buy new phones. They keep looking for that latest cool feature that people will be willing to buy a new phone to get.

Similarly, digital camera manufacturers keep coming out with cameras with more and more megapixels. Two megapixels, then 3.2, then 4.0, then 5, now 6, 7, even 8. Do consumers need 7 or 8 megapixel cameras? Not in the least. For shooting snapshots or sharing pictures online, a 3.2 megapixel camera is more than adequate. Really.

Why then, do manufacturers keep extending the capability? It is as we said above: 1) so they can advertise they have it, and 2) to try to get people to stick their old camera in a drawer and buy a new one.

Our advise: It pays to look carefully at the features being offered in the products you are interested in. Don't assume that a product with more features (or higher numbers) is the better choice. Often it is not, it is just more complicated to use! And, there is more to go wrong.


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About the Author
2006 All rights reserved
Reid Neubert is the creator of ConsumerTechTips.com, the site that provides simple, useful information about consumer electronics for shoppers, plus money-saving links to online bargains from leading retailers. For more information or to contact Reid, visit http://www.consumertechtips.com .




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