Buying accessories for Android and Windows Phones is still a nightmare
There was a time when you would enjoy what we called a true unboxing experience. We actually instituted the unboxing in 2007 because hey, you opened the box, and it was full of a ton of things that also included a phone. I remember when I pulled my first Compaq iPAQ h3630 out of the box back in 2002. Aside from the software CDs, the usual charger and the literature, the box also included a pouch to carry my new PDA, a protective sleeve for the back, two extra styli, and even a docking station for my desk. Oh man those were the days.
Do any of you remember Brandon Miniman’s famous smell test for leather cases? It was the funniest thing, but yes, even back in 2007 when we started doing video reviews, when we unboxed Windows Mobile smartphones, they all included a leather (or alternative) case, aside from a headset, a vehicle dock in some cases, and some were even lucky enough to get video-out wires.
What happened to the world? Smartphones haven’t really become any less expensive in the last five years, and still we see companies cheating-out on the amount of accessories that they include in the box. Recently all you get is a box full of literature, a charger, and if you’re lucky you might even get a phone in the box as well. Times have changed dramatically, and not necessarily for the good.
I’m sure that all of our readers that work for carriers or an OEM are probably reading this and saying, well, this is what companies have had to do to cut-down on costs and survive in our recent and troubled times. I can actually agree with that, because I do know how margins have dropped substantially for most companies, but the problems with this new system is that the user is now forced to buy the accessories he or she needs. I would consider that fair if smartphone prices would have seen a significant drop in the last couple of years, since hey, why should I pay more for a phone just to get a holster that I don’t want to use, right? Well, reality has been a little more one-sided, and less oriented towards saving the user some money.
But ok, being a tad more realistic with what’s going on, I’m going to cut OEMs and Carriers some slack, and I’ll now focus on what it’s really like to buy accessories for these phones lately. Have you ever experienced the frustration of trying to buy accessories for your current device?
I’ll share a couple of my experiences and I hope you do as well in the comments:
This is sadly still an iPhone world people
I used to be the guy that would never buy a case for my smartphones, since I simply don’t drop my phones. That said, I’ve picked-up a couple of hobbies lately that do require me to protect my device. A couple of days ago, a friend of mine asked me why I use an iPhone 5 for running, if I have so many other awesome Android phones. As funny as it may seem, one of the two biggest reasons why I use an iPhone has to do with accessories. I don’t sweat like the average human being, so I needed a waterproof phone to run, but I also needed the display to be usable when wet, so instead of getting a waterproof Sony Xperia Z, I ended up settling for a Lifeproof Frē case for the iPhone 5. The same goes for iPhone-ready headsets that are waterproof, etc. All you have to do is walk to any Apple Store, Target, Wal-Mart, Best Buy, or even some case stands at any mall, and you’ll find cases for an iPhone.
Only certain Android and Windows Phone OEMs try
In the defense of Android, if you’re currently rocking any high-end Galaxy smartphone, you’re in luck. It took third-party manufacturers a while to consider the Galaxy S III and now S 4 as products that are sold enough to invest in, but during that period, Samsung was bold enough to build their own cases, flip covers and sleeves. These have never been the most affordable solutions on the planet, but at least they understand the need for accessories and have addressed it.
In the case of Windows Phone, I commend Nokia for their efforts. They haven’t brought many accessories to the table, but their Lumia 820 had replaceable back covers, and the new Lumia 925 and Lumia 1020 are all being supported by new snap-on cases. It’s not perfect, but they’re clearly working on it.
It’s really a sad world out there for the rest of us. When I talk about accessories, I mean mostly those that are not just provided by the OEM, where in the case of Apple, the iPhone 5 has no OEM case built by Apple. I have yet to find any sort of accessories for my HTC Windows Phone 8X, or my Sony Xperia ZL, and I had similar issues with my old HTC One X, and I have heard of the problems many have faced with the current HTC One.
Who is to blame?
Some of you may argue with me that you don’t need accessories for your device, and that I shouldn’t complain about this. I may agree with you in part because I shared this same mentality a year ago. Sadly that’s not a realistic way of seeing the problem. The rest of the world does drop their phones, or they do wish to invest on high-quality headphones that do interact well with the phone’s controls, or some love vehicle docks, camera-lens adaptors, battery-extender cases, you name it.
Most of the time, I feel that there are simply too many changes in the smartphone market for this to be a feasible business. Some may agree that Apple and Samsung have rested in their laurels with their current devices, but that has really proved positive for them. They’ve created an empire of moneymaking opportunities for case makers, and there’s no better way to promote your own product, than to have third-party companies support it with their own products. OEMs can cross their arms and neglect Apple and Samsung’s mentality all they want, but when we see which companies are really making money in the smartphone market, it’s clear that a change in mentality is in order.
The bottom line
Surely the world is not over because I can’t find a decent sleeve for my Xperia ZL. The same can be said about the fact that even though I despise the headphones of my HTC 8X, I can always just use any other headset and forget about the controls, right? Well, I don’t agree with that. If I were to see this as an end user who’s paying top-dollar for each of these phones for the next two years, I’d love for the OEM that I chose to care.
Whether you like swimming, running, bike riding, or any other hobby that can benefit by the interaction with your smartphone, wouldn’t it be cool if there were accessories that were easy to find to help you enhance your experience? I guess my point is that, unless you own an iPhone or a Galaxy S smartphone, your options are limited, and that’s sad. And to make matters worse, this is actually a sadder story for the OEMs that currently struggle to succeed, since the iPhone and Galaxy S 4 will remain in the top of mind of users because of little things like these.
What about you? Do you have all the accessories you need for your smartphone or are you currently frustrated? Leave us a comment.