Saturday
July 26, 2014

Is Your Technology Good Enough?

|
-A A +A

Is Your Technology Good Enough?

Don't assume the most expensive product is the best one for your particular needs.

You’ve probably heard the maxim “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.” When it comes to technology, you shouldn’t let the hype around the latest and greatest (and most expensive) solutions prevent you from considering affordable products that can meet your standards of performance perfectly well. If you know what you need, you might be able to upgrade your entire technology suite for hundreds of dollars rather than thousands. Here’s a snapshot of what’s available at both the high and low ends in three categories of products widely considered to be “must haves” for real estate professionals.  

Tablets

Why you might want one

Tablet computers provide instant startup, an attractive graphical interface, and quick access to presentation materials, apps, and Web sites that can help reinforce your image as an organized, proficient real estate professional. Moreover, they’re almost as portable as a smartphone with the larger display of a small laptop.

Time to wait?

If you don’t need a tablet right now, you could wait another year or two, as price points for these products will likely fall.

Top of the line

The clear leader in this space is Apple’s iPad, which starts at $499. The latest version offers a 5 megapixel camera and a sharper screen than most high-definition televisions. There’s also a more expensive version that includes a 4G wireless connection for faster Web browsing. The iPad’s main competitor—the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablet, which runs Google’s Android operating system—also starts at $499. The two products are similar: The Galaxy Tab offers a slightly larger screen than the iPad but somewhat reduced battery life. However, Apple has a clear advantage (for now) in the number of apps available.

Good enough

Amazon’s Kindle Fire tablet, which costs $199, has a considerably smaller screen, shorter battery charge, and less internal memory than the iPad and Galaxy. However, it offers the same Web browsing functionality as high-end tablets, access to Word and PDF documents, and free cloud storage for content purchased from Amazon.

Smartphones

Why you might want one

Well, you probably already have one—according to consumer research firm Nielsen, about half of all mobile subscribers are smartphone users, and smartphones have made up the vast majority of mobile-device sales in the past few months. But that doesn’t mean you won’t get a new one sometime soon. In a 2011 survey conducted by NAR’s Center for Realtor® Technology, smartphones were by far the top item respondents said they planned to replace within 12 months. In terms of features and functionality, smartphones offer apps, Web browsing, QWERTY keypads for text messaging and e-mail, cameras, GPS, and—of course—voice calls. And these devices will only grow in importance as more consumers and real estate pros adopt them.

Only so smart.

You may think you can save money on a camera purchase by buying a high-end smartphone, one with an 8 MP camera. But smartphones generally don’t have all the features, such as a powerful zoom and wide-angle lenses, that most real estate pros need.

Top of the line

Once again, Apple has one of the top-selling, best-loaded products in this category. Its iPhone 4S, which starts at $199, includes an 8 MP camera; FaceTime, which allows you to place face-to-face video calls with fellow iPhone users; and Siri, a voice-operated digital “assistant” you can use to schedule appointments, search the Web, and more. The most popular Google Android phone in the United States, HTC’s EVO, starts at the same price as an iPhone with a Sprint contract. It doesn’t have quite the level of functionality as the iPhone—lacking features like Siri and FaceTime—and Apple still outpaces Google in terms of the sheer number of apps, but it’s more or less on par in terms of its camera, display, and Internet browsing experience.

Good enough

Practically every mobile service provider now offers smartphones for less than $50, and often free, with a contract. With these service contracts, you can get devices that allow you to easily text, take photos (often at a low resolution), and browse the Internet. With the exception of the iPhone, the main differences between these products and pricier ones are qualitative. Their screens aren’t as sharp, the batteries don’t last as long, and the photos they take aren’t as well-defined.

Camera

Why you might want one

Plain and simple, homes that have photos promoting them—particularly online—attract more potential buyers and sell for more money. Conversely, listings that are photographed poorly or have few or no pictures tend to be ignored at best and viewed with suspicion at worst.

If video is your thing.

If you create your own video tours, look at higher-end cameras with video-recording capabilities. Sony’s Alpha a65, FujiFilm’s FinePix X-S1, and Nikon’s 1 J1—all of which start in the $500–$1,000 range—shoot 1080p HD video. 

Top of the line

How much do you want to spend? There are plenty of products that cost well into the thousands of dollars that feature various ranges of shutter speeds to capture motion, interchangeable lenses, and multiple lighting and flash systems. Examples of these include Canon’s EOS 5D Mark II, which starts at $3,353 with a basic accessory kit, and Nikon’s D3X SLR, which costs $8,000 for the camera body alone. But that’s probably not necessary for most real estate pros, who will be taking smaller still shots of homes for use on the Web.

Good enough

There’s a good mix of products between $300 and $500 that will get the job done for the vast majority of practitioners. What you choose will depend on what you want to accomplish. For example, if you’re looking for a versatile camera that can capture video and allow you to easily upload and share photos on the Web, you might opt for Panasonic’s Lumix ZS20, which costs $350. If you want a camera that takes really sharp pictures with vivid color and a user-changeable focus, you may be more interested in Lytro’s “light field” camera, which comes in at about $400. For less than $100, you can get the Samsung’s ES80 digital camera, which has a 12 MP image sensor, and 5X optical zoom with image stabilization to help avoid blurry shots.

1.875
Average: 1.9 (8 votes)
Your rating: None