Android: Too Much Choice

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    Posted: 13 January 2011 05:16 PM

    Everyone complains that Apple only does one phone, once a year. To that, I say “Exactly”! This article hits the points I’ve always felt about Apple’s release pattern and competitive cycles (as apparent to the public). Here’s an excerpt of the post:

    The incessant glut of Android phones creates other problems in practice, too:

    Accessory markets never fully develop. People really like cases for their phones, and if the iPhone has 300 cases for it including that gummy pink one they really like, and the Samsung Whocares XL only has a few drab OEM plastic things available, a nontrivial portion of the market will choose the iPhone on that reason alone.

    There?s also more practical concerns: batteries, docks, speakers, and other useful accessories are usually phone-specific, and if the manufacturer (and the market) will only care about your phone for three months until the next minor revision comes out, your options will be very limited, both in the store and when you?re traveling and forgot something.

    There are so many variations in screen size, screen type, physical size, hardware sensors, hardware buttons, and computational performance between devices that developers, including Google itself, have a very hard time making great software for the platform.
    The manufacturers and carriers have very little incentive to maintain the software on devices that are still relatively new and under contract, because they want everyone buying the newest ones instead. We?re already seeing carriers and some manufacturers refusing to release new Android versions to handsets that were launched as recently as 6 months ago, even though most users bought them with 2-year contracts.
    People hate choosing between similar things. The more choice we have at the time of purchase, the more stress we feel making the choice, and the less satisfied we feel afterward because we?re worried that we made the wrong choice.

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    Posted: 13 January 2011 05:21 PM #1

    Especially love the last point, that too much choice creates stress for the consumer. Apple does two great things in this regard: It offers “the best” combination of tech vs usability at the point that its released and it takes only one form. Over multiple releases, consumers come to trust Apple’s decision making, making an Apple upgrade even more of a no-brainer stress-wise. Great lock-in.

    Companies like Dell that throw out every weird contraption to see what sticks throw out something else: the consumer trust that makes a purchase a stress-less event.

  • Posted: 13 January 2011 05:30 PM #2

    Good find.  I was not aware until I went to the blog that Marco was the guy behind Instapaper - a great iPad app.  His experience in the ecosystem certainly gives him credibility.  I agree with his points.

  • Posted: 14 January 2011 12:45 AM #3

    I was in sales for about 10 years. I read extensively on different marketing and sales theories. I was never so dismayed as when I read “The Paradox of Choice” by Barry Schwartz. First, he said something that every good salesman knows instinctively - if you give people too many choices, they choose nothing.

    One example. Vanguard retirement options were studied and it was found that for every ten additional funds offered, participation dropped by 2%. In other words, if you offered 50 fund options, 10 percent of the participants simply choose to do nothing rather than to choose between the fund options. As a former financial advisor, I can’t begin to tell you how much this study bummed me out.

    The study I’m referring to is found in the 20 minute TED Talk located here. If you go to the 2:50 mark, Barry Schwartz spends about 1 or 2 mintutes talking about cell phones. One of the cartoons he shows has the poor phone buyer morosely asking the salesperson: “Do you have a phone that doesn’t do too much?” And the implied answer is “NO”. What’s really startling about all of this is that this speech was recorded in July of 2005. We thought phones were complicated in 2005!

    I’ve never seen a study on this, but I believe that there is an identical relationship between features and computing devices. Every feature added to a software program or computing device leads to LESS, not more participation.

    The second negative effect of too much choice is a loss of satisfaction. When given many options, we are less satisfied with our choices, EVEN IF WE MADE THE BEST CHOICE because all we can think about are the options that we declined. When one buys an Andorid phone they compare it to all the other Android phones that they could have purchased and all the Android phones that become available after their purchase. When one buys an iPhone, well, they own an iPhone.

    This is all completely counterintuitive and, frankly, pretty hard to believe. Watch the first two mintues of the video and you’ll see what Schwartz is saying for yourself.

