While common sense tells us that gadgets don’t have any gender, and that it’s all about the performance and functionality, it's rather unfortunate that gender stereotype has creeped into the tech world as well. This is amply evident from the hoards of gadgets targeted at women. And how do brands go about making their gadgets feminine? Quite simply, they do so by playing out every stereotype about women. Most cliched of them being the fondness of, or rather the association with the colour pink with women. And it's not just pink, anything colourful is decreed as feminine. Fuelling the fire, or in their words providing an option to women, the brands (most of which are headed by men) have launched gadgets in fancy shades and, just to be sure, have thrown in some bling as well.
Here we take a look at some devices that are targeted at women and what women really want.
What men think we want
We asked some techie-men around us which consumer electronic gadgets they think women would like, and the answers have been surprising – Samsung Galaxy S3 and iPod nano dipped in pink, Micromax Bling, HTC Rhyme, Milagrow Tabtop... the list was endless and pink. The Galaxy S3 is Samsung’s most popular high-end smartphone with a superior set of features. The device is at par with the likes of the Apple iPhone 5 and the HTC Butterfly, featuring a 4.8-inch Super AMOLED display, 1.4GHz quad core processor and an 8MP camera. While all this sounds really good and a reason strong enough to pick the smartphone, we don’t know what makes these men, and presumably the ones at Samsung, dip the device in pink to expect a greater response from women.
Not so charming...
We were also suggested some other phones for their sheer colour, bling quotient and delicacy, such as the Micromax Bling, BlackBerry Pearl and Nokia N8. While the BlackBerry Pearl was put in the list for its design, the Nokia N8 entered the scene for the vivid colours it is available in. On the camera front, we were clearly asked to check out the Nikon Coolpix S01. There were additional suggestions about small petite cameras in shades of reds, pinks and purples. Oh yes, it is all about bright colours and small size – the specs and the functionality be damned. Also, more emphasis was on easy modes, rather than burdening us with too many options. A DSLR for a woman? Nah. Because clearly, merely wielding a DSLR will cause a fainting spell and then actually clicking any pictures after making the several adjustments is quite simply unthinkable.
We didn't fare well even when it came to laptops for personal and professional use. Here the emphasis was on portability rather than their colour, thankfully. However, we are sure even men would prefer portable devices, unless they think carrying around a laptop weighing a ton will make them seem macho.
What companies think we want
The biggest brands in the industry are guilty of this travesty. The brands have felt compelled to launch "feminine" devices and we have endured several such gadgets being shoved at us over the years. While there may be some truth behind the flawed logic, the brands should learn from the fact that these gadgets meant for women are now a part of history.
In the not too recent past, Micromax decided to pay homage to the ladies and went a step ahead of mere colours. It added bling to the phone, something that it thought and believed would drive women crazy. Who can forget the ads starring Twinkle Khanna holding the "Pièce de résistance" Swarovski crystals encrusted Micromax Bling Q55, the sparkle from which catches the eyes of the models walking up the ramp, causing them to trip. This squarish phone slides out to reveal the keypad, features 2.4-inch TFT display screen and is dual-SIM, no less. But why would women want it? Because "it twinkles". No surprises there that when we asked the guys around us what phone they think are meant for women, the Bling got the maximum votes.
Hello Kitty? No, thank you
While Micromax went all out, other brands have been a little subtle in their approach. It isn't just the recent phones; go back a few years and you will see manufacturers singing a similar tune. One handset that pops to our mind is the Sony Ericsson Jalou F100i that was launched back in 2009. This tiny clamshell phone’s body boasted gem-cut design in a highly glossy finish. Even its name Jalou is French for jealousy, which the device will supposedly arouse in others. And what’s more, the Jalou’s shiny screen doubled as a compact mirror – all you had to do was press the cancel button.
HTC had launched the Rhyme smartphone, marketing it as a phone for women. Thankfully, it didn't flash pink shades, but opted for a subtle purple – passable, we must say. The phone has a charm indicator, a blinking blob with a cord that you can connect to the 3.5 mm jack. While the phone is placed in a bag, the charm will dangle outside the bag. It glows when you receive a call, a message, or a voice mail, which means no need for digging in your bag to find your phone while it rings. But the question is: why would we want to keep checking the charm all the time to see whether it blinks. More recently, Samsung felt the urge to paint the powerful Samsung Galaxy S3 with pink to entice women.
Moving on to the tablets, which have been a rage, we were happy that the companies have been building tablets without any (colour) discrimination. Until Milagrow broke the spell. The company probably was under a delusion that women aren’t buying the tablets because they aren’t pink. They went ahead to rectify the wrong and launched the Milagrow Tabtop for women with a meagre spec sheet and added further insult to the injury by including a 7-inch resistive touchscreen. And as if this wasn’t enough, the company threw in a ghastly Hello Kitty theme.
Last year, Japanese manufacturer Casio took matters into its own hands and launched designed-for-women cameras, the EXILIM EX-JE10 and EX-N10. What makes these cameras womanly? To begin with, they are small, available in pink (duhh) and they come with matching jacket and shoulder-straps. With the latter, you even have a choice of material from traditional leather finish to quilted black leather effect. Certainly, this takes the glamour quotient a notch higher. But wait, there’s more – to operate the camera, you have a joystick so that even those with long nails can do so with ease. And did we tell you that the glossy lacquered finish of the camera will remind you of a fresh manicure!
Casio's camera for women
When it comes to gadgets – be it camera, phones, laptops or even tablets and music players – as a general rule, anything "compact", "shiny" and in flashy "colours" is strictly for the ladies. And even the biggest brands have fallen in this trap. Even a company like Apple took the bait as it serenaded us with the flashy pink range of iPods. We hope we aren’t alive to see the launch of a pink iPhone. Coming to laptops, the brand designers have interpreted its larger surface area as a field to spew their imagination, from tacky floral prints to abstract art to even jewel finish glossiness and, of course, the colours they think we want. One brand that went all out was Sony, who launched its Vaio range in vivid colours, seemingly to make them female-friendly.
These aren’t the only brands or products that are guilty and the list could go on forever. But these were the ones that men around us thought were perfect for women. And the question "why" threw up the obvious answers like – because it’s pink, it’s so small, it’s shiny and even because some of these gadgets are a no-brainer and easy to use.
What we really want
While some men and companies feel that these are the kind of devices women want, we humbly disagree. Yes, who doesn't like a good looking gadget, but certainly not at the cost of specs and functionality. A powerful laptop or smartphone is great, and it does not necessarily have to be dipped in a gaudy or so-called “lady-like” shade to woo us. It can be simply in sophisticated black, and no lady will hesitate to pick it over a pink or purple. Yes, we’d love the Samsung Galaxy S3 or the iPhone 5 – not for the colour or diamonds encrusted on it, but for the sheer usability and convenience.
We aren't looking for a tablet with a feminine theme, and would rather pick the iPad, the Asus Transformer or the Nexus 7 over it at any given point. A good hybrid, convertible, for instance, the Lenovo Ideapad Yoga, would definitely get a thumbs up from us. Here again, it is the usability and powerful aspects which we consider over how it looks or feels. A colourful iPod isn't a bad idea, but not necessarily a bright pink, as we are more interested in the music, just like the male species.
But to give due credit, we even had a handful of alpha males refusing to fall for the pink-trap, asserting that there should be no discrimination and that these were cheap marketing gimmicks. We for one couldn’t agree more.
Cover image: Getty Images