The Case for Buying A Shitty TV

Buzzfeed’s recent article, “The Case for Buying a Shitty TV”, has left a number of people in the Apple Blogosphere talking. Take, for instance, Shawn King of The Loop:

Purists will scoff but he’s not wrong. And with “good enough” TVs coming down in price, it makes it less and less likely Apple will be interested in trying to sell their own high margin sets.

This is exactly the mentality that made people scoff at the idea of Apple entering the mobile phone market in 2006, and that seemed to work out pretty okay for them.

This is not to say I think Apple will jump into the television-making business — I very much doubt they will — but this rationale is short-sighted. I think Marco Arment is the one who nailed it:

While I’ve followed this advice on a lot of “dumb” electronics so far, I don’t think I’d go quite as far as getting a “shitty” TV for one big reason: I hardly ever buy a new TV. In my entire life so far, including every TV my family owned during my childhood, I’ve only had five.

A few paragraphs down, he continues:

Their size makes replacing TVs cumbersome and wasteful, so I don’t want to do it very often, and I think this is a fairly common stance. (This is one reason why I don’t think it would be wise for Apple to enter the TV-set business.) Since good TVs aren’t that expensive and last a very long time by consumer-electronics standards, and replacing TVs is so cumbersome, I don’t think there’s much reason to get shitty ones.

Televisions don’t pass what I refer to as the Civic Test: if a device cannot fit easily into a Honda Civic, the likelihood that you will give that item to a child, spouse, parent, wild-eyed hobo, or whomever else you please when you want to upgrade in a few years is diminished considerably. That means making room for a new one that you might not need is more difficult, and therefore you will hang onto that device for a longer period of time. Phones, tablets, and computers — areas where Apple is already active — pass the Civic Test easily, allowing for higher sales numbers and repeat customers.

Additionally, Apple’s devices are very personal in nature, especially the ones where they draw the most profit… You upgrade your phone or tablet to build a better experience for yourself, which makes the impulse to upgrade much stronger. A television is a communal device, and multiple people will have a say in when that device needs to be upgraded, which also screws the pooch on the whole “24-month upgrade cycle” mentality.

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