Gadget of the Month Club

Hey, Verizon (& Google & Apple & Dell & BestBuy….).

I want to try the Droid but I am already in indentured servitude to AT&T for my iPhone (and have no particular desire to lose it). As much of a gadget geek as I am (I’m no Leo Laporte – my wife would’t let me be – but I do love the darned things), it’s still just not worth the $2,600 commitment to get another phone, even if Michael Arrington is having orgasms over it.

I’ve been arguing on This Week in Google that what I want is a Gadget (or Phone) of the Month Club. Let me try it. It’s worth it for the phone and device companies because they just might seduce me into buying. They’d get more press from the folks who matter – early adopters. They’d sell more gadgets and service plans. They could even use it to try out new gadgets (who wouldn’t pay to be a beta tester for the coolest gadgets?).

I wish someone (are you listening, Best Buy? is there an entrepreneur out there looking for something new to do?) would start a club that would rotate gadgets among freaks every month (or two). Obviously, it won’t work if we all expect to get the Droid as soon as it’s out without paying full freight. So charge more for that privilege. Every month, the one-month fee for a particular device goes down. I’m willing to pay a premium to try the Droid the first month or a Chrome-powered netbook. But I’ll wait three or four months to get my hands on a Nokia N900. The market will determine the demand: let us bid up the premium for the first-month Droid. Mind you, I’ll also pay an entrance fee to be a member of the club (maybe a dozen of us can do it on our own).

If I fall in love with a gadget I try, I can buy it. If I don’t, Netflix-like, I send it back and then get the next one. If I break it, I pay for it. Whoever runs this club doesn’t have to put up all the capital to get the hardware; our fees and deposits will create good cash flow.

What’s not to love?

: LATER: Surely Dave Winer would join the club. He just bought two new gadgets and already stopped using one.

  • http://artofgreatthings.com Jeffrey Tang

    That’s a cool idea, Jeff. How would device wear and tear be handled? Would you be able to pay less for a gadget that had already been “checked out” a few times?

    Be interesting to see how something like this would integrate with service contracts. Perhaps it could be an add-on to your existing cell phone plan?

    • http://www.buzzmachine.com Jeff Jarvis

      right. the price keeps going down. demand will drive up the early price for the coolest objects. it will also determine how many need to be bought.

  • http://www.briteblog.net Matthew Quint

    Neat idea, Jeff.

    I see this as analogous to car rentals. For this to work, there would have to be regular re-use of the devices for the finances to make sense. And this is not something that is as common a practice in the gadget world–refurbished, yes, but used, not as much.

    It may even be that a “pay for it by the day, week, or month” would make more financial sense in terms of handling the high early demand to try new devices.

    You could then also buy insurance on breaking the device, or risk having to pay for it in full.

    On the back-end the devices could be refurbished and “permanently” sold at a slightly discounted cost–something that might well appeal to a user who has tried a few options and then wants to make a commitment.

    (Verizon customers would be a little stuck w/o SIM card capabilities, though.)

    • http://www.buzzmachine.com Jeff Jarvis

      RIght: There’s an aftermarket for the device. In the end, the retailer would gain, say, $300 revenue for a $200 device, plus membership fees.
      I like the insurance notion.

  • http://twitter.com/kgunnIT Kevin

    I love the idea, or even no contracts for all carriers. Even a phone rental would be nice. Instead of paying $xxx, you’d pay what would be the equivalent to $xxx /12. For example, instead of paying $199 for the Droid, plus a two-year contract, you’d pay $16.5833 (199 divided by 12) a month for the phone, plus a monthly plan of your choice.

    With phones such as the iPhone changing what as been every year so far, I think a two year contract is no longer possible. What ended up happening for many iPhone 3G users was that they had to finish out their contract before they could upgrade to the 3GS.

    If all carriers dropped a contract model and went for a monthly, contract free model, then we could easily switch back and forth between carriers when a new device is released, as well as change devices within a carrier.

    As for other, non-phone type gadgets, I like your idea. For those of us on a tight budget, such as myself, I don’t have money to fork out every time something new is released, but would at least like to play with it for bit.

    • http://www.buzzmachine.com Jeff Jarvis

      You’d have to pay more than 1/12 to make it worthwhile for the company, especially to get hot gadgets early. AGain the market will determine the price based on demand. But I’d be willing.

