/ Technology

Shouldn’t innovation go hand in hand with reliability?

tech tree

Out with the old and in with the new… but does our impatience for the latest thing contradict our desire for reliable products we can trust, asks our chief executive Peter Vicary-Smith

We’ve all seen children on Christmas morning barely finish unwrapping one present before they tear into another. It sometimes seems that this is how manufacturers see the consumer.

‘Look,’ they say. ‘Here’s something newer and shinier than the one you already own!’, as if the very words ‘new’ and ‘latest thing’ are a kind of magic dust you can sprinkle on a product to instantly make it better.

So the latest washing machine, for example, will offer a dazzling array of new programs – when our research shows that, in reality, most people stick to just a few that do the job of getting their clothes clean.

Repeat sales strategies

Using dubious strategies to generate repeat sales is nothing new.

Back in the 1920s, manufacturers in the ‘Phoebus Cartel’ colluded to artificially limit the life of light bulbs; and the phrase ‘planned obsolescence’ was commonly used in the 1950s.

American industrial designer Brooks Stevens called it: ‘Instilling in the buyer the desire to own something a little newer, a little better, a little sooner than is necessary.’

Today, it’s a phrase some manufacturers have clearly taken to heart as they try to provoke constant impatience for the latest thing. And often this contradicts our own desire for reliable products that we can trust.

Reliable innovation

It’s no accident that our reliability surveys are among the most popular articles in our magazine.

Many of us will have felt the frustration of owning a phone that suddenly and mysteriously seems to stop working as soon as it’s out of warranty. Or owning a laptop that within a few years is virtually useless because it can’t be updated to the latest operating system.

Our tech team has even flagged problems with so-called smart TVs losing access to popular services, such as BBC iPlayer, and new TVs launching without them being available at all.

Genuine innovation is to be welcomed, but it cannot be a case of just thrusting new products onto the market and abandoning interest in and support for the ones that are already in our homes.

Our latest survey reveals the brands that manage to combine strong reliability with excellent products. And, encouragingly, you don’t have to pay the highest price to get the most reliable brand.

As for the rest… all products have a natural lifespan, but is it too much to ask that a product lasts longer than it takes to recycle the Christmas wrapping paper?

What innovations have you come across that have become unusable before their time?

Comments

Two things I seem to keep having problems with are data storage and batteries.

Why is tech sold with just sufficient data storage to operate when new? Mobile phones, sat navs, computers, Sky box, cameras, and probably a few more. Some cannot even handle a major update unless you buy further storage. Many come with a slot to add further storage, others you have no choice but to ditch the product and buy a new one. The latter may be less common now, but it has certainly been a problem in the past.

Most of us with Sky boxes will have struggled with space problems. My long-time gripe has been that Sky retain half your hard-drive for what they think you want to watch when you would like to use it for what you really want to watch, resulting in half your hard drive over-worked and likely to fail prematurely while the other half sits there doing nothing useful.

Life and replacement of batteries is another problem. Why did it cost around £125 to replace a Dell laptop battery that had a life of less than a year? My Oral-B electric toothbrush battery has died at under 3 years old and although further investigation is needed, it seems the battery might not be replaceable. Not being able to replace the battery on a product with an RRP of £200 is daylight robbery. Just glad I bought it in a sale.

Are selling products with insufficient data storage and irreplaceable or extortionately priced batteries other forms of ‘planned obsolescence’ relying on those with little understanding of tech and data storage to replace their products sooner than is really necessary?

alfa – in a price competitive market, battery quality / longevity and storage capacity are features that can be rolled back to keep costs and prices down.

Many phones and cameras can have their data capacities increased by swapping the memory card for a higher capacity one. I expect that canny consumers will want to avoid brands that don’t allow that.

Most computers can also be upgraded, to extend their working lives. But newer, slimmer laptop designs seem to make that a lot harder to do. To me, 10 years seems to be a reasonable working life for a home computer, but there is no denying that newer computers may be faster than older ones. Eventually, I find that, relative to newer ones, the old ones are so slow that there is little point in keeping them.

TomTom Go 5100 has internal storage of 8GB. Would 16GB or even 32GB push the price up that much? As the operating system or maps get larger over time, updates could fail with insufficient capacity. I have seen that scenario with Win 7 on an early SD drive and had to install a larger drive as the owner didn’t understand more space would be required for updates and their own software.