    [ Edited: 14 January 2011 12:59 AM by FalKirk ]      
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    Posted: 14 January 2011 01:19 AM #4

    Apple has taken this theory to heart. I’m convinced that Apple has released core features slowly, methodically and with an eye to not overburdening the consumer. Example: 4G. Could they release 4g now with the Verizon rollout? Sure, but then the burden would be on the user to manage the horrible 4G battery life (at least now) and manage the huge increase in data usage (billing issue). Will these thing be worked out? Yes, but its too much now FOR THE AVERAGE USER.

    I see the App store the same way. Apple rolled out the phone with “Web” apps. People started to understand apps and what they meant to a phone. Rolling out the apps store with the original phone may have been to much too soon had Apple tried it. When they did roll the App store out, people knew what it was and demand had been created. Apple made the App store EASY AND SAFE. These two things are where the Android Apps store have failed. I have even read theories that say Google wants the paid app model to fail and be ad driven (See Angry birds on Android).

    Ask most people the difference between Android and Droid and see if they know. The whole Android message is so muddled, Apple becomes the safe (easy, trusted) choice.

  • Posted: 14 January 2011 03:35 AM #5

    schLONG - 14 January 2011 05:19 AM

    Apple has taken this theory to heart.

    Nice topic and nice posts, schLONG. I’m convinced that Apple has tapped into certain subconscious psychological behaviors that others simply don’t get. Limiting choice is clearly one of Apple’s core principles. Their product line is sparse and each product within each line is clearly delineated. The same can probably be said for the feature sets on those products.

    The idea that more is more just makes common sense. The idea that less is more just makes no sense at all - unless we have a deep grasp of human nature. The trick is finding the right balance between enough and too much. The Apple pendulum swings way, way, way over to the side of simplicity. History shows that their way has proven to be the right way most of the time.

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    Posted: 14 January 2011 03:51 AM #6

    Here’s another choice-based strategy Apple follows. It’s 3-level pricing (ie 16, 32 or 64GB) and it serves two purposes.

    1) The high-end model is priced with a heavy premium to capture as much early adopter and pent up demand cash as possible.

    2) The low end model allows the cash conscience consumer to believe that the item is affordable to them, and after that rationale is made, then “upgrading” to the middle price point seems OK because they’re “not going extravagant” in getting the high-end model. I believe that Wal-Mart made this discovery thru testing and that Apple follows this by always providing easy-to-understand 3-point good, better, best pricing.

    Old-timers will remember this pricing with Apple desktop CPUs. Example from maybe 5 years ago: top-of the line Dual 1Ghz (CPU in short supply), Dual 800mHz in the midrange (manufacting sweet-spot) and bargain budget point, the single CPU 800mHZ (which served to clean out inventory)

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    Posted: 14 January 2011 03:58 AM #7

    Thanks, FalKirk. I’m pretty sure read a summation of the book you mentioned and appreciate you’re experience in selling. As a long (six year) holder of Apple, I’ve gone from naive and lucky to having a better understanding of retail thanks to asymco, this and other boards and a lot of interesting writers.

    One of the sub-stories of the AAPL revolution (IMHO) is the rise of do-it-yourself knowledge of the company’s operation and self-publishing of that knowledge (asymco, marco, etc). In a way, Apple has elevated critical thinking for those involved by setting an example for us to reverse engineer. Making big money holding AAPL is great in of itself, the learning that goes with holding this stock is invaluable.

    [ Edited: 14 January 2011 04:08 AM by schLONG ]      
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    Posted: 14 January 2011 04:05 AM #8

    BTW, providing the iPad with 3G WITHOUT a required contract was PRICING BRILLANCE!!! The iPad wouldn’t have had nearly the strong 3G start had AT&T locked you in like happens with the Tab.

    Had Apple allowed ATT to force a contract on 3G iPad, BOTH would have lost as very few would have taken the chance on a contract-required 2nd device. Now ATT gets revenue they wouldn’t have had and Apple ups the ASP of iPad by upselling to 3G.

    It will be interesting to see if Apple has any influence on Verizon’s plan for either iPhone or iPad like they did intially with ATT.

