Is choice a bad thing in consumer electronics?

I’ve been thinking about getting a tablet PC for some time now and I’ve been humming and hawing whether to get an Android tablet like the Motorola Xoom, the Samsung Galaxy Tab, or whatever one is getting the most media attention at the moment. My other option is to get an iPad 2; now I was initially skeptical about the iPad when it launched, it lacked several features that I thought were “essential” at the time, was too expensive, and was locked in Apple’s legendary walled garden etc.

As time goes on however I’m warming to the iPad, those essential features don’t seem so essential, the price although just as expensive seems to be the same as all the other tablets on the market, plus the iPad seems to be the only one that is available subsidised with a data tarrif in the UK. As for the walled garden… I have to admit having used an iPad it’s a really nice garden. I mean it’s no garden of eden, but… I’m going to stop that metaphor before I start talking about being chucked out of the garden for eating an Apple.

Anyway, I look at the Android landscape and it’s constantly changing, there are countless articles that compare the “best Android tablets” on the market, but by the time you read the article it’s already obsolete because bigger better more powerful tablets have been released.

Don’t get me wrong, I think this is awesome, I really like the Android ecosystem and I love my Android phone.

There is an implicit “but” in that last sentence though, the “but” is that my top of the line HTC Desire was obsolete 3-4 months after I got it, I’m not looking at all the cool Tegra2 powered smart phones with envy. Okay it’s a year later now, and my phone contract is nearing an end, but I wanted a Desire HD when that came out, and there has been phone after phone that I’ve thought hey that’s pretty cool I want that.

Before I went Android it was the constant Stream of Nokia phones that filled me with envy, not sooner had you bought a new Nokia phone then they would release a new one with a slightly better screen, slightly enhanced camera, or one cool new feature. They just kept on coming, no manufacturer should make you regret buying one of their products, but that is how I’ve always felt with phones, there is always a better one around the corner, so how long do you wait?

This is where I think Apple may have stumbled onto something, with Apple you know where you stand, they will without fail release a new iPhone every year, and it seems that this policy is being extended to the iPad. this new phone/Tablet will provide an incremental upgrade to the previous one, so if you are a gadget whore you will want to get the latest and greatest but if you aren’t it’s okay if you skip a generation. This works well with the 18-24 month contracts that carriers are pushing these days, you can comfortably buy on release date and be happy with your phone/tablet for two years before it’s time to get the next iteration.

Apple also subscribe to the Highlander “There can be only one” strategy, all iPhones are created equal, the only difference is the size of the solid state drive, you don’t have to worry about getting the one with the better processor or the one with or without GPS or Bluetooth, or WiFi or whatever other sparkly feature, they all have the exact same features. The same applies to the iPad except that you have the choice of 3G or not, although arguably if you wanted a non 3G iPhone you can get an iPod touch (Don’t call it an iTouch, Apple employees hate that).

So yeah, from a consumers point of view there is something comforting in the knowledge that there isn’t going to be a bigger better badder, more sparkly phone/tablet coming out in a months time to make your once shiny but now quite dull one look like a turd with a touchscreen.

From a manufacturers point of view Apple’s iPhone team have a year to focus on building the best possible iPhone they can without being distracted by releasing half a dozen different other phones in the interim, they have one product one live version of the OS and one dream (okay I just like having things in three’s because it sounds better they probably don’t have one dream).

Whether or not I get an Android tablet or an iPad 2 is still up in the air, I’m probably going to play the waiting game a little longer, but how much longer? I don’t know.