One of the more unfortunate aspects of adulthood is the ability to remember back to when megahertz was a big deal. Intel had to come up with some kind of marketing gimmick to get customers to buy new Windows PCs, so the megahertz wars were invented. In fact, the whole compare technical specifications game is there for a single reason.
Sell more stuff.
Technology writers list hardware specifications as a way to compare devices, whether PCs, smartphones, or tablets. Manufacturers tout specifications as a way to compare new models to older models or to competitor models. “Thinner, faster, lighter is better than whatever you own now, so upgrade already; you’re falling behind the times.”
Apple doesn’t do much of that kind of comparison and instead focuses on usability, which, arguably, is more difficult to measure, compare, or contrast, but each product does have a section called Tech Specs.
Those kinds of specifications are not likely to go away any time soon, but it’s time for specification comparisons to die because they’re not a useful method to compare usability, or a user interface, or how an application functions, and those are more viable reasons to buy a new Mac, iPhone, or iPad than a nearly meaningless list of specifications that most people don’t understand and don’t care about.
Here’s an example. We know the new iPhones have HD display. HD = high definition. That must be good, right? But other variables can distort or highlight the value of Apple’s flagship product. Pixels per inch. Contrast ratio. IPS technology. Wide color display. 625 cd/m2 max brightness. Oleophobic coating on the screen.
Who pays attention to such things?
Even basic specifications are mostly ignored in favor of something more practical and understandable such as storage. Knowing a new iPhone has 128GB of storage is a better spec than knowing it weighs 138 grams. It’s already light enough that some complain today’s iPhones are too thin, too light, and not structurally strong enough to handle life in the butt pocket of a pair of jeans.
Camera specifications are interesting, but don’t tell the whole story of a photo. The iPhone single-handedly destroyed the typical digital camera specification of megapixels, as Apple’s software and sensor produce better photos than smartphones with double the pixel count. Image Stabilization seems self explanatory but what is Quad-LED True Tone flash?
Way down at the bottom of the technical specifications you’ll see the cellular and wireless bands of different iPhone models. The list of built-in sensors is interesting but there’s no corresponding feature-to-benefit list.
Vlad Savov on Samsung’s recent woes.
Samsung’s approach to competing with the iPhone has always been to sprint at a breakneck pace and reach new hardware milestones first. But that has backfired horribly this year with the unfortunate Galaxy Note 7 recall, which was caused by exploding batteries. Chasing ever higher densities and ever more aggressive fast-charging methods, Samsung seems to have made the mistake of pushing that little bit too hard.
Microsoft has a rather successful advertising campaign going on which compares various Surface tablet-notebook hybrids to various Macs. That’s not a valid comparison. One is a hybrid with a touchscreen and an extra cost attachable-detachable keyboard; a device seldom used as a tablet, while the other is a more traditional notebook, sans touchscreen.
Technology writers love hardware specifications because such items are much easier to compare and contrast between devices and manufacturers, but tell readers very little about how a new product with different specifications works better than last year’s model.
Apple killed the megahertz and gigahertz comparisons because neither was a good indicator of how well a PC worked for a user. Likewise, Apple killed the megapixel component of specifications list because megapixels alone were not enough to take better photos, thanks to other variables. Ditto for Quad-HD vs. HD, PPI (pixels per inch), battery size and capacity, RAM, and other standard specification measurements.
Most PC, smartphone, and tablet customers don’t know or care about such items and prefer far more basic information; storage, screen size, color, and available accessories.
Stick a fork in it. Specifications and comparisons are dead.