A Convenient Truth About Gadgets

It’s embarrassing to admit, but last night I tried to unlock the front door to our apartment by pushing the “unlock” button on my car’s keyless fob. It’s not the first time I’ve made that mistake, and it won’t be the last.

Transient

But last night, instead of dismissing the action as silly, I started to think, why not have my front door unlock because I have a wireless fob in my pocket?  Is it really too much to ask to be able to open the door with a Jedi wave?

It was a silly fantasy, but when I peeled away to the motivations behind the thought, I really got to see what drives my tech and gadget buying habits. On his Nerdist podcast, Chris Hardwick described Americans as having an “addiction to convenience.”  It’s not a new phrase, but it describes me perfectly: 

  • I bought a ten-dollar program for my computer that allows me to control Pandora’s music service through my keyboard’s Play/Pause button. That’s all it does. Ten bucks.  Probably the best ten dollars ever spent. 
  • I have always spent a lot of money on universal programmable remotes, so that I don’t have to turn on my entertainment center with two remotes. I just spent a lot of money on a newer version of that remote, so that I don’t have to point this remote directly at the television. A lot of money.
  • While I was writing this post, I spilled hot tea under my laptop.  My first thought was, “I can’t afford to buy a replacement MacBook Air right now!” But my second thought, which entered my head before I finished wiping up the table was, “But if I do, I’d be able to get the new MacBook Air, with the backlit keyboard. Boy, it would be handy to have a backlit keyboard…”

My addiction to convenience is primal: I want life to be easier.  Hell, I want life to be easy. In my utopia, my tech works as efficiently as possible, which allows me to spend the maximum amount of time on creative, productive or entertaining endeavors. I can’t afford to hire a personal assistant, but I can install a good task management system.  I work too late at night to record a TV show I had forgotten was on, but I can set my TiVo from my office computer.   My tech can’t solve problems of love, fulfillment or financial security, but it can make my life much more hassle free by removing little distractions.

When tech is not convenient, I stop using it. I downloaded a great game to my Mac, but it takes about 5 minutes to load.  Sorry, Portal 2, I don’t have that kind of downtime.  I would have paid twice as much for a version of the same game that loads in fifteen seconds.  Not more levels, sleeker graphics, or better storytelling. Just a fast load time.  If a game company designs for my convenience, I will surely become a loyal, paying customer.  That’s a big deal, because I’m not traditionally a “game guy,” so it means that the gaming industry is leaving money on the table. My money.  

More broadly speaking, the technology companies that understand “convenience is king” will win.  I see it today: I recommend the iPhone over the latest and greatest Android phone simply because, as Apple says, “It just works.” If the upcoming iPad 3 has a higher screen resolution or a better camera, I don’t care.  I only want to know what innovations on the iPad 3 will make my life easier.  The tech that will sell big is the tech that can anticipate what I want to do before I do it, be the least distracting, make my life easy, and help keep me focused. 

As a public service to companies looking for the next big thing, here’s a quick list of gadgets I would pay a lot of money for, if they were invented:

  • Corded earphones with anti-tangle technology
  • A shower head that allowed me to digitally select a desired water temperature, and beeped when the right temperature is reached
  • Disposable pens with built in LEDs that glow just before the ink starts to run out
  • An eyeglass case that automatically cleans the lenses of my glasses every time I put them in
  • A version of Microsoft Word that didn't add tons of crappy code to my text when I cut and paste into the blogging software. 
  • and most importantly – a secure locking mechanism for the front door to my apartment that locked and unlocked by the presence of A WIRELESS FOB!

Okay, companies. I’ve told you the secret to us consumers.  Start creating with convenience as your primary purpose and I promise I will reward you with the sixteen digits on my credit card, again and again.  I’ve laid out a road map for you, and given you examples.  If you do go bankrupt, don’t blame me.  

What about you? Is there a dream gadget that you’d pay for? Share it in the comments, so I know I’m not alone!