Thursday, December 4, 2008

Rating Technology

In the New York Times Gadgetwise blog, Roy Furchgott comments on the way Consumer Reports conducted ratings of smartphones. In particular, Furchgott says:
The point is not that Consumer Reports has done a bad job. The point is Consumer Reports has tackled an impossible job. Picking a phone is dependent on so many factors – which service provider you want, the quality of reception in your area, and what features you value. There is no way to create a rating system that has all of the answers.
The smart phone is such a versatile device that there's no way to create a single rating or score that will be true for all potential users. For example, Consumer Reports claims to have weighed voice quality more heavily than other attributes in their ratings. I use a smart phone almost exclusively for Internet access, email, etc. I occasionally make phone calls, but really, the only reason I got this instead of a separate dumb phone and PDA was to free up one pocket. (See my earlier post, "No Such Thing As Too Many Pockets").

So if rating smartphones has this challenge, isn't this true for other technology devices? Consumer reports has rated computers, digital cameras, TVs and home entertainment equipment. All of this stuff is becoming incredible complicated, versatile and ... interlinked. I want Internet access from my TV, so I can download Netflix movies and read my email in my living room. (Yup, moving the laptop is too much trouble.)

Obviously buzz (the current term for word of mouth) has a lot to do with which devices we choose. But is it possible, as it once was with toasters and washing machines, to come up with objective comparisons and ratings of the current gadgets?

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