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    Posted: 14 January 2011 04:35 AM #9

    FalKirk - 14 January 2011 07:35 AM

    The Apple pendulum swings way, way, way over to the side of simplicity. History shows that their way has proven to be the right way most of the time.

    Everybody love to dress up their itoys LOL.


    Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.  - Steve Jobs

  • Posted: 14 January 2011 12:35 PM #10

    Hmm. Paradox of Choice… I’m having that problem as I start to look to replace my CRT TV. There are so many out there and the specs are so meaningless that I feel like that I am virtually guaranteed of buying the wrong thing no matter how much research I do.


    Less is More (more or less).

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    Posted: 14 January 2011 01:02 PM #11

    The Paradox of Choice hit close to home for me. Our contracts were running out and we needed to do something. The trouble was that every time I started to look there were 100 phones with 100 plans with 1000 options. Even if I limited it to just an iPhone there were different plans and choices and this and that and nobody could tell me what the cost would be per month until I signed the contract. I’d love an iPhone but I can’t get over the feeling that with that many options and that many greasy sales people trained in double-speek and web sites engineered to NOT tell you what you want to know that it just isn’t worth the hassle and I know I’m going to get screwed.

    We ended up with minimal phones for ~$20 per month pay-as-you-go. So FalKirk you have good reason to be dismayed. I think there’s likely a big chunk of the market that holds back because we’re not willing to try to drink from the fire hose.

    [ Edited: 14 January 2011 01:09 PM by geoduck ]


    The mark of the immature man is that he wants to die nobly for a cause, while the mark of a mature man is that he wants to live humbly for one.
    J.D.Salanger/Wilhelm Stekel

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    Posted: 14 January 2011 01:05 PM #12

    Gene Munster is convinced that Apple will make a flat panel television soon. Just wait it out, Flip.

  • Posted: 14 January 2011 01:06 PM #13

    FWIW ,We went to Costco and bought a Vizio. I’ve had it for two years. We’ve connected both AppleTV’s, laptops, dvd player and TIVO with no compatibility issues. If it’s not exactly what you want, you have the satisfaction of having spent less than most of the alternatives.

  • Posted: 14 January 2011 01:14 PM #14

    Mace - 14 January 2011 08:35 AM
    FalKirk - 14 January 2011 07:35 AM

    The Apple pendulum swings way, way, way over to the side of simplicity. History shows that their way has proven to be the right way most of the time.

    Everybody love to dress up their itoys LOL.

    As a student of government, economics, game theory, behavioral economics, evolutionary psychology and human nature in general, I am fascinated by choice. As Schwartz puts it in his book title, choice is a Paradox. One would think it was always good. But sometimes it’s not. As fascinated as I am by the subject, I’ll admit that I haven’t formed a comprehensive theory that explains and interprets it at all. I don’t think I’m alone. I think this whole “open v. closed” debate is based on a basic misunderstanding of how choice affects creativity, learning and levels of satisfaction.

    Hopefully one day I’ll have a better grasp of the subject. Until then, I’ll just have to muddle along hoping that discussions like this one will bring me ever closer to deeper, more meaningful level of understanding.

    [ Edited: 14 January 2011 01:32 PM by FalKirk ]      
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    Posted: 14 January 2011 01:44 PM #15

    FalKirk - 14 January 2011 05:14 PM

    I think this whole “open v. closed” debate is based on a basic misunderstanding of how choice affects creativity, learning and satisfaction.

    I disagree. It’s not a misunderstanding at all, since it’s not a universal concept. It’s a difference of approach and opinion. There is a rather trendy train of thought that says that choice paralyzes us all. I know many people who I can tell are paralyzed by choices. I know just as many people who like to flip around and discover new things that choices present them.

    It’s good that a company like Apple is catering to people who don’t want to be bothered with choices. But ultimately, I think that market is restricted to Apple’s traditional niche. To people who can thrive on choice, it’s not just a bonus, it’s a requirement.

    To paraphrase the legendary rock band, Rush, if you choose to let Apple decide, you still have made a choice.