Holiday Shopping? Android, Apple, or Microsoft

Every situation can have its uniqueness, but some basic questions about apps, form factor, and how they plan to use the device will quickly boil choices down for consumers.

Have you ever noticed how we are all considered IT experts come the holiday time? Brothers, mothers, grandfathers, aunts, cousins and close friends all turn to us for their latest technology purchasing decision. Since I am a bit of a gadget guy, I enjoy these conversations. It’s fun to step through what they think they want and what they actually need. Here are a few of my observations:

  • Apps matter. If you currently rely heavily on an application or a set of applications from a specific app store and an app of equal or better functionality is not available on a competing app store, the decision is pretty simple. Stick with your current platform of choice. Upgrade if you feel you need a new form factor (viewing size) or the latest high resolution experience. This scenario is most often observed with current Apple users.
  • Form factor: I’m personally a new fan of the phablet. Here is why. If you want one device that can handle 90% of your computing activity the phablet works very well. The viewing size is usable for many tasks that include web browsing, a richer experience with apps due to the larger viewing size, and I have found that you can be productive on the device as opposed to smaller form factors I have owned. Ignore your friends when they ask “how does that fit in your pocket” and “that thing is the size of your head." I carry it around just fine and with a headset (I use a wired one) I rarely if ever hold it to my head and when I do it works fine. Dare I go as far to say that the iPad Mini would be a fantastic device if you could make phone calls with it.
  • Work and play. It’s really work and personal unless you are a big gamer. The ideal device enables you to use it as a work and personal device. This boils down to a device that has a keyboard so you can input at a reasonable rate and touch so you can interact with apps and the workspace very efficiently. I have used many devices in the work/ personal environment and right now you will be hard pressed not to look at some of the new Microsoft devices. Whether it is the Surface or touch-enabled Windows 8.1 devices from Microsoft partners, the work/personal experience is tough to match. You basically get a productive work experience with Windows apps and enjoy the tablet touch experience. With that said, apps for Windows are getting better, but still need some attention

 I’m real impressed with the number of devices that are sub $400. So if you find yourself advising friends and family, start by looking at the Windows Surface, Apple iPad Mini, and the Kindle Fire HDX. These devices are all VERY capable. Side Note: Have fun decoding all the commercials on TV with your take on them and explain what really matters. My prediction is:

  1. If the user is already an Apple consumer and heavy user of apps, then the Apple products are pretty sticky. Be prepared to still pay a price premium, it's not the perfect match between work and play, but it comes with great support from the genius bar at the Apple retail stores.
  2. If the user isn’t an Apple fanboy and Microsoft productivity apps are not important, then the Kindle devices can be a great match. Do your homework here first and double check that the functionality matches requirements and be ready to enjoy the gateway into Amazon.
  3. If the user is a Microsoft Windows user and wants a touch-enabled experience, the new Windows 8.1 devices are an ideal match. Windows 8.1 touch does involve a little bit of seat time to get used to the gestures and the apps in the app store still need work, but the devices deliver a solid work/ personal experience.

Have fun! Every situation can have its uniqueness, but some basic questions about apps, form factor, and how they plan to use the device will quickly boil choices down. And don’t forget about the phablet. Go visit the retail stores and try out devices like the Nokia 1520 and Galaxy S4. Now I need someone to convince me why I need one of these ridiculous cellphone watches.

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