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Why smart consumers make dumb decisions on smartphones

smartphones consumer decisionsGiven the massive success of the iPhone despite a number of problems (Wi-Fi, maps), tech pundits have been writing stories this week about the death of Android and suggesting it become more like iOS. This is ironic, considering Apple still maintains that Android was essentially a stolen product.

Microsoft isn’t even in the discussion, because the few of us who have Windows phones are just thankful that we aren’t in lines, that we have more hardware choices than the iPhone buyers have, and have fewer malware problems than the Google folks have. Because everyone else is on the other two platforms, in our minds, we Microsoft users are the new elite geeks. In everyone else’s heads, we’re just geeks.

However, underneath all of the buying activity is an unfortunate trend: Consumers are thinking about what they need and want less and less. Did those in line waiting for the iPhone first sit down and think through what they liked and didn’t like about their existing phones? Did they consider what features were worth their money? Did they eventually come to a well-thought-through conclusion, or did they just go rabid when the words “new iPhone” came from Apple?

Despite the massive amounts of information on the Web that should help us make better decisions, we increasingly focus on stuff that agrees with a decision we’ve already made. That is foolish, and it even could be dangerous.

Ultrabook example

Because passion surrounds anything Apple, and I don’t want to get buried in hate mail for suggesting another phone might be better for you, let me use a different platform as an example. I was recently asked, if I to buy an Ultrabook today, which I would choose.

Currently I’m using a Samsung Slate running Windows 8, so the thought of returning to a laptop configuration forced me to sit down and think through the decision. The number one priority for me is battery life. I’m always forgetting where I’ve left my laptop and forgetting to keep it charged. But as I thought some more, I realized battery life really wasn’t what I needed. What I need is the ability to fast-charge the device, because I generally have 30 minutes to an hour to get ready. But even a 20-hour battery will be dead if it has been sitting for a few weeks. (Unless you completely turn off a laptop, it will slowly drain its battery in suspend.)

lenovo x1 ultrabookSo I decided what I really wanted was a fast-charging battery with decent life. This led me to the Lenovo Carbon X-1, which also has the best keyboard, one of the best touchpads, and a decent set of ports. The Carbon X-1 is also is sturdy (semi-hardened). But I would have traded all of these things (well, maybe not all) for that eight-hour battery that can charge to 80 percent in 35 minutes. The sexiest notebook does me no good if the battery is dead. Most of the events I attend have many analysts, and typically only three or four plugs, most of which the A\V guys use. So I regularly need a good battery.

Despite not being the most popular Ultrabook, the ThinkPad Carbon X-1 is a perfect fit to my particular needs and situation.

Why I ‘ve avoided the iPhone 5

The feature most important to me on a smartphone is a keyboard, because I’m often writing long answers to long questions. Usually I’m carrying something in one hand, which means I need a single-handed phone experience. Yes, I can and have lived off a screen phone, but I’m far slower typing on it single handedly. I prefer a portrait keyboard. That’s why I keep returning to my old, obsolete, 3G Dell smartphone. I have no doubt that eventually I’ll have to give it up, but I’m not going to do it easily. I can get around the 3G to 4G thing with a Verizon 4G hotspot (which works just fine with my tablets and notebook computer).

If I need a bigger screen, my 7-inch Kindle Fire HD is far better than even the biggest super smartphones, and all my data flows fast through that Verizon hotspot. When I travel, the hotspot stays home, forcing me onto Wi-Fi and keeping my data charges from nosebleed range. (If you want an impressive cell phone bill – as in four digits – let your kid use his or her iPhone on roaming while on vacation.)

The iPhone 5 lacks my needed keyboard, its Wi-Fi is having problems, and its navigation is totally broken. Until those last two things are fixed, I’d be very unhappy with the iPhone 5. (I actually use phone navigation a lot.)

Based on the things I do with a phone, the Windows platform is the best one for me. Maybe I’m unique, but I’m OK with that – I’ve never liked looking like everyone else.

Pick what you want

The point of this piece isn’t to slam the iPhone 5, but to point out a practice that likely causes too many folks to buy a phone that doesn’t meet their needs. People who need and use phone navigation and Wi-Fi should buy a different phone, or at least wait until Apple fixes the iPhone issues. (The Wi-Fi issue may be fixed by the time you read this; the mapping issue likely will take far longer.)

A smartphone will cost you around $1,000 a year. Everyone should think through what they need before spending that kind of money. You may discover that your existing phone — or a phone other than the one folks are lining up for — better fits your needs. Because you have to live with a phone for about two years, taking time to make a good decision makes sense. And if more of us planned before we purchased, we’d likely find more phones tailored to our unique needs, and be less likely to stand in line for hours to get a phone that almost everyone else has.

Guest contributor Rob Enderle is the founder and principal analyst for the Enderle Group, and one of the most frequently quoted tech pundits in the world. Opinion pieces denote the opinions of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views of Digital Trends.