Gadget Season Is Over, Thank God

Well, that was fun, huh? We got some new phones, new iPods, new tablets from everybody, new Macs, probably some new ultrabooks or whatever, all in time for the holidays. We got a fresh new excuse to argue with each other about which ones are the messiah and which ones suck. Now it’s all over.

Can we go back to work now?

I won’t pretend it’s not fun to be a tech reporter during gadget season. I love a new computer. I love to imagine how much more I could accomplish with a next-generation device. This year’s crop did not disappoint, either. I’m thrilled with the iPhone 5, I’m intrigued about why Dan Frommmer calls the iPad mini “the real iPad,” I could see myself switching from an Air to a 13-inch MacBook Pro with retina display in the next generation, and I really enjoyed exploring the Nexus 10 tablet.

I enjoyed these device announcements because I could see how each of them might enhance my life as a reader and a writer. I like how gadget season makes me contemplate my daily workflows and consider ways I might change them, speed them up or slow them down.

Even more than that, I love imagining what young geniuses and first-time computer users can accomplish with them as prices and barriers to entry plummet. That’s the revolution of personal agency that makes tech so critical right now.

Remember The Real World

But all the drooling is gross. When people use words like “sexy” to describe a chunk of metal, my skin crawls. And the breathless comparison of specs and stats and prices gets us nowhere.

Why is it so easy for people who love technology to lose sight of what we do with it? It’s not specs or features or form factors that matter. It’s applications. It doesn’t matter which tablet looks better on paper. Which one is better for reading? I don’t care what the company says the battery life is; which phone will last me through a real day of work?

Not only do these practical questions make for more interesting reviews, they open perhaps the most important point that all techies have to consider. Everyone uses devices differently. We all have different habits, different jobs to be done, different interests, and different goals. No gadget is the best choice for everyone.

Your favorite phone may not be my favorite phone. Having the same phone as someone else shouldn't make you part of some tribe whose enemies use that other phone. As we go about the Internet reading about phones, can we all please try to keep that in mind?

Photo credit: Eliot Weisberg