The Characters and Characteristics of Us Mobile Phone Reviewers

Ah, Back When Mobile Was Fresh - Share on OviSometime during the holiday weekend, I found myself on the Mobile Review website catching up with one of the more contentious sites/writers in mobile and there was this article that caught my eye, made me smile, and then made me reflect on how small the violin really is in terms of mobile. I’ve had the thought before, but man, just reading Eldar’s opinion of the different groups of those in mobile who talk about this stuff, I felt a sense of relief that I wasn’t the only person who was thinking along these lines.

Here’s one snippet that made me smile:

…But this task is infernally difficult – it is amusing for a researcher but the result always has little to do with the actual market and real demand. This job requires deep knowledge in philosophy, state management, consumer markets analysis and it’s never accurate. The best a researcher can do is to create a snapshot of the market as it is at the moment. But no one has ever managed to create a model that would accurately describe the motives of buyers. A market model today guesses and does not reliable forecast – it is just roulette…

Or, in other words, we make a lot of educated, but ultimately futile guesses about what works, doesn’t work, and what is to come in mobile. Its not exclusive to mobile either, the skillset of “analyst” is pretty much similar to that of “soothsayer” and the really good sounding ones, whether they are accurate or not, tend to make good hay speaking truths that might be or might not be.

Here’s another snippet that made me smile:

…Most of the discussions on the web about particular phones are not really assessment of pros and cons. What people do is they share their life experience based on their social status and circles they belong to. Many people cannot take the point of view of their interlocutors and are damn sure that their position is solid. People use megahertz, gigabytes, display specs etc. in arguments trying to prove their point but they just describe what’s relevant to their lives. From a philosophical point of view they just try to fight and stand their ground and prove once and for all who is right. It is an eternal holy war where no one ever wins and no one ever loses – everyone just sticks to his opinion…

I’ve written my share of mobile reviews and editorials, and in the past 3-4 years of doing so, I’ve moved away from anything that doesn’t sit first with relevancy. There’s no way that a mobile device for me will be relevant to someone else unless they are doing what I do and how I do it. But, many of the websites that do these reviews, even the ones I’ve written for, propose our experiences as doctrine for use, rather than a learning point for others. 

I’ve gotten away from specifically naming specs and certain features during my reviews of mobile devices. People are usually more concerned with how the device/service is to live with. I can deal with that point. My way of living with mobile is different enough from other’s that I can speak towards specific reasons why I do this or that, and the discerning reader will be able to make associations towards their lives. Yes, this ends up with me “sounding” as if I don’t have a sure standing as to what’s the best device or not – but that is not true. Like automobiles, mobiles have a context that works best. Each mobile has their own context, and some fit better than others. That’s not an issue of holiness, but it is one of identifying my opinion of things, and allowing others to form their own.

Ok, so this wasn’t to be an analysis of Eldar’s piece, but it did give me enough thoughts that I wanted to share. Let me go to another part of the piece that made me smile:

Students closely follow schoolchildren in number and homogeneity. Their purchasing decisions are independent, while limited budgets make them look for solutions offering good value for money. Surprisingly, they do not simply choose inexpensive or mid-range models, but go for flagships from various manufacturers. They like to search for an ideal phone, so they often change handsets. When you are young you always need something new and this tendency is reflected in their phone preferences. Another trend is swapping handsets with friends for a period of time.

(Emphasis mine)

As soon as I read this I saw myself. Granted, I don’t swap with others, and do prefer to have multiple devices, I do it really to see what solutions work best for me given the context of how I’m using my mobile. My personal device choices are always driven by study and budget, and I don’t hesitate to move when things line up. I’m also not afraid to be wrong about choices for myself, but will live with the choice rather than try and quickly turn it around for something else – which might have been considered, but wasn’t preferred.

The other categories there are literally ones that made me laugh and reflect. I agree (just about) with all of them. It is a healthy thing to recognize the fallacy of my own opinions and thoughts, and then to come to a realization that it doesn’t matter, nor is it actually all that accurate after a moment has passed. There was a moment of shock then peace when reading this section of Eldar’s piece. Not so much because I wasn’t aware of it, but because I was already moving in that direction without as many words to describe my internal chatter.

Reflecting on my own life with mobiles has had me at a crossroads for sometime. I’ve not done the amount of reviews that I have done in the past because I see little point in point increases in some specification that ultimately doesn’t make a difference to the overall experience. I left the platform wars a long time ago, and the megahertz/megapixels war is also one that I don’t care to fight – because really, how much of that really matters on a mobile. 

What does matter is how people are using these devices and services to improve their lives, their families, and their communities. Do they understand the implications of using those devices, or can they be empowered to invent new usages? Are we actually pointing to a better way of life with our views on mobile, or just getting in the way of how people want to real use these devices?

Those questions matter. And if for those reasons that I can write about mobile and it makes sense, I’ll continue. But, my opinion isn’t law, nor or my recommendations inspired holy writ. I’m just a person who’s experiencing this technology and its effects on our lives, writing about it in a way that I hope it compels people to think a bit. If life for them improves, then I’ve done good. If they only want something shiny, then I’m pretty much making a false god that they will be ensured by. Which, when even the religious context is removed from what I just said, doesn’t end at any place we should want for our fellow man/woman.