A friend has just bought herself a new laptop for around £150. I haven’t seen it or the spec but she says it has a lovely little 11″ screen. She intends putting all her photos on it from her camera, but will have no idea what spare space her hard drive will have. It will be too much hassle for her to use a USB pen, so it won’t be long before that laptop joins her previous laptop with ‘it doesn’t work properly’.

And I think that is how manufacturers are getting away with a form of ‘planned obsolescence’. A lot of people have been thrust into the tech age with no training or background to understand it. Some will try to learn, but many cannot be bothered as looking at a PC spec is akin to another language to them.

As regards planned obsolescence, I think Which? is partly to blame, because its reviews for the likes of the latest iPhone largely pass along the marketing messages from their manufacturers.

In similar vein, Which? has also largely passed along the “hurt and rescue” messages that came around with the end of consumer level support for Microsoft XP and the “rush to upgrade[1]” that followed the launch of Windows 10.

[1] words other than “upgrade” are available for this change.

I certainly agree with you that Which? plays a significant part in the drive to replace things, but that is the nature of consumerism. Because my eyes glaze over when a lot of tech stuff is reported I remain unaware of the latest ‘innovations’ and don’t attempt to keep up. But I recognise that thousands of new consumers emerge blinking into the market place every year bedazzled by the bright lights and flashy images of the marketing people and they need guidance. Better they get it from Which? is my view but I also worry about Which? getting overwhelmed with excitement sometimes and losing its critical faculties. Going to all those trade shows doesn’t help. I suppose it keeps them in touching distance of what the new consumers want [= must have].

I agree with you on blaming Which? as I have tried to contact them on twitter regarding the Current issue with Apple saying that it slows down old iPhones but I would like to point out that I bought an iPhone 7 plus in March 2017 which was worth £919 for 256GB model. it is still under the 1 year Apple warranty yet Apple defines it as “old iPhone”. What metrics are they using to give my iPhone an “old iPhone” label? There is no response from Which or any other body which we expect to stand up for a consumer. It is planned obsolesce in my opinion because Apple not only was aware of this battery degradation but keeps selling the product at a very high price and they wouldn’t have told anyone about the software “feature” which slows down “old iPhone” if it weren’t for a company known as Geekbench.

As John said, these days Which? is somewhat addicted to the consumerist version of the thrill of the chase, as one savours the excitement of each new purchase.

In olden days, Which? was more canny and more sedate, and was aimed more at folk who needed to make every pound count.

That’s very perceptive, Derek – and, I suspect, pretty accurate. What you’re implying is that as society has changed and generally become more affluent, Which? has modified its approach accordingly. I suspect they may be chasing the younger pound, since it’s the under-30s with the most disposable income or, perhaps, the under-30s simply spend more on ephemera.

Hi oneworld, we are looking into the news that Apple admits to slowing down older iphones and you can find our news story on this here: https://www.which.co.uk/news/2017/12/apple-admits-to-slowing-down-older-iphones/

We are going to be retesting selected models to see how they compare to our originals tests, we will then update our reviews accordingly. We do also plan to monitor this issue closely in the new year.

I am surprised to see that you didn’t get a reply via Twitter to your query. If you’d like to let us know some more information on when you sent the tweet I’ll be happy to look into this for you.

A reason Apple slow down “older” phones (seemingly “old” might be 1 or 2 years) seems to be in anticipation of the battery beginning to lose capacity, particularly when cold. If you replace the battery, does this “slow” feature get removed? Is the change optional and can it be removed? If I’d paid £00s for one of these I’d expect it to have a long guaranteed battery life and not want the performance reduced instead.

The problem with Apple iPhones seems the battery is not replaceable by the user; instead they have to pay around £86 to have Apple do it (or risk a cheaper 3rd party). I understand that it also ensures the body is properly resealed. However, I have phones (dinosaurs) where I can replace the battery in a matter of seconds with a new one costing around £12 and in all the years I’ve had them, water ingress has never been a problem. But then I don’t keep them in a back pocket and risk them falling in the loo.

If you haven’t seen this already, Apple could be facing a lawsuit following the revelations that the company has been slowing down older models.

https://www.which.co.uk/news/2018/01/apple-facing-lawsuits-for-slowing-down-older-iphones/

Of course it is. US consumers eagerly scour the ‘net for opportunities to sue very large companies. That’s why the legal departments of the big US companies are simply huge.