  • http://www.pacd.tv Jeff

    Damn wives! Mine is the same way!

  • Scot Phelps

    Jeff,
    Point blank- I’m in. I’m a total geek in the NY area and I’ve been thinking about this idea for a long time.
    Scot

  • http://wyman.us Bob Wyman

    Is this “NetFlix” for Phones?
    You would sign up to have “one phone at a time.” You would have a “queue” of phones that you wanted to try and then work through them as fast or as slow as you wanted… You’d probably need to have a “permanent” phone to hold you over while stuff was transiting in the mail — or, you could sign up for “two phones” to allow you to hold on to the old phone while waiting for the next one on your queue to arrive.

    Clearly, this means that you need to rely on SIM cards for all personalization and that you’d need clear separation between phone and service plan.

    bob wyman

    • Dennis

      Bob,

      The trouble with depending on SIM cards is that only ATT and T-Mobile use SIM cards in the US. Verizon and Sprint are CDMA technology and it is not as simple as moving a SIM card from phone to phone with them. Something as simple as moving your phone number from phone to phone with Verizon and Sprint requires the user to re-program the phone with the assistance of customer service or the carrier’s website for instructions and codes that are specific to each phone.

      Overall Jeff’s idea has merit but it will be a small startup that is able to execute the details or an established internet wireless outlet such as wirefly that has access to all four major carriers.

      Hey Jeff — I had an iPhone and hated the ATT coverage so I canceled it. The way early termination penalties work these days is that they are pro rated so the further you are into your contract the lower the penalty. I think I had to pay $150 to dump them which was a small price to pay to switch to a service that doesn’t have spotty coverage. Additionally, I know that sprint and t-mobile are offering to pay the penalty on business accounts if you switch to them (not sure about Verizon). this is in addition to the other rebates and discounts you get when you sign up for them. My new Sprint HTC Android phone will be here on Tuesday!

      Dennis

  • http://www.n3pro.net Dave

    I would love that, get the rewards of being a gadget addict without the financial problems. Sign me up! This Week in Gadgets!

  • Arnold

    I would definitely join this gadget club.
    This club would have to have an inventory of items (ex: 5 Droids, 5 iPhone 3Gs and 5 Power Mats). Whenever there’s a new product launch, members can bid or randomly chosen to be d 1st reviewer. A fee and a requirement to write/post reviews of the new gadget for the benefit of the club members.
    To be fair to the “financially challenged” members, it would be nice to have a win-bid limit per month/quarter in order to give others a chance..

    One question though, would review units be banned in the club?

  • Chuck

    Great idea! I’ll join. OBTW just finished WWGD. Great book, trying to push some of the ideas on my boss, but being a hard sell.

    Chuck

    • http://www.buzzmachine.com Jeff Jarvis

      I’ll beat him/her up

  • http://cnewmark.com Craig Newmark

    Sign me up!

  • http://savethemedia.com Gina Chen

    Love this idea for a gadget-of-the-month club! I want in.

    Honestly, I think companies would make money off it easily, although I’m hardly an expert on that. At the very least, they’d get some real-life marketing research.

    Plus, I like Jeff’s idea of Netflix-like scenario. Sometimes, a gadget works great but we just outgrow it or get bored with. That happened to me with the Flip Video camera. Wanted it so bad; got it; never use it. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with the product really (although don’t like how it downloads automatically to just one drive) but found it didn’t fit in my life as I’d like.

    I could sell it on ebay or craigslist, but, too lazy. So it sits.

  • Kypar

    Great idea!
    Where did you come up with the $2,600 investment though?

  • pukerocket

    Jeff, You said you have an iphone, so you’re not willing to shell out for another 24 month contract. But give you a device for a month and you might change your mind? Don’t think so, kid.

    Think you’ll get to loan a droid for a month for $10? Stupid idea. Guess you’re a cheapass trying to figure out a cheap way to get to play with a new toy every few weeks

    • http://www.buzzmachine.com Jeff Jarvis

      Aren’t you the nice guy? Can’t you have the conversation without insulting behind your made-up infantile name? Jeesh.

      I didn’t say $10. Show me where I said $10. I said I’d pay a premium.

      Next time, discuss civilly or be killed.

