War of the Specs - The New Indian Express

War of the Specs

Published: 20th April 2014 06:00 AM

Last Updated: 22nd April 2014 11:23 AM

Writing about technology is a dangerous job nowadays. People are more passionate about which phone they should buy than about whom they should vote for. Fanboys fight over which company is more innovative. Twitter feeds are filled with vitriol. Blogs are written and commented upon. And those unfortunate enough to write about technology are abused. Even the Cold War and the religious crusades are nothing compared to the epic battles that are raged in chat rooms.

Online abuse is easy to avoid. Some guy somewhere in the world sitting in his parents’ dark cellar in front of his computer can call me any number of things. Spending thousands of hours online has given me a skin thick enough to weather that abuse.

What is not bearable is the abuse I get offline which got so bad that I stopped showing my face outside my house. It started at a wedding not long after I started writing about technology and with my mom shamefacedly admitting about that fact to whoever will listen. At every public function, it won’t be long before some ‘uncle’ hears of the fact and calls me over to ask me about which phone/TV or even washing machine to buy. With washing machines and vacuum cleaners it is easy because I can just admit to not having a clue. It is not so easy with a phone. The moment the name of a phone comes out of my mouth, the said ‘uncle’ is ready with another name that they have been told is better. The sneers and the sly looks don’t stop there. Sometimes they call me up even after a week demanding to know why I suggested this phone when that phone has more ‘ram’.

‘Spec sheet’ starts with manufacturers. Eager to make themselves stand out, they keep bringing out newer and hotter devices. This product cycle means that the only way you can differentiate this year’s device from last year’s is by showing a spec bump.

 

I blame it all on the ‘spec sheet’ which lists the specifications of a phone. It all starts with the manufacturers. Eager to make themselves stand out from the ever-increasing number of manufacturers and eager to make another dime out of a market with ever-decreasing profit margins they keep bringing out newer and hotter devices. Manufacturers like Sony and HTC put out flagship phones once or sometime even twice a year. Other makers like Samsung and Micromax flood the market with hundreds of variants. This product cycle means that the only way you can differentiate this year’s device from last year’s is by showing a spec bump. The RAM increased from 512MB to 1GB. The camera is 12 megapixels instead of 10 etceteras. The ever-growing number of technology blogs, desperate for clicks, put out articles every minute to attract more eyeballs to their website and there is no better way for them to fill space than copy and paste and compare spec sheets.

It is important to remember when you are in the market for a new smartphone that specs are not everything. Yes they are important. A phone with 1GB RAM will invariably be faster than one with 512MB. But there are other factors that make a good phone like the design, the ergonomics, the software, the bloatware, the app store, the ecosystem. Both the iPhone 5S and the Galaxy S5 have a fingerprint scanner on the spec sheet. But it is when you use them or at least see how they work on YouTube will you know that the iPhone’s is the better implementation. If a phone designed in China in a no-name company has 2GB of RAM, it doesn’t mean that it will be faster or better than one made by Motorola. And if you buy that Chinese phone please don’t behave like it is the end of the world. It is just a phone.

Matham is a tech geek.

Follow him on Twitter @AdarshMatham

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