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Sunday, December 27, 2015

Keep Swinging for the Fences

Perhaps it is appropriate to end the year with a more positive tone.  In looking over many of my past posts, I notice a theme evolving of being highly critical of new technologies that somehow fall flat or seem exorbitantly priced for what they are.  I think that many technology successes are over-hyped and like to point out sometimes better and cheaper options that accomplish the same things.

However, I don't want to give the impression that I oppose the ever improving technology marketplace. Despite some privacy concerns, I think generally, technology can make our lives better in many ways.  Part of my negativity probably stems from the many reviews that hype new features that are not particularly useful or refined while ignoring the considerable cost differentials between the latest model and the one that came out last year.

When new disruptive technologies hit the market, they may at first be priced very high or not be as stable and tested as older technologies.  But as they mature, the prices tend to come down using them becomes more stable over time.  This is normal and expected.  But reviewers who are always chasing the newest thing and looking to the future (which is understandable) tend to ignore the many benefits of waiting.

For example, while the original iPod was overpriced and not as good as other MP3 players on the market at the time, it changed the market to make digital music the primary way people listen to music.  Over time, it evolved into a much better product that ended up crushing most of the competition.  Today, the iPod technology, which has been incorporated into the iPhone, is still a great way to listen to music.  Its evolution over time made it a much better product and less expensive for what you were getting.. Many of the user interface features that made it attractive to consumers eventually showed up in products made by the competition as well.

Similarly, the first Kindle was $400, held only 250 MB of internal storage and turned pages very slowly. Today you can buy a much better device for a fraction of the cost.

Three years ago I posted Don't Buy a Tablet Now because they were overpriced and under-powered. But of course, I have purchased several tablets since then as prices fell while power and performance improved.

I guess my view is that these new technologies are great and I appreciate people who subsidize these advancements by paying top dollar when they are first released.  I then benefit from that technology a few years later when it is cheaper and has all the bugs worked out.

It makes sense to wait for most technology, but I appreciate that someone needs to be first.  Also, technology companies have to keep swinging for the fences, even if that means that much of the time, they strike out while trying.

While the prudent consumer may wait a while, we all benefit from these breakthroughs and changes after a few years.  If I sometimes sound too negative about the latest thing, it's not that I will necessary feel that way forever.  I'm just waiting for better and cheaper.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Wireless Charging: Not Worth The Trouble

Several top end cell phones offer wireless charging now, the Samsung Galaxy S6 probably being the most popular.  Surprisingly , iPhone has not yet jumped on that bandwagon, for which I commend them.  You can buy a case that will allow you to charge your iPhone wirelessly, but I say don't bother with any of it.

The notion of wireless charging is an intriguing one.  I would love it if my phone could charge while in my pocket, while I was using it, or even just sitting on a shelf.  But none of that is a reality with current wireless charging.

As currently available, a wireless phone must be placed, back side down, directly onto the charging pad.  It must be touching the pad at all times in order to charge.  The platform is much larger than a typical charger, making it far less convenient to carry around with you.  Charging also takes longer when done through the wireless interface.  Samsung's wireless charger will also cost you $50.  There some cheaper chargers made by third parties, but all are far more expensive than you would pay for a simply USB charger.

So for wireless charging, there seem to be many negatives:
  • I must be very careful how I place my phone on the charging stand.
  • The charger is much larger and inconvenient to carry around with me.
  • The charger is more expensive than a normal charger
  • Charging takes longer
  • I cannot pick up and use the phone while it is charging
On the positive side, well I guess it saves me the 5 seconds it takes me to connect my USB charger.

When wireless charging evolves to the point where one can charge efficiently while carrying around a mobile device, I'll be impressed. The current wireless solution is simply a waste of time and money.