I will never buy any piece of tech item without going back and forth in my head about whether I should get it or not, through numerous articles and videos, before making up my mind. Sometimes after reading even 10 positive reviews, one review will change my mind about the item. And it may be because of something really unimportant. In that way the company selling this item will have lost a potential buyer.

Reviews are important. I do them for fun, because I like sharing my thoughts and feelings about different products, and also because I just like testing out new stuff. It excites me to open up something new – a phone, a laptop, earphones etc. – all the while thinking of how to write (or make a video) about the product in a way that whoever will consume my content will get to understand the experience of using that item. It gives me joy when someone says something I recommended worked well for them, or something I didn’t recommend actually was bad, and that they wish they didn’t pick it up.

But reviews do not ALWAYS capture the full idea of something. That’s why I keep telling people in my reviews to walk in to experience shops (if they can) and touch the devices, have a sense of the design, and how it feels in their hands, test out the cameras, check out the software, before making any purchase decisions. I’ll admit not everyone can do this: sometimes the item is only available online, or other times the review is enough to paint the full picture.

I understand for such things as phones, tablets, home machinery etc., reviews do the most, and most people can make up their minds just from the articles and videos, as these give the full picture of the experience. But for other things like TVs, Speakers, Headphones, and some Smart Home Gadgets, no review will show you the picture quality as your own eyes would, and none will give you an idea of the sound quality as would your own ears.

Recently I lost my bluetooth earphones, and I walked into what’s essentially branded a Samsung Experience centre. I had been thinking all week of buying the U-Flex bluetooth earphones, but I wanted a feel to them before making up my mind. No review could paint the sound quality to me. And since we all have different preferences, the only way I’d be sure about the sound quality of the sets being good for me, would be by testing them out. Also buying them offline would be cheaper given all online sites have absolutely high markups.Β 

Anyways, the store wouldn’t allow me to test the earphones out before purchasing them. “We don’t have test units. You can only know their sound quality after buying, and paying in full”. What happens if I hated the sound quality? What if I wanted to test the over-the-ear headphones that they also had? What would happen if I preffered something else they sold in there? Why couldn’t I compare? Why was it an experience centre then if we couldn’t experience before buying?

I still got the earphones though: I didn’t have a choice as I really wanted replacements for my lost ones, and a reviewer mentioned they sounded absolutely clear with no unnecessary bass, and incredibly long battery life. (Which is all true, they sound amazing). But the chances I would have walked out without buying are high. They had different earphones and headphones, and being spoilt for choice made me want to read all their reviews given that I couldn’t test them out. Also, they’re earphones, and testing them out publicly is sort of gross thinking of all the dirty ears, but availing samples for people who want to test is not hard for a company.Β 

Would you buy a TV, Sound System, Earphones/Headphones, Smart Home appliance without first experiencing it? I don’t think I can. I want to know my decision is good, and there’s nothing better I am missing out on if I can afford it.

I hope companies get to understand the importance of experience centers that don’t just focus on displaying phones, and tablets, but also getting people to interact with the important accessories. I would like to see Samsung, or even Infinix allow us to walk into their experience shops and test out headsets, wearables, etc. How do we know what we are missing out on if we can’t even touch them? I know Xiaomi Kenya has promised a one of a kind experience shop opening soon.

In the MI HOME all of Xiaomi’s Smart Home gadgets will be in this home scenario where customers will be able to experience them working as the company intended. Hopefully this opens soonest especially since we know them to always delay on stuff. But I am excited at such an approach because it will really spike interest in many people who are yet to be convinced on the usefulness of such products.