How to buy things

Making major tech purchase decisions is hard. It’s even harder when there are way too many options to choose from with each having way too many differentiating features. Here are the absolutely important features to look into for the most common major purchases that you should be looking for when making a decision. These should be your starting point to filter out the options you don’t need to consider.

Buying a car

  1. Buy Automatic Transmission. Save your knees. Even if you have a lot of highway running, prefer an automatic.
  2. You will be spending most of your time INSIDE the car. Prefer the top model of a “lower” car over the base model of a “higher” car.
  3. Smaller is better. Unless you really have a use for an SUV, a sedan in the same price range would be a much better buy any day.
  4. Just because you can afford to buy a car doesn’t mean you can afford it. Always consider annual maintenance cost and surprise repair costs.
  5. Give priority to safety features over cosmetic gimmicky features. You need airbags. You don’t need push-to-start.
  6. Safety ratings of cars are important. More important than any other feature. You will be surprised to know how unsafe some of the popular Indian cars are.
  7. Unless you are a pro driver, things like horsepower, torque, 0 to 60 timing are mostly inconsequential. You think you understand how they impact your driving. You don’t.. They don’t mean zilch in your everyday commute. Just look for comfort.
  8. If you don’t have parking, don’t get into the hassle of buying a car. It’s just painful. Take an Uber.

Buying a phone

  1. Don’t spend more than 1/3rd of your monthly income on a phone. If your income permits a lower-end phone, then let it be. A phone can be lost/stolen/destroyed in the blink of an eye. You do not want to keep on paying the EMIs of a phone you don’t even use.
  2. No matter how much it costs, every phone lasts a maximum of 2 years. Keep this in mind.
  3. In your day to day use, megapixels don’t matter. All phones in a given price range have more or less the same camera quality. There is never a clear winner. Don’t waste time watching too many reviews about it.
  4. Battery life is the most important feature of a phone. All the other fanciness goes out the window if your device is out of juice. Fast charging is also a great feature to have.
  5. Getting your phone wet is an eventuality. It will happen sooner or later. Get a device that is at least water-resistant, if not waterproof.
  6. Find out how much a replacement screen for the phone costs before buying. These could be prohibitively expensive. You do not want to end up carrying a fancy phone with a broken screen.
  7. Unless you are a pro, things like processor and type of RAM are inconsequential. 99% users don’t use more than 4-5 apps regularly. All phones are good for such people. Storage is the only number you need to care about. If its expandable, even better.

Buying a laptop

  1. Prefer a newer generation lower CPU over an older slightly higher CPU. Unless you plan to do some heavy-duty work, 6-8 GB RAM should be sufficient.
  2. Buy a laptop with SSD storage and not a conventional HDD. They are much faster and lighter.
  3. If you plan to travel a lot with your device, weight is a major factor. Every gram counts. Smaller thinner laptops are better for this case.
  4. The thinner the laptop, the fewer ports it will have. If your usage requires the use of a lot of peripherals (pen drives, mice, memory cards), keep this in mind. Types of ports on the device is also important.
  5. Ability to upgrade the internals in the future is a nice feature to have. Laptops don’t change drastically over a period of a couple of years. If small upgrades can be done then it’s better.

Buying a TV

  1. If you have sufficient sources for 4K content, then only get a 4K TV. No point running HD content on a 4K TV. Most people are not even able to tell the difference between 4k and HD unless they really look into it.
  2. HD Ready is not HD. Don’t let anyone fool you.
  3. Prefer a dumb TV, if that’s an option. This gives you the ability to use the smartness of your choice (Fire Stick, Apple TV etc). If that’s not an option, prefer android TV over a custom vendor-specific operating system.
  4. Everything is HDMI these days. The more HDMI ports the better.
  5. Big doesn’t necessarily mean better. Unnecessarily bigger screen if not viewed from the right distance is less enjoyable than a smaller screen.
  6. Unless your TV has front-facing speakers, don’t buy into any sound technology gimmick. You will need a separate soundbar.
  7. If possible, buy from a store where you can yourself see the display quality and not have to rely on comments from internet strangers.
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I have helped many startups in building their products and I would be happy to have a chat with you about your idea. Catch me on twitter at @akhilrex