If you buy a 4G hotspot device, would you also expect it to come with a built-in microSD card reader?
Dustin Curtis recently ranted about all the junky devices Motorola keeps pumping out. They sell a multitude of devices, all of which tout one minor form factor feature over the others. Compare that to Apple who keeps it simple, doesn't give in to the whims of finicky consumers (who don't actually know what they want), and continually builds a single, solid product. Motorola tries to give users "the features they want" with a variety of options whereas Apple often leaves things out in lieu of a better overall user experience. And history has shown that users will lean toward the better experience.
No sooner had I read his post than I experienced this first-hand. I've been trying out different 4G mobile hotspots in the past week. Some work great, and others leave you scratching your head.
Samsung makes a device for Verizon. It's one of the smallest 4G hotspots, and it just works. It does one thing and does it well: it gets you online at incredibly fast speeds. There's no screen on the device itself; it has an admin panel you can access for all the nerdy details. On the device, the only lights indicate signal strength on either their 4G or 3G networks.
Now compare that with offerings from both AT&T and Sprint. They offer a product made by Sierra Wireless. These products are a little clunkier (larger) and both sport on-screen displays. But the part I was really surprised about is they both have built-in microSD card readers.
One question: Why?
At what point would I ever want a microSD slot in my 4G hotspot device? Is that actually a selling point?!
I just don't get it. I can't think of a single case where a microSD card reader would come in handy. Chances are if you've got a microSD card (like in a camera), you've also got the device you used it in, and if you've got the USB cable to connect your 4G hotspot to your computer, chances are it's the same USB cable you'd use to plug the original device straight into your computer.
A 4G hotspot with a microSD reader is like buying a car that also washes your dishes, or a TV remote that doubles as an MP3 player. Why don't these products just focus on doing one thing and doing it well?
Device manufacturers are giving their product designers too much freedom. Just because you can add a "feature" doesn't mean you should. Does it really make sense? Will anyone ever use it, or will it just complicate things? Manufacturers need to start thinking about if a particular feature makes sense in the grand scheme of their product.
This same principle extends to web apps. In FolioHD, my co-founder and I are constantly wrestling with the hard reality of not adding features. Adding features is easy. It's not that they might not come in handy; it's that they complicate the usability. And if they are secondary features, you run the risk of losing the vision of your product and the reason you created it in the first place.
Cutting features is one of the hardest things you have to do. It's easy to come up with ideas. It's hard to pare down. Don't give users the world. Give them what they need. And if you keep it simple and do it right, you'll have a greater chance at success.