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Try before you buy

One of Mark Hurst’s recent posts protests the prevalence of mobile phones that make a lot of noise when you turn them off, noting that the situations in which you’re turning your phone off most commonly (theaters, hospitals, courtrooms, bed) are the ones you least want to cause a musical fuss. Snip:

So: please test your new cell phone before you buy it. If we all stop buying idiotic phones, the invisible hand of the market will backslap the lamebrain who invented the “turning off” song.

Problem is, at least in this country, you can’t try before you buy. The phone in the store is a dummy that only gives you the vaguest idea of its size and shape, the online demo gives you an incomplete and totally contrived impression of the phone’s interface, and the feature checklist… well, it’s a checklist. Checklists aren’t just a mediocre and deceptive way to market a product, they got no soul, they don’t tell a story, and they never list “Plays annoying jingle on shutdown” as a feature.

I remain completely astounded as to how this practice continues. It benefits the store operators only marginally (they don’t need to sacrifice any phones for display stock, nor keep them charged, nor know anything beyond the magic checklist when the customer asks why it takes seven keystrokes to get to the address book) and it completely robs the customer of an informed decision. The fact that I go to browse the store to see what’s available then leave the store to investigate the phones more thoroughly means no chance of signing me up on the spot. Never. More than one vendor has lost sales from me for this exact reason; I end up going elsewhere to buy the exact same phone after doing my research online. Don’t make me leave the store! Let me play with the real thing, give me access to real product reviews from sites like MobileBurn, don’t bullshit me, don’t bullshit me, don’t bullshit me.

The only people the in-store–dummy practice benefits are the designers of phones with great checklists and lousy interfaces. You wanted broken, you got it.