Rethinking The Digital Music Future

You have one chance to guess what the most-returned gifts were this

CMP Information Week
InformationWeek Daily - Thursday, Jan 31, 2008

Editor's Note

Consumers Not Smart Enough For Smartphones

You have one chance to guess what the most-returned gifts were this holiday season. If you guessed smartphones, you'd be right. A new survey from Opinion Research Corp. shows that 21% of gifted smartphones were returned to the store. The reason? Inability to understand the product set-up process. Perhaps smartphones aren't ready for prime time after all.

That's really shameful. One in five people found smartphones so difficult to set up that they gave up and returned them to the store. Hardware manufacturers, wireless network operators and software/platform creators should be red-faced with embarrassment.

"Irreparable damage to a brand's reputation and perception of the company itself is at stake when a product is not easy to setup and use," says Kevin Wood, senior technology analyst at Opinion Research. "Nearly 16% of the respondents we surveyed indicated that their poor setup experience significantly worsened their perception of the company that manufactured the product."

Did you hear that, product managers? How do you explain yourselves?

Unfortunately the study doesn't dive into which models or platforms in particular were most returned. That sort of data would be very revealing, and even more embarrassing for the companies responsible for creating impossible-to-understand products. The study is slightly skewed in that it did not include the Apple iPhone nor BlackBerry devices from RIM in its questions. I am sure people returned those devices as well, but at what percentages we'll never know.

Some smartphones are easier to use than others, there's no doubt. But if one in five regular people can't figure them out, what does that tell us? The user experience is not getting the job done right.

What do you think? Are smartphones cut out for daily use by your average Jane and Joe? Do you have a story of your own, perhaps about a relative who was gifted with a device this past holiday season? Come to my blog and post a comment with your thoughts.

Eric Zeman
[email protected]

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