      • pukerocket

        I used the $10 to illustrate my point. Whether it’s $10, $20, $50 or even $100…that’s nothing compared to a 2 year contract that pulls in $2,600.

        You never answered my first point. You said it wasn’t worth the commitment to get another phone, then you said you could be convinced if you got one on loan? Which one is it?

        • http://www.buzzmachine.com Jeff Jarvis

          one might lead to the other. it’s marketing via sampling.

  • pukerocket

    Also, the other problem with this is: Get a WinMo, a Pre, or any other 3rd rate iphone imitator for a month…. You won’t buy it on a contract. These companies know this.

    They don’t want you trialling their products cos they know they’re mostly overpriced

    • http://www.enlightenedfish.com Krishna

      You are not a tech enthusiast are you? :-).

      • pukerocket

        Yes I am. I guess i understand how these companies work more than you do.

        They don’t want you trialling, they want you tied down for 2 years. Is that so hard to understand?

  • http://bestbuyideax.com/ Jennie Weber

    Jeff this is a sweet idea. You should post int on bestbuyideax.com. People vote and comment. Employees get new ideas then advance those that make sense. We try lots of things. Please post it – and then let your followers know – they can vote! We are listening to our customers.

  • http://www.enlightenedfish.com Krishna

    Hi Jeff,

    From listening to the last few twig shows, I was eagerly awaiting this post :-). One glitch, what happens to the numbers? It probably cant be the users primary phone unless its GSM and you are just looking at popping in and out the SIM cards. But that would mean unlocking the phone, so that means the AT&T and Verizons of the world have to cooperate…

    You could look at extending this to other gadgets too (ebook readers anyone?). And hey, GDGT should do this, really…

    All the best to whoever gets this business idea on the road! Till then, I am afraid non-attachment is the only solution… :-(.

    Cheers,
    Krishna

  • http://ellenbarone.com Ellen Barone

    Drool, drool. Great idea! I’m in. Keep me posted.

    In the meantime, lovin’ WWGD. This idea is the perfect example of what you’re talking about. I’m now rethinking everything and having a blast doing it.

    Many thanks,

    Ellen

  • Andy WOlber

    Jeff:

    A variant of this idea exists: see http://www.rentobile.com/

    Haven’t leased from them, but the concept seems to match up with what you’re proposing. They also don’t seem to have inventory of the “latest and greatest” phones, but the basic idea is there.

    Andy

  • http://www.citrusbegin.com peter levitan
    • http://www.buzzmachine.com Jeff Jarvis

      Cool. I want one in NY.

  • Bill Umbarger

    Being a charter member of the financially challenged club, I like the ideas being mentioned. I am a gadget freak (when I can afford it). Right now I’m with Verizon, just got a new LG Voyager. Love the Mobile TV. Please let me in if this idea goes all the way. Bill

  • ls

    a new company is renting the latest designer clothing to customers on the netflix model:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/09/technology/09runway.html?th&emc=th

  • http://PerfectAndroid.com JoeyAndroid

    I love this idea. I can see combining this idea with other related ideas to make it even more awesome.

    I first found out about your idea from CNET and one related idea Chris M. mentioned was the second hand market. Your idea would work very well with the current Android revolution as you know since you used the Droid as your example. There will be plenty of Android devices coming out in the next few years and who wouldn’t want to try them all out. The customization of Android would allow the second hand market to boost the value of used Androids.

    I also loved the idea of a Sample Lab as pointed out by @peter levitan. So a member o

  • http://PerfectAndroid.com JoeyAndroid

    Sorry about that, I just bought an HP mini 311 (netbook) and it sucks. It is always making me delete words and hits buttons at the wrong time.

    As I was saying, I love the idea of a Sample Lab as pointed out by @peter levitan. So a member of the Gadget of the Month could go to a place like the Sample Lab and could check out a new gadget for an hour or physically check it out for an extended period of time like a library book. I used the analog of a library book instead of a Blockbuster dvd movie because my Sample Lab establishment would be like a combination of a Library/Starbucks/Internet Cafe.

    Do you know of anyone that would like to invest in my idea?

  • http://PerfectAndroid.com JoeyAndroid

    I forgot to mention that Barnes and Noble comes closest to my idea. B&N has been a real inspiration but my idea really come from the “missing digital experience” that I encounter every time I walk into bestbuy or a wireless store, or the lack of a real Internet Cafe in my location.