I like focused gadgets

Post ImageIt’s very easy to get excited about cool new gadgets and devices, isn’t it? I am guilty of it. Thing is, these gadgets are often far too complex. Their creators often try to cram in too many wonderful features. It happens in software too, but I think the effect is far more noticeable with physical devices. I doubt I will stop getting so excited about new gadgets anytime soon, but I have been thinking about it, and the devices I appreciate most are focused on doing one thing well.

It’s kind of like the 37signals philosophy:

We’re focused on executing on the basics beautifully.

I wish more gadget makers made that their goal. A camera is a camera. A media player is a media player. A phone is a phone. Why do they have to be combined into one? Usually what ends up happening is that the device suffers. Take my phone for example. It’s great at making and receiving calls, and sending text messages back and forth. As a still or video camera, it totally sucks. And as an audio player? It’s not even worth the trouble.

My camera on the other hand, is wonderful. It’s a Canon Digital Rebel, and it does one thing and one thing only: it takes photos very well. Unlike my phone, which had to be designed to support the extra features (so maybe a little thicker for the camera, an extra button to start the video, etc), my camera is a focused device. Every feature is there specifically to help me take photos. And I appreciate it.

I know the idea is that you could carry less stuff if you had one gadget that did everything, but I’d rather have separate gadgets that do their jobs very well than one gadget that does a bunch of jobs poorly. Maybe one day we’ll have a gadget that can morph into a contextually appropriate focused gadget…but that’s a long way off.

2 thoughts on “I like focused gadgets

  1. Price & convenience (which includes UI simplicity, bulk, weight, etc) – the top two considerations for the majority of consumers.

    I’m happy with my WM 5 device for phone, camera (yes not stellar but I don’t care), email, IM, music (even stereo bluetooth), bus apps and some games. I hate still having to carry keys and a wallet aswell.

    From a technical point of view, having all your functionality in one point of failure can be bothersome if the battery dies, etc.

    I think with software, it’s easier to have "the best of" as separate pieces (and it’s largely software that enables, e.g. WM 5, to provide the all-on-one capabilities) – doesn’t weigh any more, though UI consistency is an issue, as well as data compatibility and ease of data interoperability.

    Now if someone could beam power around and remove the need to buy a power bar with 9+ (well spaced) outlets on it. Even a power standard would be good so we could have compatible power supplies or even just a power bar with small lower-power connectors – surely this exists somewhere from someone who is not afraid of the lawsuits 🙂

  2. Yeah that’s what I’m ranting about in various blogs that I’ve visited. Why can’t they just build gadgets focused on it’s particular usage. Why build multi functional gadgets (ex cellular phone)if your only main purpose is to call and text. If only widgets and gadgets are as simple as the good old days.

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