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While I don’t own many Apple products, I know the feeling that they give me when I use them. I like my Android tablet but for some reason the iPod Touch just seems to give me a better feeling when I use it. For years I’ve called it the, “white headphones effect”. There are lots of brands that provide the same feeling while you are using them. Another great example is Whole Foods. Here in Austin there is another healthy supermarket, Central Market. Both stores are excellent but, for me, there is just a better feeling walking around Whole Foods than there is when inside Central Market.
We’ve seen tons of blog posts and meetups around the importance of design. And more recently many have spoken about how critical design is when it comes to our startups and products.
As I’ve been working on switching my food intake to a fully raw foods plan, I’ve been looking at buying some kitchen appliances. The first item I want to purchase is a blender. As I look around on internet sites and in stores at the huge variety of blenders, two brands always seem to be at the top: Vitamix and Blendtec. Both blenders cost between $350-500. Every time I see a Vitamix blender on shelves or in food videos, I’ve wondered if product design and “feeling” is really that important? For purposes of this conversation, we will assume both blenders provide the same quality blending output.
Take a look at the image on the right – that’s a Vitamix blender. To me it is amazingly ugly — it looks like it from 1950, it’s huge, it’s not appealing looking, it has clunky buttons and even the blending container is ugly. Just compare the product design of this Vitamix blender to the iPod Touch.
Even with the ugly, clunky, non-appealing design of the entire Vitamix line, their blenders are amazingly popular. Look at any of their products on Amazon and the reviews are all nearly perfect. Check out the videos you YouTube where people would rather divorce their spouse than give up their Vitamix. My nutritionist packs the Vitamix in her luggage when she travels around the country!
Then there’s the Blendtec – also an amazingly popular machine. You probably know the Blendtec machines from their popular “will it blend” Youtube series. The reviews on Amazon for their blenders are also very close to perfect. To me the Blendtec machine looks way more appealing. The machine on the right has a digital keypad, a digital timer, a more refined design. The Blendtec also has a jar that fits under a counter and just looks more modern. I don’t think it is “apple-level design” but certainly is a nicer looking machine than the beast above.
It’s easy to say that a blender doesn’t need good design and a “feeling”. But the more I am getting into this new healthy lifestyle, the more it seems everyone uses their blenders more than just once a day.
I guess Vitamix doesn’t need to look at creating a modern design with “feeling” if their current units keep selling like hotcakes. But I wonder how many more blenders they would sell if they created a blender that has the power of their current models with a design that is more appealing. Or maybe instead of entering the TV market, Apple could create the iBlend?
I haven’t decided on a blender yet but I am leaning heavily towards the Blendtec because of the “feeling”. So maybe the answer to the title of the post is yes, for me product design always matters.
Just over a year ago I wrote a post about how QVC and the other home shopping channels maximize the spiffs they make on their electronics products, especially the computer products. The basic idea behind their system is to sell “packages” where they take a popular electronic item like an Apple iPod Touch, Wii, etc. and bundle it with some “dollar” accessories so they can charge more for the package.
Here are the accessories included in the QVC bundle: rotating case/stand; touch stylus; music speaker ball; ear buds; retractable audio cable; headphone splitter; screen protector with cleaning cloth; car charger; and $75 Zinio gift card.
Outside of the Zinio card (which I doubt many actually use), the other accessories look like you can grab them on eBay or at Frys/BestBuy for a few dollars. I will also bet that the hosts will never tell viewers that this is the old model.
So how much does the iPad 2 cost as “today’s special value” on QVC?
- 16gb WiFi model – $699 (DOUBLE the Apple Store price of $399)
- 16gb WiFI + 3g model – $849 (Apple Store price $529)
And on top of the price, QVC charges $15 for shipping!
Overall I generally like what QVC offers in other categories but SHAME ON YOU QVC.
When I was in college, I worked at The Wiz in NYC and early on I realized that selling the accessories was the way to make the big commission checks. Sure the IBM PS/2 computers provided a nice spiff, but the real checks came when you sold a surge protector, a mouse pad or a telephone wire to connect to a BBS. Except I never offered my customers crap, the stuff QVC jams into their package is stuff you will likely never use.
One of the ways QVC tries to justify their price is their “easy pay” plan. This payment plan takes the full amount and charges your credit card a portion each month. The television hosts explain in all caps (!) that this easy pay plan has no interest but in all reality, you are paying a premium price to get the monthly payments and in the case of the iPad 2 deal, you walk away paying a LOT more.
Before the Today’s Special Value went live tonight, the same package sold for $814.00 on the QVC website. That’s a whopping $414 over the Apple Store price!
If you want to buy an iPad 2, I suggest either buying it directly from Apple or Amazon. The issue with Amazon is that they are only selling the new iPad directly, the iPad 2 is through all third party companies. The same goes for the new iPad – Amazon is only offering it through third parties so if you need it immediately, go with the Apple Store.
Lastly, since the price difference between the iPad 2 and new iPad is so close, I very much suggest buying the newest version.
Since I am currently living in Austin, I figured I would be early for the first day of SXSW registration and badge pickup since the line usually resembles the TSA airport security lines. I was there so early that the process had not even begun. There were a lot more people on line when SXSW registration opened at 11am local time than last year — probably because it seems there are more events this year on Thursday than last year.
I noticed something odd on all of the laptops being used for registration – from afar they looked like Apple Macbook laptops but the logo was covered up? Sure enough, when I made it to a check-in booth, the laptop was an Apple Macbook and the logo was covered with a post-it! See the image below as confirmation. The same thing appeared over the Apple logo at the press check-in.