As the owner of an iPhone that is nearly three years old, this interests me. It makes sense to limit the performance of a phone rather than risk crashes, but users should have been given the opportunity of giving consent to the change.

Replacing the battery will restore the original performance: https://www.apple.com/uk/iphone-battery-and-performance/

Having a phone with a removable battery makes it vulnerable to water ingress but there is no reason why the battery compartment cannot be separate, so that the delicate electronics of the phone remain protected from moisture. If Apple and the other manufacturers that use non-replaceable batteries had a look at waterproof handheld VHF radios they could learn something about design.

I’m hoping that my iPhone battery will do as well as the batteries on my Mac laptops. The one I’m using at present has exceeded the expected battery lifespan by 62%.

What do people do with their phones? None of mine are “waterproof” but I’ve never had a problem of water ingress. Perhaps I don’t abuse them.

I gave prices for Apple battery replacement earlier – far more than the ones I replaced in my Samsung and Nokia. It is wrong that they are not replaceable by the user. Maybe for those who make phone calls in Cherrapunji they could buy a separate waterproof case? Plenty on Amazon, then the battery could be more accessible.

The screen of one of my cheap Nokias was damaged, presumably because of water ingress around the screen. It had not been used in the rain but had been in the pocket of a raincoat. There is always going to be a balance between what constitutes abuse and what is a product that is unfit for its purpose. We live in a wet country and my view is that mobile phones should be designed to cope with this.

I often make comments on Which articles that seem to be trying to push fools into buying the latest thing that the can do without the one they have is doing all they want and need it to Which is in a waste getting fools to waste their money by informing them of the latest unnecessary gimmick

Where do some use their phones to get them wet ? In the bath maybe ? I know of some that do taking their phone everywhere and using it in places where is unsuitable for using it then complain when it stops working having got damp or wet

Is it unreasonable to expect a mobile phone to be reasonably water resistant when sold in countries that are rather wet? I don’t think so, but it has taken major manufacturers some time to recognise the need. While we don’t all drop our phones down the loo or even use them there, many of us carry them for safety when walking in the countryside, etc.

Having been involved in innovation over the years, despite all attempts to iron out flaws often only when launched into the real world, with larger numbers of users, can something come to the surface as a problem. The test then is the manufacturer’s response in ensuring the customer does not suffer too much because of their problem. If they do start to suffer – Sony ZXperia screen cracking for example – then Which? should take positive steps tp actively uphold their rights.

Many people like innovation for its own sake, otherwise why would they buy, for example, the latest iPhone when their existing one was the “best” only a year ago? Please don’t just blame the suppliers; without receptive customers the technique would not work. Not all customers are gullible advert gobblers.

Which? can do a lot to ensure that when we have “new” products they are examined properly to see if any flaws might be apparent. Not just test their initial functionality, but look at how well built they are, whether decent quality components have been use, are they repairable and what guarantees their extended functionality – dependence upon maintained software for example. 12 month warranties of of little use to a discerning purchaser.

“Artificially limiting the life of light bulbs” is a poor example to keep raising in this context. Filament lamps have a significant trade off between light output and efficacy – the amount of light they produce for the electricity they consume. For the same wattage, you can have a lot of light for a short time, relatively little light for years, or strike a balance somewhere in between. The balance is partly influenced by the cost of electricity and that of replacement bulbs. Manufacturers, without an agreement, could have offered “long life” and “longer life stll” bulbs to attract the customer, who did not understand the effect this had on what they were actually buying – the amount of light from the bulb. Putting general lamp life on the same basis eliminated this. It still did not stop longer life lamps being sold for special purposes – places where they were more difficult to replace for example.

I suppose domestic 3D TVs may be one recent example of a “flash-in-the-pan” technology.

I suspect that, for most good films and TV shows, 3D tech is not essential. For other 3D applications, the rise of affordable VR headsets may have move the technology on, but in a slightly different technology.

Patrick Taylor says:
28 December 2017

“It’s no accident that our reliability surveys are among the most popular articles in our magazine.”

Perhaps that being the case Which? should publish the questions on which the reliabilty survey is based so subscribers can appreciate the sort of questions that go to making the report that they read.

