Why Trying A Computer In A Store Sucks And How Manufacturers Could Make It Better

Note: - The terms 'computer' and 'device' include traditional computers, tablets, and smartphones. - The term 'platform' refers to operating systems like OSX, iOS, Android, Windows, etc and the devices that run them.

As technology lover I like to go to stores and try out new computers, tablets, and phones. However, I always leave unimpressed. The problem is that none of the applications I use are installed on the demo models. So I end up checking out the home screen for a bit, maybe opening an app or two, and then leaving. I don't feel any lust for the new device, in fact I leave feeling like I would never buy it. This happens even if it's something I actually want. I'll use the iPad Air as an example. I have used my iPad 3 for 300+ hours in the last three months, I love using it even if it's frustratingly slow sometimes. You would think I'd love trying out the iPad Air but doing so gives me little incentive to upgrade. Why? Because I can't try the applications I'd normally use to see how they function with the upgraded hardware. I only see a narrow window of functionality from the few demo apps already installed. So if I can't use the apps I want, how can stores make trying out a new device even worse? By not having it connected to wi-fi. I don't know why, but whenever I try out an Android tablet or a Windows PC, they are never on a wi-fi network. This wouldn't be a problem if there was an open network to join, but there never is. Which means I don't get to try anything that requires an internet connection, which is practically everything these days. (This problem does not extend to Apple devices.) So how can this be fixed?

  • Device manufacturers need to sign agreements with stores that their products will be connected to fast wi-fi.
  • Device manufacturers should start allowing their demo units to download any app from their app store, without logging in, free of charge. I want to see how the apps I use will work on this device and only showing me a couple demo apps isn't doing that.

Both the maker and the reseller want you to sell you something, so why not make the experience the best it can be? It would show the full capabilities of your platform and give users a concrete example of how the device will function if they buy it. Being able to try the apps I want just might sway me to switch to another platform. (Which is probably the manufacturers goal considering that most North Americans have a tablet, computer, and smartphone.)

The Future Of Demo Units

In the future I would like to see the demo unit customize itself to me. I log in with my Apple ID, Google Account, etc, and it quickly downloads my most used apps. I don't think it's feasible to ask for this to work cross platform unfortunately. Here is how it could work:

  • You walk up and are prompted to try the default mode or to log in. By logging in it creates a virtual session and quickly downloads your apps and files.
  • It sets everything up just how you like it. Your home screens and settings are synced from the cloud and you're logged into all of your apps. This way you can see how the software and hardware updates will benefit you.
  • When your done, you log out which wipes the virtual session and all your data from the drive. (Or it times you out after a minute and wipes the drive.)

Security Concerns

Security would be a huge concern and I think the best way to implement this would be to use temporary log ins and a server check. This would ensure no malicious code has been added to the device and no real passwords would be used. There would also have to be a way to make sure that sensitive files are protected. One possible way to protect them could be that only file titles are downloaded initially, but you could get the entire file by opening it. Device manufacturers would have to ensure that this process is easy, safe, and is trusted by the user, not an easy task. However, it would make trying out a new device significantly better and therefore encourage more people to buy it.


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