31 Jul 2016

Checklists Are a Way to Build Great Devices

Many devices have flaws that are totally foreseeable, but weren't foreseen, for some inexplicable reason.

This problem isn't confined to low-end products. Even the best products by the best companies often have glaring flaws, like the iPhone coming with only 16 GB storage or the iPad "Pro" coming with only 2GB memory.

Companies should adopt checklists to prevent such dumb mistakes. For example, all companies that make Android phones should adopt the following checklist:
  • A battery that lasts for 16 hours of turn-by-turn navigation, so that your phone doesn't run out of power when you're outdoors, no matter how heavily you use it [1].
  • 32 GB storage.
  • 3 GB memory, so that apps don't keep reloading as you switch between them [2].
  • Screen brightness of 500 nits, so that you can read the screen in sunlight.
  • Resolution of 400 pixels per inch [3].
  • 100% sRGB coverage. This will be noticeable to users (coming from worse screens) as bright, saturated colours.
  • LTE.
  • Two nano SIM slots [4] [5].
  • The latest version of Android (Marshmallow as of today), with an update to each version within a month of Nexii getting it.
  • Monthly security updates, as Google does.
  • Either the stock skin or a better one, not a worse one.
  • A responsive UI.
  • No bundled crapware.
Any company that simply follows the above rules will end up making an Android phone that's better than most phones in the market.

One can come up with similar checklists for other devices like laptops, cameras, power banks, and so on.

A checklist protects you from making many obvious and foreseeable mistakes of the kind most devices have, resulting in a better product.

A checklist has a secondary benefit as well: eliminating a plethora of models that are very similar to each other. That makes it confusing and frustrating for a user to pick one. Making some good and some crappy models will mean that many users invariably picking a crappy model and then having a poor user experience. A checklist ensures a minimum level of quality. You won't have a phone that runs out of battery during the day, for example. OEMs can still differentiate by going beyond the minimum requirements above. For example, the requirement of 32 GB storage doesn't prevent an OEM from selling a high-end phone with 64 or 128 GB storage.

In summary, a checklist protects you from making many glaring and foreseeable mistakes, resulting in a much better device at any price.

[1] This would probably be a 4000 mAh battery. Slightly less for an iPhone, like 3500 mAh, since iOS uses battery efficiently.

[2] 2GB will do for an iPhone, since iOS uses memory efficiently.

[3] The difference is noticeably compared to lower-res screens. The iPhone 6 Plus at 400 PPI is noticeably better than the iPhone 6 at 326 PPI.

Beyond 400 is probably unimportant except for VR, and it comes at too high a price, like taking up a lot of battery, or being dim (like the Nexus 6).

[4] These have many uses: personal and work numbers, getting a local SIM when traveling abroad or when moving between states. Or you happen to have two numbers, and many people keep calling you on those numbers, so you want to continue them...

[5] With dual standby, as opposed to crappy phones that require you to select one SIM as the active one, and the other SIM is turned off.

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