We are all aware of dubious surveys used by various companies to claim this that and the other and it would be nice if Which? could be a standard bearer in providing the exact questions leading to the published data.

I have been for many years been proposing that surveys on reliability/durability should actually be qualified by the amount of use that the item gets. With the exception of fridges and freezers there is a wide variation on usage patterns and this should be teased out by the questions asked.

I hope that this matter will be addressed – a matter so difficult pre-computer and paper-based – is now much simpler. The survey on sewing machines in AFAIR 2013 was an exemplar on how surveys could be thorough and thoughtful. Unfortunately the base data collected has never been provided to subscribers which is a great shame. The amount of usage weekly etc , and the attachments most used would have been of great interest and use.

Many people have bought garden shredders but a straw poll suggests that for many they are a wasted purchase. This sort of information would be of help to subscribers when considering if a purchase is necessary or simply marketing tipping the balance. I have had a shredder for over a decade, never breaks down but then has been barely used since we moved house. Therefore highly reliable but miniscule use which is not how it appears in reliability surveys.

However I appreciate that this subject has been raised by the CEO. It is dear to my heart and is covered on several products in the Which? Member Community forum.

Patrick Taylor says:
29 December 2017

Bad innovations and what the French are doing:
phys.org/news/2017-12-epson-apple-french-legal-pressure.html

“The investigation, confirmed to AFP by a legal source on Thursday, was opened in November and is being led by anti-trust and consumer protection specialists in the French economy ministry under the instruction of prosecutors in the Nanterre suburb of Paris.

It comes after a complaint by the association Stop Planned Obsolescence (HOP or Halte a l’Obsolescence Programmee) which filed a case against printer makers Epson, HP, Brother and Canon in September alleging they were tricking consumers into replacing ink cartridges before they were empty.

The group filed a separate complaint on Wednesday against Apple after the US tech giant admitted earlier this month that it intentionally slowed down older models of its iPhones over time.

Read more at: phys.org/news/2017-12-epson-apple-french-legal-pressure.html#jCp

Patrick T raises an interesting question. When Which? test printers they give a rating of ink cost. However, is this taken when the printer says a cartridge is out of ink, or when the warning is ignored and only when printing becomes incomplete? My Canon printers have always carried on printing perfectly for a long time after the ink out warning.

It would be useful to record in their tests the extra % copies that can be made by ignoring the printer when it tells you a cartridge has run out, and whether there were any ill effects.

The complaint should also question why manufacturers (in my case HP) reduce the amount of ink in their same size cartridges.

I have an HP C6180 that takes HP 363 inks. The cartridges now only come with a fraction of the ink they used to hold.

My printer is at least 10 years old now and still prints perfectly well living on expired and run-out ink warnings.

I would like to see cartridge size by contents not how many pages it is supposed to print.

Cartridge ink content is listed on most sellers sites if they give the specification. Which? could see whether these have become shrinking products perhaps? I wonder how many people ever think to look at the volume of ink they are buying? I don’t – but may in future.

I used to buy HP ink but when I learned about cartridges being chipped to discourage users from buying ink elsewhere I decided to try other suppliers. Thank you HP for providing me with inexpensive printers, which work fine with cheap ink from other manufacturers.

@alfa Alfa – Here is an article that suggests that manufacturers have been reducing the ink content of cartridges for a few years.

We could ask Which? to do two more things when reviewing printers and/or printer inks. To give us the volume of ink per cartridge, and the number of pages each will print before it physically becomes exhausted – not when the printer says its low or empty (if they don’t already do that). I get many more pages after that message appears (and is ignored).

Surely the volume is of secondary importance though – what matters is how many pages it will print.

We don’t see many complaints about the low cost of printers, knowing they are subsidised by the future OEM ink supply. Most can use third party cartridges if we don’t like what the OEM cartidges offer.

I assume that everyone does use their print cartridges until they are exhausted. My HP printers just give me a message informing the user that the ink is low, not that it should be replaced.

It is the number of pages that can be printed that is important, not the amount of ink. Different printers use different amounts of ink keeping their heads clean and continuous printing maximises the page count.

Until 2005 or so, this was usually based on 5% ink coverage per page but there is a standard for inkjet printers, currently ISO/IEC 24711:2015.

I would prefer to pay a realistic price for a printer in return for cheaper manufacturer’s consumables. It seems a more honest way of running a business.

