Opinion: Shopping for gadgets and the tyranny of choice

Do we really need dozens of different televisions or tablets from a single manufacturer? Spoiler: No. No we really don't, says Craig Grannell
Spot the difference

Our seven-year-old telly recently gave up the ghost.

Presumably no longer able to fake a cheery disposition at our viewing habits, it suddenly decided to object in a rather overt manner by resisting any and all attempts to coax it into life. It would sit there, a single sullen red stand-by light piercing the room like a depressed and frozen Cylon, and then, in protest, entirely power down whenever we had the audacity to try and turn it on.

A small section of LG's 55in TV range
Which bezel is best?

Given the age of our telly, my queries regarding a good place to get it repaired were met with unanimous bafflement. 

Clearly, this TV death was to be thought of as an opportunity – a chance to rid ourselves of the sheer horrors of relatively low-resolution telly. We could embrace HD! Smart TV! 3D! The way people got so terribly excited about these prospects, I half expected to amble about John Lewis and find that all modern televisions were holographic units, which could somehow simultaneously solve world hunger, reshape your immediate reality, and make the tea.

Instead, what I found was rather different: something in the region of about a billion televisions, arranged in rows like endless tech gravestones for your eyes. Each was helpfully dubbed with a useful name like XHGI6Q5A48BZ, and they all looked identical.

On eyeing up a bunch of Samsungs, it became apparent that manufacturers are taking the piss. There was a 48-inch telly that looked the same as another 48-inch telly, but one of them had a transparent bezel around the tiny black bezel, for some reason that wasn't immediately obvious. Another one had a slightly different stand.

Tables of tablets and tellies

The specifications were also very slightly different, to the level that would have probably made one über telly geek terribly cross if you didn't get why, but nonplus everyone else. Seemingly, rather than figure out a few distinct models that would be fit for a range of prospective buyers, everyone's cunning plan was to fling as much out there as possible and see what would stick.

Glancing around, this is clearly far from a unique tactic. Countless tablets laid on tables, with consumers looking on and wondering precisely why they were being asked to choose between an almost identical range of black rectangles. Notebooks lined desks, each one very slightly different from the other, in ways that don't really matter. Fortunately, I didn't notice any smartphones nearby or I might have been driven over the edge.

Oh, Apple. Not you too.

I paused for a moment, having somehow managed to mentally trim the selection of suitable televisions to a mere few hundred thousand, and reflected that at least I don't usually have this problem with technology.

Having for the most part bought Apple kit over the years, I've not been bombarded by lots of choice – instead, a company was bright and savvy enough to say "no‚" a lot, and only release a very small number of products it thought people would need.

And then I thought about the iPhone 6. And the iPhone 6 Plus. And the rumours of a giant iPad to sit alongside the iPad Air 2 and the iPad Mini 3. Apple's teetering on the brink, seemingly about to ditch its svelte line for one far more bloated. It can only be a matter of time before it'll announce an iOS device with a tiny transparent bezel around the tiny black bezel, and at that time I'll be no longer able to fake a cheery disposition and will quite possibly resist any and all attempts to do anything at all.

READ MORE: For better or worse, Apple’s iPad line-up shows it's now a very different company