Why would SXSW cover up the Apple logo? Generally the only time a logo is covered up is on television or in media when a brand hasn’t paid for the “product placement”. On the drive home I assumed that perhaps Dell or Microsoft are SXSW sponsors and that’s why the Apple logo is covered up – but neither company show up in the sponsor list. SXSW has become the Nascar of tech conferences so perhaps any brand that doesn’t pay gets no love?
Anyway – if you are attending SXSW this year, welcome. Remember to relax, and have a backup plan in case the events and sessions you want to attend are full or crappy. Should you need any local Austin tips or tricks, send me an email.
At SXSW 2011, the biggest mini-event seemed like it wasn’t the conference or the parties at the bars, but the pop-up store Apple setup to sell the brand-new iPad 2. Many of the tech blogs covering SXSW were trying to get all of the details and photos of the Apple Pop-up store before its opening. Lots of blogs covered the line of geeks waiting for the latest tablet.
With lots of chatter that the iPad 3 will be announced on March 7, will we see another pop-up store arriving in downtown Austin at SXSW 2012? SXSW interactive runs from March 9-13 and SXSW music and film run through the 18th. There are two stores in Austin but both are not within walking distance or a reasonable cab fare from downtown. The 2011 pop-up store was just a few steps from the convention center and I heard the chats on line were some of the best conversations during the entire event.
Google has setup an “interactive village” near the Austin Convention Center to offer lots of developer events (including Android) throughout SXSW. Apple’s potential offering to SXSW attendees might be the latest version of the iPad. Something tells me that if Apple does offer the iPad 3 at SXSW, the Google Village will be running a bit light for a few hours while a caravan of developers head to Congress Avenue to get their iPad fix. Since the Google village is to far to walk to the potential pop-up store, maybe Google should offer a shuttle to help developers get their crack and then back to Google.
The most popular deal request I am asked for help with continues to be the Apple iPod Touch. Even with this year clearly being the year of the tablet, it seems like everyone still wants to get an iPod Touch as a gift for a friend, colleague or family member. Last week I learned that HTC offers a similar device called the “Flyer” which is like an iPod Touch except that it is based on Android instead of iOS – I wonder why this hasn’t seemed to catch on as of yet (at least it’s not a popular item on the deal boards.
Here are this week’s top deals for the iPod Touch – frankly the Amazon deal is the best one because, for most, there is no sales tax. The key is that you should absolutely not purchase the iPod Touch at the Apple Store – save the cash and use it for apps or music!
Best Buy – Here the deal is on the 8GB model – for $189 plus a free $30 Best Buy gift card. (deal details)
Amazon – It seems Amazon has matched the deal from Best Buy (they seem to be matching a lot of electronics prices as of late) – purchase the 8GB model at Amazon for $189 and get $30 to use towards MP3 songs from the Amazon Music Store. Smart move here by Amazon because it gets you to buy songs from Amazon versus from iTunes. (deal details)
Target – If you want a larger iPod Touch, Target will be your best option. Purchase the 32GB iPod Touch for $295 and get a $40 Target gift card. (this is an in-store deal)
I have a 8GB iPod Touch and I really like it for walking – the Galaxy Tab has replaced most of my at-home general game playing.
This might be the best deal of Black Friday on an Apple laptop – especially if you have been wanting a Macbook Air. 9to5Mac has a scan of the Apple Store Black Friday ad showing the Apple Macbook Air starting at $898 which is $100 less than the price as of today. I assume that this $898 price is for the base 11.6″ display model. As usual, the better deals are outside the Apple Store.
Best Buy is running a deal for the same 11.6″ display base model for $849 but they charge tax for all.
Good news! For those in a non-taxed state, Amazon is the way to go on this deal. Enough people asked Amazon for a price match and Amazon has dropped the price to $849 with no tax for most (aff link). If this deal is anything like last year, you better be quick because Amazon removed the deal a few hours after posting.
Just to give you an idea, if you purchase the laptop from Amazon with no tax, you will save approximately $120! That’s 120 apps or songs at 99 cents and you don’t have to deal with the mall crowds.
This is definitely the entry level model with the following specs: 1.6GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 processor, 2GB memory, 64GB flash storage and Intel HD Graphics 3000. Take note that I believe the memory is not upgradeable. The other 3 Macbook Air models all come with 4GB memory.
If you have been wanting a Macbook Air and don’t want to shell out for the upgraded spec models, this is the way to go.
Last year the best Apple iPod Touch deals were around $229 – $40 gift cards. This year the deals are even better because Apple dropped their price on the iPod Touch to $199. Here are three of the best deals I’ve found so far on the device. The deals below are for the 8GB model and most have the white and black models.
UPDATE: Amazon has now listed the black iPod Touch 8GB as a “Lightning Deal” for 9PM PT this evening. No price is noted and the lightning deals usually go within seconds so you if you want one, you better have your mouse finger ready on the page at exactly 9PM PT. You can find the deal listed here – just keep scrolling until you get to 9PM (aff link).
Best Buy has the best deal so far – $194.99 and they throw in a $50 Best Buy gift card. The device is currently showing a sold out status but it is worth checking in today periodically as they have been known to replenish the supply throughout the day. (hey Best Buy webmaster, how about a short link or a URL to share that isn’t 2,000 characters?!?)
Target is offering the 8GB model for $195 with a $40 Target gift card.
Amazon has matched the price from another retailer on the 8GB model to $189.98. For most there is no sales tax and Amazon is throwing in a free $2 MP3 certificate (aff link).
All 3 retailers are offering free shipping so if your city charges an 8% tax rate, here’s how the deal works out:
- Best Buy – $210.59 – $50 = $160.59
- Target – $210.59 – $40 = $170.59
- Amazon – $189.98 – $2 = $187.98
If you want a guaranteed device, I’d go with the Target deal immediately. You can always return the item if Best Buy does open up more inventory.