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Consumer Technology Is Still Too Damn Confusing!

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During the 2004 Consumer Electronics Show, Consumer Technology Association CEO Gary Shapiro made a bold statement during his keynote address to attendees.

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“While consumers love our products, they are also scared of them,” Shapiro said. “They find [them] complex and confusing.”

Shapiro recommended that companies strive to simplify the entire process, from improving instruction manuals to training salespeople on how to better communicate the complexities of new technology.

Fifteen years later, little has changed. Whether it’s a 4K TV, or a new smart phone or tablet, today’s devices still seem to require an engineering degree to go along with that extended warranty.

Electronics stores are populated with signs that scream out technical gibberish seemingly lifted from a Star Trek episode.

“High Dynamic Range.” “X-Motion Clarity.” “Wider Color Gamut.” “TruMotion.” “Full Array LED Backlight.” “Dolby Atmos.” “802.11 Dual-Band.”

Is it any wonder that most people head back home after a quick gaze around their neighborhood CE store? They are intimidated, confused and frustrated.

Sure, today’s products are so exciting in concept that many brave souls actually buy something. This despite a round or two of confusing tech talk from a sales clerk who usually joined the store after a three-month stint at the Gap.

However, when the consumer brings home the device, his excitement is often quashed when he tries to learn how to use it. Product manuals usually feature confusing diagrams and excruciatingly small type to accompany those arcane technical terms. And calls to technical support units at technology companies could try the patience of Job.

All in all, the consumer is often lost — and so is the consumer electronics industry, because that consumer is less likely to recommend the product to a friend. In fact, if anything, he might dissuade a friend from going through such a frustrating experience. (By example, how many 4K TV owners caution their friends from buying one as well because it’s so difficult to self-calibrate the settings to achieve the best picture? Or, how many people bad-mouth a live streaming service because they can’t figure out how to get a consistent picture, at least most of the time.)

As the author of a site called, TV Answer Man, I have committed myself to providing clarity and simple solutions to today’s most difficult TV technology issues. But the industry needs to wake up and do its part, as Shapiro urged 15 years ago.

Perhaps, in fact, it’s time for Gary to give another speech.

— Phillip Swann

About TV Answer Man (1552 Articles)
The TV Answer Man is veteran journalist Phillip Swann who has covered the TV technology scene for more than two decades. He will report on the latest news and answer your questions regarding new devices and services that are changing the way you watch television.

2 Comments on Consumer Technology Is Still Too Damn Confusing!

  1. ” …excruciatingly small type to accompany those arcane technical terms….”

    As an older American (Baby Boomer) this one sentence hit home. It is not just me. There are 10 of millions of us with one thing in common – less then optimal eyesight. I can deal with the technology but not the instructions to help me do it. I use to be able to hold the instructions in one hand while I followed the instructions with the other. Now my free hand is is occupied with a magnifying glass trying to read the “excruciatingly small type”. My ophthalmologist says I have 20/20 vision in both eyes with my glasses but most times I cannot read the type. Much of it is poorly written and I suspect it is being translated from Chinese, Japanese or other language and not very well at that. It can be maddening! The thing is, it is an easy problem to solve. Sometimes I resort to scanning the manual, enlarging it and printing it out so I can shed the magnifying glass.

    Note to manufactures! Don’t let your customers have bad experiences with your products just to save a few pennies on the instruction manuals!

  2. ALL true, waldejewp,
    But don’t forget about the Mind Blowing experience “trying” to call Tech Assistance. There should be a law, “It is a FEDERAL Felony” punishable by DEATH, NO TRIAL, to have Overseas call centers if you have a service (Telephone, Cable, Internet, etc) or sell a produce in the USA..
    ONLY Tech Assistance and Call Centers with PERFECT ENGLISH speaking Techs or advisers. are allowed in the USA.

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