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Why Different Is Not Always Better


I read an article this morning with some dismay about the new Lumia 1520 and wireless charging. Anyone who keeps up with Windows Phone blogs already knows that the AT&T variant of the Lumia 1520 is being offered without built-in Qi wireless charging. It was assumed by me, and probably most others, that a Qi back plate would be made available as an accessory, just like it has for all of the more recent Nokia offerings. But now it appears that AT&T will only be offering a PMA compliant back plate. WTH. There is a battle raging right now between three different wireless charging standards, with Verizon and AT&T at least, drawing their proverbial lines in the sand. Up until now, Nokia has adopted, and been pushing the Qi standard, incorporating it into their varied devices and making a slew of accessories. But I suppose because of Windows Phone’s small market share, and a lack of cohunes, Nokia had no choice but to cave to AT&T’s demands. Please say it isn’t so.

As an early wireless charging adopter (actually I had to wait nearly nine years between reading about it and actually experiencing it) I accept the fact that the four Qi chargers I already own will eventually need to be replaced by a “common standard”. But I FLAT OUT ABSOLUTELY REFUSE TO PURCHASE WIRELESS CHARGERS MORE THAN ONE MORE TIME. In other words, until these fat heads can sit down and agree on something, Qi devices are the only thing I will have any interest in. And if AT&T pursues their wireless charging exclusivity approach, it WILL be a deal breaker for me. as I will not buy another phone without wireless charging capability. Period.

I am a big “standards” guy. Not to the point of a socialist kind of society where everyone and everything is (supposedly) equal. But the truth is, standards helps the world go round. Imagine if GE and Sylvania decided to use different threads on their light bulbs for the past 100 years. Chaos. I believe that products should be able to, and encouraged to, differentiate. Not by becoming proprietary, but instead by making a better, more feature rich product. Differentiating via proprietary means is the lazy way out. And that is specifically what I have always disliked the most about Apple. Look at Bluetooth headsets, Wi-Fi routers, and computers in general. They all comply to standards, but yet can differentiate enough via reputation and features to make them attractive to buyers. I am attracted to companies that do not choose to pigeon hole themselves into a proprietary eco system. LG Smart TV’s only work with LG phones. Samsung Smart TV’s, same thing (I believe). By contrast, XBox Smart Glass is available for Windows, Apple and Android devices to control your XBox One. Now there is nothing wrong with a company making their own offerings “more” compatible. But to block competition via proprietary means is a dangerous precedent. And one that I will not be drawn into.

Case in point. If you look at the image above (I know you were waiting for me to get to that) you will see that the tips on the ends of these batteries are different. I purchased a bunch of stuff for my outdoor Halloween display this year, most of it coming from China. I generally remove the batteries that came with products immediately and replace them with fresh Duracells. But on two of the ten or so items I purchased, the Duracell batteries would not work. Turns out that some battery compartments have a ledge that the battery sits against, preventing the Duracell battery from making full contact. Nothing that can’t be fixed with a Dremel (I have done this more than once over the years), but why should I have to. Ironically, some of the other Kendal batteries I removed/replaced look identical to the Duracell battery. Go figure. Did these Halloween accessory manufacturers really expect me to purchase their specific brand of battery to operate a screeching raven? I hope not.

If AT&T believes that the PMA standard is superior to Qi, I’m good with that. But offer “both” attachments as options and let the marketplace decide which is better. That’s the right thing to do.