It would be an understatement to say I’ve read a lot of product and app reviews during the process of writing this blog and my books Android Travel Life and iPhone Travel Life. My research has certainly changed the way I shop for gadgets. I thought it might be useful to share here some of what I’ve learned about buying tech products online.
First, I would suggest conducting your research carefully. Read reviews across a number of different websites, preferably written by people who have used the product for some period of time. (You can find some very active consumer review websites or retail stores other than Amazon.com that cover tech products.)
Importantly, it is best to look for review sites where the chances of the review being faked, paid for, or otherwise influenced by the seller are reduced.
With respect to reviews, while its great to look at the five-star and one-star reviews, sometimes the reviews in the middle range (the two-star to four-star range), can give a more balanced product appraisal.
A few consumer websites like Amazon.com now offer the ability to ask questions about products that are then answered by the community. (Sometimes the manufacturer will also respond to questions.) It might be worthwhile asking questions there or reading responses to questions from other product users. Bear in mind though that sometimes people unknowingly give incorrect or inaccurate answers. YouTube can also be worth checking for product reviews, or to get a better sense of how the product works.
Next, be careful about relying upon overly positive reviews in the media and blogs. These outlets need to continuously review new and innovative products. And so many new apps and products will be described by their manufacturers “as featured in bestselling [newspaper / publication / blog]”. However, reviewers working for these publications often don’t have the chance to test products over an extended period of time or in real world scenarios. Also, their product use may also be based upon pre-release units. So it is true that this media can be a great source of information on new products and can write amazingly insightful technical reviews. However, through no fault of their own, they are sometimes not the best source of information about how a product or service works for the average user in real world scenarios over a long period of time.
Also, during my research, I discovered it was not uncommon to find products and apps that received glowing reviews in the media and were almost universally canned by people who actually purchased them. In that sense, it can be beneficial to read reviews from multiple websites, or wait for a little while after they are released until initial user reviews start to be posted online.
In addition, I discovered more than a fair share of crowd funding campaigns whose products were still not delivered 12-18 months after the campaign ended. Some will never be delivered. A few of these products were in the $100+ range, and because the seller often uses your money to fund their product development and production, you usually will have little chance of getting a refund. I’m not anti-crowdfunding because crowdfunding campaigns have birthed some amazing products.
You should be aware though that some proportion of those campaigns fail or the end products do not meet the expectations of many of the funders. It can be painful to scroll through thousands of comments from unsatisfied users on these crowdfunding websites. I would say by far the majority (> 80%) of tech crowd funding campaigns I looked at, there were dozens if not hundreds of unsatisfied funders.
Finally, you can minimise your risks by buying high quality products with a comprehensive warranty, from reputable manufacturers and retailers, who have a good return policy. If you can, purchase them on a credit card that offers some kind of extended warranty or purchase protection.
With respect to warranties, you need to be aware that these days many companies will not honour the warranties printed in their advertising materials. Sadly, some third-party sellers on websites have no intention of honouring their promises. Alternatively, they’ll make it inconvenient or expensive (return / restocking / postage fees) to do so. And so, outside of the typical 30-day return period to the retailer, you’ll be stuck with a dud product.
If you’re buying your product at Amazon.com, check low-starred reviews across different products from that brand to get an indication of their level of customer support and how they handle warranty issues.
In this respect, here’s a couple of things to be aware of.
Sometimes companies write fake reviews about a competitor’s product. (If the review comes from a verified purchase, it is probably less likely to be a faked review.) Also, sometimes companies will respond more favourably to those who have written a negative review, in the hope they’ll get that review changed or removed. It is sad that they’re not actually genuinely addressing the needs of their customers, but instead trying to salvage the damage to their reputation. Other times, they won’t do anything, because they know that one negative review will sit amongst hundreds of five star reviews. Some companies will even go as far as getting associates to down-vote a negative review.
In summary, if you do most of the above, you can minimise the risk you’ll end up with a product that doesn’t meet your expectations. There are several tech product categories, like external batteries, storage media, and cables (to name but a few) where the risk of getting a defective product seems to be much higher. However, if you’ve followed most of the above, and do end up buying a dud, you should be able to send it back.
Introducing Travel Tech Store
In order to overcome some of the problems people can experience while buying travel or mobile tech products, I’ve created an online Amazon Associates store for this website, called Travel Tech Store. The slogan for Travel Tech Store is Hand Picked Mobile & Travel Tech You’ll Love. It is in recognition that many of us have a special relationship with our tech gear!
Everything in the Travel Tech Store is hand selected. My intention is to stock the store with the most useful, innovative, and high-quality tech related products specifically for mobility or travel purposes. Importantly, I have tried to choose those products that also have consistently high consumer ratings.
I put a lot of time into selecting the products that go into Travel Tech Store.
The aim of this store is to try as best as possible to weed out many of those products that look great on paper and yet people have had some problems with them. If I find something no longer meets a certain standard, it is removed the next time I get an Internet connection. Retail (and most online) stores can’t do this because they have physical stock they need to clear. It is one of the advantages of having a virtual storefront as does Travel Tech Store.
Unlike many blogs or websites, the aim of my websites are not to write posts about the latest and greatest gear so that my websites looks fantastic by breaking the latest cool gadgets, and then you spend your hard earned cash on something that doesn’t live up to your expectations.
I agree that we need websites to break new products and to give new app developers a voice and a chance of making it in a fiercely competitive market. And, crowd-funding websites are also a great source of finances for those who dream of creating innovative new products.
That’s not the primary focus of my websites though.
My websites are about introducing you to the best of the best. That is, those high quality goods, services, and apps produced by companies that take pride in creating a premium quality product, care about their customers, and are committed to product evolution and innovation.
I want to support you in finding travel or mobile tech gear you’ll love, and that will serve you over the long term.
You can find the store at (www.traveltechstore.com) or by clicking on the ‘Store’ button at the top of any page. You’ll definitely find some cool mobile tech gadgets and accessories there that you’ve never seen before.
I had a great time putting the store together, and I hope you enjoy it.