I wonder how many do override their printer when it tells them to replace a cartridge? A Which? Connect survey might tell us. I don’t know. I do know that when I first had a printer I did follow the instruction until I found out the warning about “damage” that might result did not happen if I ignored it.

For those who use a printer only occasionally, as many do I suspect, having a cheap printer is likely to be their best option. If they do then begin to use them more often then 3rd party ink will give them cheaper printing. For many people that seems like a reasonable deal.

I can see a couple of problems:

1. If a printer fails you might find it difficult to get support under the manufacturer’s guarantee or your statutory rights if you have been using third party ink cartridges.

2. As has been discussed at length elsewhere, some manufacturers have used firmware updates to prevent printers working with third party cartridges.

Selling cheap (presumably subsidised) printers encourages the sale of new printers and, in my view, working towards a more sustainable lifestyle is more important than fitting in with the business models of industry.

I’m curious about the possible damage that could occur by exhausting a cartridge. The only warning I have seen is not to leave printers with a cartridge missing because the print head in the machine can dry out. It would be interesting to know if any manufacturer is currently warning users not to exhaust their cartridges. With my younger printer I just get a low ink alert, which I ignore unless planning a long print run, in which case I stop printing as soon as soon as I see that the ink is exhausted.

I’ve only replaced a printer when the previous one has failed, or does not work under the latest OS. I don’t know whether the market is for people to go for newer and better (if they exist) and discard perfectly usable ones

I’ve not used 3rd party cartridges partly because I’ve had excellent results for photos from OEMs and was prepared to pay the price, and partly because my ink needs have not been particularly high.

I see your points and it would be interesting to see whether Which? has current information on people’s buying habits for printers, how many use third party ink, and how many have had guarantee problems as a consequence. I may have missed it if they have published this already.

Thanks for the link wavechange, the article confirms what I already very strongly suspected. My printer has an ink gauge that looks like a bar graph and a new cartridge used to show a tall bar whereas now it is about half the height, so about half the ink.

The ISO standard gets revised every few years, so over time the number of pages printed could change. I rarely print in best quality but I am quite sure I don’t get anywhere near 410 standard pages of plain print out of the smaller black cartridge, or 1120 pages out of the larger size cartridge.

I think quantity is important even if it just to see how we are being ripped off by the printer manufacturers.

I would also like to see realistic prices for printers and lower costs for ink. It cannot be right that a set of inks might cost half if not nearly the same as the cost of a printer.

It would be good to see the statistical data from Which? Connect surveys.

I used to run anonymous surveys to gather information and opinion from hundreds of students. To provide feedback, I published the statistics for the answers to the questions, but not the written comments that might have removed the anonymity. Sometimes feedback can be made use of very promptly and sometimes it takes longer.

It would be interesting to have some up to date information about problems and how many are using third party ink. Maybe Which? Computing has covered this.

Alfa – In order to get the maximum number of pages from a cartridge you need to leave the printer switched on and not just print the a page or two per day.

It’s amazing how much ink can be used by switching printers on and off. Before Christmas a friend bought a small Canon printer. It kept jamming and by the time we had given up after successfully printing only one page the five colour cartridges were less than half-full according to the ink indicator; the large black cartridge fared better.

There is no doubt that inkjet printers have to ‘waste’ some ink to prevent the print heads clogging, but there is no reason why this needs to be done each time a printer is switched on. I sometimes switch my printer off at the socket instead of turning off the shredder and even if it’s off for a couple of seconds I’m sure it wastes ink when turned on.

What really upset me was the Lexmark laser printer I had at work. The three colour toners cost £100 to replace and the larger black toner cost £140. Each one printed a fixed number of pages. I suspect that the used cartridges still contained plenty of toner because most of what I printed did not have large areas of colour.

Malcolm – Can you have a look at your printer manual to see if it does warn about damage by continuing to use cartridges until they are exhausted. I have a manual for a Canon TS5051, which I downloaded for a friend. This provides no warning but says:

“Notes on ink tanks
Important
• If you remove an ink tank, replace it immediately. Do not leave the printer with the ink tank removed.
• Use a new ink tank for replacement. Installing a used ink tank may cause the nozzles to clog. Furthermore, with such an ink tank, the printer will not be able to inform you when to replace the ink tank properly.
• Once an ink tank has been installed, do not remove it from the printer and leave it out in the open. This will cause the ink tank to dry out, and the printer may not operate properly when it is reinstalled. To maintain optimal printing quality, use an ink tank within six months of first use.”

