What factors do you consider when selecting a device?

What factors do you consider when making a purchasing decision for your next smartphone, tablet or PC? It’s quite likely that every individual goes through their own unique selection criteria, ranging from price of the device to functionality. However, what are the true deciding factors, and why?

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Smartphones
Smartphones are different than tablets and PCs in that they are almost always under a contract and tied to a carrier. On top of this, it is common that OEMs only release certain versions of the smartphone in specific territories or countries. With phones you have to factor in which carrier you prefer, where you have the best phone reception, which is offering the best deals, etc. There is less weight on the hardware and software itself, and more on outside influences of location and carriers. For this reason, I’m not going to focus on smartphones.

Tablets / PCs
Since tablets and PCs are not necessarily tied to a carrier, there is weight put into the hardware and software of the product offerings rather than other criteria. Hence, why we will focus on this particular category. So, what are these most important factors?

Functionality
Is this a work PC or a fun device to store music on and play with friends? Pricing / value will shake-out of this. You need high processing capability for work, there is premium associated with the best processors. If you are going to be doing a lot of gaming, then processing power is again important, but so are graphics. What your primary use case is for the device will largely influence your purchasing criteria and therefore your willingness to spend.

Brand
It seems people are either Apple fanatics or not. If you are, you tend to buy all Apple products, claiming that the simplicity, elegance and ease-of-use are the reasons for your obsession, and therefore you pay the premium for these products. Apple is an amazing company with amazing products and has (at least had) the ability to revolutionize any industry it sought to. If you are not an Apple person, brand loyalty is likely less important on the pareto of purchasing criteria. Another factor here, do you have full authority to make your own selection, or is this a work device paid for by your company? Many companies have IT departments that will only support certain machines.

Pricing
No matter who we are everyone wants to feel like they are getting a good value associated with every purchase. This is as much a psychological topic as a hardware one. The story of a person sitting at in an air-conditioned home vs. a person crawling through a dessert, who do you think values a bottle of water more? Same idea, the traveler sitting on a plane for 12-hours with no movies playing vs. a person sitting in front of their TV, who do you think values a tablet more? The person whom is provided a PC for their work, vs. someone whom has to purchase one on their own? This criterion melds with the previous criterion in functionality.

Operating System (OS)
Let’s focus on PCs and tablets separately for this discussion. In terms of PCs, you primarily are on Windows or iOS — iOS if you are using Apple, and every other PC OEM is mostly running Windows. This is starting to fragment some with the introduction of Google Chrome, Linux, and many others, but the lion’s share in PCs is still between iOS and Windows.

For tablets, it’s a bit more skewed. Again, Apple iPad users are on iOS, but Android still has the largest overall OS share (smartphone / tablet / PC) with 48% (1.2B devices in 2014). With it being an open-sourced OS it invites all the OEMs to utilize it very easy. From a user’s perspective it has become very familiar and easy to use. Windows with their introduction of Win8 in October 2012 has been slowly gaining market share.

But when it is all said and done, do the users really care about which OS? Or, is the OS more connected to the functionality — in other words, when a user makes a purchase for a work PC, it just comes with Windows?

Form Factor
How heavy is the device? What screen size does it have? Is it a convertible, 2-in-1, or rotating screen device? The form factor again will be most influenced by the user’s primary use-case. If you are getting a computer for work, but you have to travel a lot, you definitely aren’t going to get a desktop. And on-top of that, you will want the lightest possible device you can get so you don’t have to lug around a heavy brick everywhere, but yet that still meets your processing needs. Depending on your supplementary use-cases, you might be inclined to get a 2-in-1 in that situation. Form factor is definitely a consideration, but tied to use case.

Applications
Being able to go to the app store and download the latest and greatest apps that everyone is talking about is a big deal. Apps are what make our devices more functional and important today than ever before. But different OSs have different quantities and qualities of apps available. Apple is leading this charge, then Android, and lastly Windows. Almost all developers were at least starting with iOS, apps first version available usually on iOS, followed by Android.

Advertisements
Catchy, fun, relative, and helpful advertisements are always good, but it should make less implication on decision criteria other than communicating the information associated with the previously discussed decision pareto.


Intended functionality / use case is likely the most important criteria, even including brand seems to fall out of this. This is definitely a topic that has far more breadth!

2 thoughts on “What factors do you consider when selecting a device?

  1. Pingback: Consumers in emerging markets want bigger smartphone screens | Bits & Pieces from the Embedded Design World

  2. Pingback: Electronic Design talks touch with Atmel’s Patrick Hanley | Bits & Pieces from the Embedded Design World

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