That’s a quote from my wife a couple of weeks ago. My follow-up was, “Yes, but according to the reviews on Amazon people get bored with it very quickly.”
In hindsight, this might not have been the best response. I was never the class clown, but if I can make myself laugh and throw people off their game, I’m all for it. I may not be spontaneous with dinner, but maybe being unpredictable in conversation makes up for it.
Indeed, I spent $60 for a ball, not much different in size than a tennis or a baseball. It seems very fragile, too, you wouldn’t want to throw it. Put in the simple, straight-forward terms that my wife used, it seemed clear that it wasn’t the wisest use of money.
Of course, it wasn’t an ordinary ball. If it was an autographed David Ortiz ball, I probably would have received a free pass. It wasn’t. This was an electronic gadget. My electronic gadget purchases, rightfully, get scrutinized. Over the years, I’ve spent a good deal of money on technology products, many of which didn’t live up to expectations.
The ball in question is the Sphero Robotic Ball Version 1.0. It’s a ball that you can control with your Android or Apple smartphone or tablet. You can do it through an on-screen joystick-like interface or buy tilting the device. This causes the ball to roll around and glow in any of around 16 million colors. It’s like a very simplistic remote controlled car.
So why buy this thing? I’ve already admitted to loving technology gadgets. However, there are a ton of technology gadgets that I’d love to buy. I am able to avoid all those. As a frugal guy I always asked myself, “What makes this purchase different?”
This introspective journey lead me to to look into the steps I usually use to buy a technology gadget:
Is the Sphero a good “value?”
Value is obviously subjective, and the Sphero is no exception. My wife expected me to say that I paid $6 for it, not $60. I can’t say that I blame her when I told her that it was a “ball.”
That said, this ball cost $120 a year or two ago. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the $60 is a good deal, but my expectation on pricing is raised. It helps me think that at half the price, it is indeed a value.
In fact, the price today on Amazon is $80. The deal that I got can be seen as a good price.
Can I Resell It on Ebay?
Part of the “value” judgment is the resale value. I explained to my wife that Sphero are selling for $60 on Ebay. That is a language she speaks. She sells on Ebay, as we things we flip things we find at yard sales and discount racks.
Being able to resell a product for what you buy it for is extremely enticing. I bought two $99 HP TouchPads that we used for more than a year. We sold them for more than we paid for them. In the meantime, we didn’t buy two iPad 2s at a total cost of around $1000 and have to sell them for a lot less when they came out with the iPad 3 and 4.
If you can try it, get some enjoyment out of it, and resell it on Ebay for a good price, it is a win. Many of my technology purchases fit this formula. By the time, I’m done with it, maybe I’m out $10.
Why does the Sphero Cost so Much?
The Sphero has a lot of interesting technology packed into a small ball. The ability to display 16 million colors in one of them. You can buy LED light bulbs with similar functionality, but they generally cost $40 a piece and require their own hub. This isn’t exactly the same, but it is similar.
In addition, there’s the Bluetooth connectivity and the inductive charging. That adds to the price of each product. As a bonus it arrived with international plugs like I’ve never seen.
There’s also the development of the mobile apps. While that is a one time costs, it is not trivial.
But Think of the Kids!
Maybe I was trying to talk myself into the gadget, but I had a vision that my 18-month old son would use the tilt feature to move it around the room. He’s good at working with the touchscreen on some phone and tablet games. This seemed like the next step in bringing a video game into the real world. Also, being able to change the colors seems like it could be a learning tool. I could say, “Can you make the ball blue?” and see if he can do it. That’s still too advanced for him, but it doesn’t seem like it will be for too long.
There are a lot of factors that can go into a purchase. It is easy to get caught up on the price, and ignore the value. Sometimes, there are other things to consider (such as resale value) that can help support paying what seems to be a premium price.