We don’t have an awful lot of printing to do so not sure leaving it on permanently is the best idea. I think it seizes up if left on doing nothing for a long time anyway. So it probably thinks it needs cleaning every time it is switched on.

It doesn’t use as much ink as my previous Canon though. Now that was an ink guzzler and one of the few products I have replaced before the end of its natural life as I got fed up with it running out of ink.

I have some sympathy for the manufacturers because not all users will keep their printers in a cool place to reduce the risk of print head blockages exacerbated by infrequent use. On the other hand, it would be very easy to design printers that used the same amount of ink in head cleaning irrespective of whether or not they are left switched on.

There’s quite a bit about ink, but it does not, as far as I can see, now warn about using “exhausted” cartidges, nor can I see anything about 3rd part inks. The warranty seems to infer their use is acceptable providing the packaging states they are compatible:

Damage caused directly by the use of spare parts, software or consumables (such as ink, paper, toner or batteries), which are not compatible with the product. Compatibility with your specific Canon product should be evidenced on the packaging but is assured when using genuine Canon spare parts, software or consumables as these have been tested. You are advised to check compatibility prior to use.

The manual says:

How is ink used for various purposes other than printing?
Ink may be used for purposes other than printing.
When you use the Canon printer for the first time after you install the bundled ink tanks, the printer consumes a small amount of ink in the amount to enable printing by filling the nozzles of the Print Head with ink. For this reason, the number of sheets that can be printed with the first ink tanks is fewer than the succeeding ink tanks.
The printing costs described in the brochures or websites are based on the consumption data from not the first ink tank /ink cartridge but the succeeding ink tank /ink cartridge.
Ink is sometimes used to maintain the optimal printing quality.
To keep printer’s performance, Canon printer performs cleaning automatically according to its condition. When the printer performs cleaning, a small amount of ink is consumed. In this case, all colors of ink may be consumed.
[Cleaning function]
The cleaning function helps the printer to suck air bubbles or ink itself from the nozzle and thus prevents print quality degradation or nozzle clogging.

Ink tank lamps:
Flashing slowly (at around 3-second intervals)
…… Repeats
The ink is running low. Prepare a new ink tank.
The resulting print quality may not be satisfactory, if printing is continued under this condition.
Flashing fast (at around 1-second intervals)
…… Repeats
– The ink tank is installed in the wrong position.
Or
– The ink has run out.

That seems fair enough. I suspect that the warning you saw related to a much older printer.

Once used the first time, some of the ink will be used to prime the print heads. I don’t know about Canon but with HP printers it is normal to supply smaller cartridges with printers for domestic use and I assume that many users go on to buy the larger (XL) cartridges.

My last printer was a Canon MP600. Windows 10 did for it – a pity because it performed well. Canon said they did not provide drivers and, as it was elderly, I decided to leave it to my old laptop which ran Vista.

My replacement at £50 (less a penny) was a Canon MG5750 and I am very pleased with it. However, it automatically switches off ( I left my MP600 on all the time) but does not seem to spend much time cleaning; often it just gets straight on with the job.

I have two (colour) ink tanks flashing indicating “empty” but I ignore them and it still prints. Mind, if you are doing several prints watch them in case the ink actually does run out.

I had the same problem with an Epson scanner when Apple moved to OSX, a new operating system over 15 years ago. Epson had no intention of providing new drivers for old scanners. Fortunately a software update enabled my to resume using the scanner. I had a similar problem with a laser printer that had cost almost £700. When HP stopped keeping up with OS updates I found that the printer worked fine by selecting a generic printer driver. I might still have been using it if the convenience of wireless printing had not made it redundant. I expect that someone will warn me about a security vulnerability, but being able to print wirelessly from a laptop anywhere in the house is one innovation that has proved very useful.

My first home printer was a 1982 Apple Stylewriter, based on a Canon print engine. It came ‘free’ with my first Mac. It would produce more fonts and font sizes than my office laser printer, quite a change from the dot matrix printer it replaced. One print cartridge – black – and it was easily refilled.

