Gimmicks Sell

13 November, 2011 08:05PM · 3 minute read

I’ve been around technology for my whole life - I suppose most people reading this can say the same. Big corporations trying to pry your hard-earned money from your fingers will do anything - yes anything - to grab it if they can. Long-term saleability of any product has to have more going for it that just one single idea usually, but if you can add more and more ideas to the product in a way that compliments the others, that can’t hurt can it?

In short: Gimmicks sell. There’s nothing wrong with that but please don’t get angry or flippant with companies that want to add one or two to their next product. Recently there was a bit of controversy with Android 4.0 - so-called “Ice Cream Sandwich” and their new feature that unlocks the phone using facial recognition. Seems simple enough: put the phone in front of your face and it recognises you as the owner and unlocks itself for you. It wasn’t long before someone found a way to cheat the system and by showing a photograph of the owner to the phone they were able to gain access every time. Begin the tirade of criticism: “oh what a terrible idea” and such from the peanut gallery.

The fact is facial recognition is nothing more than a gimmick. In the same way that the iPad 2 has Smart Covers that can automatically unlock the iPad 2 when they are opened. Steve Jobs sold the idea on stage by proudly announcing that the cover had “magnets” to a few chuckles in the audience. Obviously magnets are nothing new but it was a cool gimmick to have the option to automatically wake up and put to sleep the iPad 2 whenever the Smart Cover was opened or closed. The security conscious would never use since it leaves the iPad 2 vulnerable to anyone to access at will.

I think the problem is that facial unlock on ICS was seen by those less tech-savvy as being some kind of biometric security measure or at least an add-on that extends the security of the device. The fact is that this was never really the case. Google intended it to be a gimmick for those not as concerned about the security of their devices - no different to Apple with their iPad 2 Smart Covers.

The thing about gimmicks is, if you keep adding enough cool gimmicks on top of others and they work well together, you get a potentially popular product. I think it’s great Google added this gimmick - Apple will eventually add it themselves I imagine. It pushes the envelope forward and that’s a good thing.

Just remember that it’s only a gimmick - and gimmicks sell.