Right now CES is going on and that means there’s some pretty neat tech on display. It also means a lot of this. Tech companies have a unique dilemma these days. They want to provide consumers with a product line that is constantly innovating and changing. But they also want to deliver something of a quality that won’t be wasted on an item with such a short shelf life. Currently, the tech industry is overrun with so much stuff. Right now gadgets have a remarkably short lifespan, partially because the industry is still new and devices are outdated within months of their release. This has led to a mindset of disposability that is shockingly common for products that cost as much as these do.
With relatively new industry processes such as mass-production, a modern company can manufacture products and put them in any number of retailers they wish, generally limited only by their budget. Consumers have a buffet of choices when going tech shopping. For the most part, they’re choosing between dozens of the same thing with different packaging. Inevitably, there is now consumer fatigue. Not only is there an over-saturation of tech, but a lot of it is lacking in the quality department as a physical product as well as just being well-designed. It’s been a deluge of mostly shoddy products and consumers want relief.
Think of a well-designed product like computer generated imagery (CGI) in a film. A movie like The Avengers is fun to watch and impressive in the scope and size of its battles and flashy effects, but you know what other movie had a ton of CGI and won an Oscar for it? Forrest Gump. When it comes to an effective product, you want Forrest Gump. Unassuming and effective. The design is there front and center, but also invisible. Design tells you how to use the product without ever having to read instructions or watch a demonstration. It should be natural and intuitive, without drawing too much attention to itself.
When you have a product being used for a dozen different everyday tasks, it pays to have something that lasts and makes an impression. A company can make a fast buck and crank out something cheap, satisfying themselves and their consumers for a short time. But eventually people become dissatisfied with their hollow plastic phones shutting down after a year. They’ll want something that has a bit more weight to it that can be used for more than a couple years at a time. Striking a balance between a solid product line and innovation without making a cheap disposable toy is crucial.
Soon we’ll see less frequent releases of tech products in general. The ones that we do see more infrequently will be longer-lasting due not only to their build quality being less disposable but also because big innovations will come less and less frequently within current industries. The practical reason for this is that we’re coming to a stabilization in new industries like smartphones and tablets and they will start to have longer life-cycles as a result. The next innovations will then come along, create new industries, and the whole process will probably start over again.