The first step in buying a new product is to do some preliminary research to determine how well the product performs, regardless of how well it says it performs. It takes some work, and comes with a little confusion sometimes; I routinely stand in the shampoo aisle completely befuddled in front of 30+ options. The trick has always been to see through the marketing—a difficult task that is just as important for consuming technology as it is for consuming anything else.
The video above shows a perceptive girl name Riley wondering why certain toys are marketed to girls and others to boys. She astutely raises the point that “the companies . . . try to trick the girls into buying the pink stuff,” suggesting that the marketing pigeonholes people into buying only one type of toy, when really, the recipient might just as well enjoy something else. The tech industry has displayed signs of heading in this same direction, with pink hardware marketed specifically toward women. Wired recently addressed this trend—the idea that men and women need different technology. The article basically concludes—fortunately for us—that men and women are different, but not that different. No kidding!
Marketing and design are manipulative by nature, and it goes without saying that every industry exploits both, with varying degrees of success. One example of good design that is gender-specific is the bicycle. The largest difference in bicycle models is the crossbar, which was removed from women’s bicycles back in the 1900s so that women could wear skirts without the risk of being exposed. This feature is irrelevant today, but it is kept for tradition’s sake.
On the other hand, we have the BIC Cristal For Her Pen, which is “a ball pen essentially for women”! Is a pen an instrument that requires a special design for women? All Bic has done with this product is make a silly statement about women’s writing tools, and therefore opened itself up to some much-deserved criticism.
To reel this all back in, let us consider the ePad Femme, the tablet, with apps pre-installed, that has motivated all the attention being paid to “female friendly” technology. iPad comes with apps pre-installed, too, but the ePad Femme is equipped with a suite of apps for yoga and shopping, assuming that that’s what modern women do. And they do; what’s galling is the egregious assumption that these yoga-pant-sporting shoppers are incapable of downloading their own apps. This is pretty condescending, but I managed to find one legitimate silver lining. The tech industry is marketing to women. If smartphones had existed 70 years ago, would this have been the case? Probably not.
The apps you download should reflect what you do. My solution to little Riley’s problem has always been to choose the appropriate tool for the job, regardless of what stereotype I play into or don’t. Here are some apps that are just plain useful. Happy downloading!
Public transportation info. Hopstop has schedules for many different cities.
Self-explanatory. Let’s hope you don’t need this one.
Provides the same service as the website. Ideal for searching for restaurants on-the-go.
Hear a song on the radio that you like, but don’t know what it is? Shazam identifies songs in as little as 1 second.
Just like it sounds, and just as useful.
The most intelligent alarm. Put it on your mattress and it will analyze your motion to determine what sleep cycle you are in. You’ll wake up during the lightest sleep cycle, feeling refreshed.
Text-messaging app that is perfect for international travel, or a limited texting plan.