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9 Things Tech Consumers Should be Aware Of

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9 Things Tech Consumers You Should be Aware Of

Many things can get wrong in the IT world, you can’t play the DVD on your laptop during a vacation and the app can’t be installed to your high-end smartphone. No, there’s nothing wrong with your devices and having a lot of money still can’t prevent you from getting screwed by tech companies.

Beware of Restocking Fees

Many times, online buyers don’t have the opportunity to physically see and touch the product and when it arrives, they realize that the phone or the laptop wasn’t for them. If it ever happened to you, it might seem reasonable to take advantage of the 30 days return policy, but unfortunately, you would be required to pay the restocking fee that can be as high as 30 percent of the original product price. Restocking fee is a clever way to make some profit from consumer’s poor buying decision. In general, it is acceptable when the merchant uses a reasonable percentage as it can deter cheapskates from using expensive, high-end devices and return them just after a few weeks. But unfortunately, many honest buyers are required to expensive fees just because they miss a few details about the product.  Restocking fee is something that you should consider before buying a product, so before entering your credit card details, make sure you know how much you need to pay when you want to return the device. Don’t be impressed by a $25 price cut, if the seller charges $100 for restocking fee.

Beware of Cookie-Based Surveillance

Cookies are often a controversial issue, because although you don’t need to pay even a cent to watch YouTube videos, search on Google or find old high school friends on Facebook, they’re not completely free. Every viewed video, searched keyword or profile update is an excellent opportunity to bombard you with a targeted advertising, as advertisers know what you watch, search and prefer. Cookies are a useful tool to gain information about a specific individual, although cookies can also help you to save log-in and setting details. Many banner ads you see could be adjusted based on your online activities, which increase the likelihood that you find a product that you want or need most. Luckily, major browsers offer ways to block unwanted cookies, but usually they not enabled by default.

Beware of Charge Cramming

Sometimes, a website demands your cell phone number or credit card number when the service or product is supposed to be completely free. You should be wary of this practice, as the site may have the intention to sneak charges into your phone or credit card bills. It is called “cramming” and has been around for decades. Unfortunately it enjoys a renewed life by the explosion of credit card and cell phone usages. In addition consumers seem to be more reluctant to check every line. Your best chance to avoid charge cramming is to check every “free” offer and if it asks for personal information other than your name and email (feel free to use fake name and disposable free email account), you should walk away immediately and never look back.

Beware of DRM and HDCP

We all love digital downloads, but they can be riskier than traditional, physical purchases due to the implementation of Digital Rights Management (DRM), which is essentially a code that put some restrictions on the way you use your legally purchased digital products. DRM is no longer a significant issue in the digital music industry as major sellers, such as Amazon and iTunes Music Stores are no longer using it in their digital music files. However, DRM is still a pain for many books, games and movies buyers. Although you can use some apps to strip DRM from your files, it is hardly an endorsable move. Furthermore, such an app is usually costly and there is a chance that it will be completely illegal in a few years in the future. If you’re concerned that you can’t play movies on different computer, such as your laptop, you could have more freedom by buying a physical DVD and rip it to a digital format, which is playable on any computer.

DRM may not be your only concern, because other copyright protection system may ruin your viewing experience as well. If your Blu-ray movie can only be played in low resolutions then you may have an issue with High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection (HDCP), which is developed to prevent unauthorized copying and sharing. The protection scheme requires HDCP-compliant devices, which allow you to view the movie using original resolution. If you have an older 1080p TV set then you’re out of luck, except if you use a special device like HDfury. If DRM is a serious issue for your gaming experience then you should perform a research beforehand. Ubisoft is notorious for its decision to include DRM in its latest titles such as Assasin Creed 2, while Blizzard Entertainment might take it too far by employing a rigorous protection system, which crippled the Starcraft 2’s offline play. Ironically, those ever-resourceful pirate groups are consistently able to defeat DRM protection by regularly releasing DRM-free (cracked) games, days after or sometimes, before the official release date.

Beware of Restriction on Application

Although DRM-protected media is acceptable for you, it can still be annoying to know that you can’t install anything you want on your iOS device. Of course, you can jailbreak your iPhone or iPad, but that would void your warranty and it’s insensible to throw the $100 spent on the AppleCare extension. Reversing a jailbroken Apple device is possible by reinstalling the original firmware, however there are some cases where the iPhone ends up being unbootable during the process. Certainly, it is not a good situation for you, because the iPhone is still in the jailbroken state, which means the repair won’t be covered by the warranty. This restriction has lured many Apple users to try Android-based phones and tablets, as you’re allowed to install just about anything you want without invalidating your warranty. All you have to do is to download and transfer the .apk file into your phone and install it. However, some Android phones such as Droid X prevent unauthorized modification and removal of certain built-in apps.

Beware of Complex Mobile Phone Pricing Plans

Phone carriers always try to convince you that their offers will get you the most of your money. However, none of those companies can help you to choose a plan that best fits your daily needs. Things may not be so perfect because, some customers are subjected to overage charges from the previous unlimited data plan or get a 4G phone, when in fact a 4G network is not yet available in their area. Carrier’s bills change regularly, so you need to check your phone expense once in awhile. This way, you can easily discover bogus charges instead of being subjected to 3 months worth of unexpected charges. It is a good idea to change your plan based on your usage pattern. For example if you’re charged significantly for hours of voice call, but you still have hundreds of unused free text messages, then you need to choose a plan that offer cheaper voice call charge and text messages that are subjected to regular price rate. It is also possible to apply for a family plan even if you’re unmarried, so you can share it with your friends and save some money together.

In some cases, it’s a good idea to switch providers. Verizon and AT&T may offer hot, high-end phone, but their plans are often the least flexible, as the result, you should consider a plan from T-Mobile or Sprint. For example, T-Mobile offers cheaper and less restrictive plan if you use your own phone. For people who don’t travel much, it’s better to switch to a provider that offers limited coverage for cheaper rates. Of course, if you’re bound to a contract, things won’t be so easy, because switching to other plan may incur an early termination fee.

Beware of Complicate Rebate Policies

It’s OK to hate rebates, because they can be rejected if you fail to follow the intricate instruction to the letter, in addition they often show up annoyingly as Visa gift card. It is recommended to pursue rebates through RebateRemedy, by filling an extra form, the service should be able to send the money in 3 or 4 days. However, you need to pay about 25 percent of rebate value plus $2.50, which is still a good proposition as often rebates may take more than six months and there is still a chance that you’ll be rejected anyway.

Beware of Product Recalls

Even a leading tech company will eventually make a lemon and when it happens, things can be bad for you. Although companies are required by the law to notify buyers about defective products, owners may not get the official announcement, due to some reasons. Your contact information, including email and phone number, may have changed since you bought the device two years ago or somehow the company’s announcement message can’t get through your spam filter. Recalls happen quite often in the tech world and often, they involve components that could explode or catch fire, such as batteries. Often, consumers only discover about a recall when they bring the device to the repair center. If you want to get latest information about recalls, you can follow @onsafety on the Twitter.

Beware of Bad Pricing

Regularly, a company is caught for “price fixing” and in fact, it is not always involve a small, little-known company. For example, Amazon and Apple were suspected of performing this practice on their digital books last year. With this pricing model, publishers don’t have to worry about competing with one another as the books will be sold at a fixed price. Unfortunately, this practice violates the natural dynamic of a real market, as the product price is not affected by the supply, demand and competition. If you suspect a price fixing scheme is in progress, there’s very little thing you can do. Of course, you can buy a used product, but it’s still based on an inflated price.

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