Many people follow an instructions to the letter not knowing anything about the product it’s the only thing they know follow instructions When assembling many things I put them together than read the instructions and sometimes find I have done things an easier simpler way

When all else fails, read the instructions. I’m glad most airline pilots ignore this advice.

keith says:
29 December 2017

I always had a theory about when you hook up a printer on line so it can send you updates etc, and of course the first thing you do when the ink runs out is buy an after market set, because they are nearly always half the price and last longer. but my theory is this, every so often the printer pops out a message saying you are not using our ink, do you which to purchase, refill or continue to print, so you click continue and print your whatever, when one day the printer won’t work because you refused to buy their ink!

Dennis Sandor says:
29 December 2017

I see this question from the perspective of an engineer. Innovation is one process of creating and developing a new idea or concept. Reliability results from the next stage of working on the new ideas to develop a product with quality which is fit for use. That is the stage where the design promotes reliability. This process seems to be going wrong according to those who are commenting. There is the marketing stage which often promotes novelty and benefits of the new product to the consumer, but does not manage expectations due to some technical limitations. For example, many complain about battery life. Yet it is (or ought to be) well known that battery life is quite limited with existing technology. Electric cars, for example, are not marketed in the context of battery ageing and replacement. The same limits exist for all products which rely on batteries, and designing products which do not allow for simple battery replacement, should be regarded as abhorrent. To my dismay, Which? appears to be lying down and accepting this bad design. Time to wake up?

Battery technology has not kept up with other technology things that need batteries cars included everything

David Eyre says:
30 December 2017

Some innovations are a big problem. Filling plastic bottles full of water and carting them around the UK is simply a complete waste of time and resources. Bottled water is important in countries where local water is contaminated but not routinely in developed areas of the planet.
New cars without at least a space saver spare wheel are a potential nightmare especially for parents with young children.
Front door bells that have a wireless link to the bell push, in our experience become unreliable over time. They are good for manufactures and builders but not for the homes they are installed in.
It has recently come to my notice that some VW PETROL engines are fitted with an exhaust gas re-circulation valve. I suspect that this is another example of pointless innovation as petrol engines produce much less NOX than diesel engines but I remain open to be corrected on this matter.

I have a friend who inherited a dodgy wireless doorbell when she moved home. At best it just stops working and at worst it rings the bell in next house. The houses are not adjacent but separated by two garages.

The main purpose of having an EGR valve on a petrol engine is not to reduce nitrogen oxide and particulate emissions. This article provides an insight: http://articles.sae.org/13530/

Exhaust gas recirculation in engines reduces the combustion temperature, according to what I read. This reduces the combination of nitrogen and oxygen to form NOx. but is mainly used for fuel economy. Both worthwhile.

The article I mentioned explains this in non-technical terms without the hype found on some commercial sites. Whereas recirculation of diesel exhaust can cause all sorts of problems due to the amount of carbon particles, this should not be a problem with petrol engines.

” EXPERTS “persuade may ***** people to do many unnecessary things many people are easily led by anyone who gets big publicity for any stupid idea that they come up with but there are still some who can think and decide for themselves just how many stupid ideas have become the norm ?? where does all bottled water come from ??

Timothy Haigh says:
31 December 2017

Unreliable DAB radios, in the electronics themselves and in connectors that fail. Basic stuff that let the products down. What’s the point in bringing them out? These faults didn’t happen in the days of old transistor radios. The only problem was battery life. Which? doesn’t hesitate to rave about some of these things even though their reliability hasn’t been proven.
Another way in which Which? is supporting fashion and brand image rather than good products that are worth buying is in your adulation of VW products. In spite of dieselgate in which you reckon to be on the consumers’ side yet you even recommend their cars before you’ve even tested them or got to know how well they perform long term, e.g. the electric Golf a few months ago. And then guess what? Your motoring editor picks two Audis as her favourite cars. Surprise surprise. So why should any manufacturer fear you or care about giving customers a good deal?

I’m not sure that DAB radios are inherently unreliable. I’m still using a Pure radio that is about 15 years old and another that is not much younger. A lot depends on build quality and luck.

Luck does play a big part in life ! Some have good luck others always bad !

Reliability is often mentioned across Which? Conversation so you may be interested to know the results of our annual reliability survey: https://www.which.co.uk/news/2018/01/why-your-cooker-is-the-least-reliable-appliance-in-your-kitchen/