The internet revolutionized the way we shop for things. Whether it’s researching cars, travel, homes, technology or just our next meal, many of us pull out our smartphone before we pull out the wallet. While this can sometimes lead to superb deals and fantastic discounts for many useful things, it’s also contributing to the “commoditization” of technology goods, which can be a double-edged sword. On the one hand, this trend helps drive down prices on useful and powerful technologies. Remember when you bought that 5GB hard drive for $500? That same amount of money can buy you 3000 times the storage space today. Remember when only certain staff were allowed access to the internet and email? When only Wall Street traders and big time drug dealers had car phones? Today I see grade school children with mobile devices that are orders of magnitude more powerful than the devices we used 10 years ago. On the flip side of this is a more subtle, negative effect, where costs become the primary determining factor in making technology choices, often to our detriment.
Let me ‘splain:
Apple’s iPhone line, from the start, required a proprietary cable to sync and charge itself. As one would expect of Apple products, it was priced accordingly (ie. high), and as one would expect of things that are small, and plugged into awkward corners under desks and behind furniture, frequently replaced. Enter the third party manufacturers who produce replacement chargers and cables at a fraction of the price of Apple’s. “I just bought this $5 charger and cable for my ($800) iPhone. Look! It’s charging just fine!” Maybe it is, and maybe you bought a product from someone who just won a race to the bottom, and it’s a safe bet they didn’t get there by innovating.
There’s nothing wrong with being a smart shopper, nor with saving some money, especially on technology, but make sure you weigh the value the technology delivers for you or your business against your budget requirements. When purchasing computers for your business, do you really want to buy the cheapest available? When considering a monitor, do you value screen size and quality against the fact that you’ll probably be staring at this device for hundreds, if not thousands of hours? When it comes to technology, low cost does not always equate to the best value, and in many cases it may lead to longer term headaches. Remember the low-cost iPhone chargers I mentioned earlier? What if that $5 charger shorted out the battery in your shiny iPhone, something that might end up costing you 20 times the cost of the charger to rectify, not to mention a rather large inconvenience. I’m not saying that great bargains don’t exist in the technology world, but just be prepared to make some lemonade along the way.
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net