Study says 75% of Women Don't Know How To Use Gadgets

Staff Writer Tech 11 Comments

Vero Pepperrell writes… In the year 2006, we’re surrounded by gadgets in our everyday life. But apparently, we women don’t know how to use them. A recent research, put together for electrical giant Comet, finds that "three out of four women who own a mobile phone do not know how to use all its features. […] And it is the same with other modern devices and gizmos, from digital cameras to MP3 music players, according to the study."

Fear of technology

As a girl, walking into a computer or game store can be a traumatising experience, as male staff often behave like they haven’t seen a real-life woman in many years (and they probably haven’t…) so is it really the technology we fear? Or the experience surrounding acquiring said technology?

Comet’s solution to this uncomfortable experience is to have a squad of Gadget Angels, a sort of all-female twist on Apple’s Genius Bar.  These curvaceous tech-pushers will also train other shop staff in how to respond to women customers – and hopefully how not to leer at them when they walk in.

Features v. Benefits

The research makes the observation that "while male customers want hi-tech spec and other mind-numbing details, women prefer to know what a gadget actually does and why it is useful." Typical. So men feel the irrepressible "Mine is bigger than yours" urge to compare – Nothing unusual there. Meanwhile, women want to cut to the chase and find out whether their new phone will match their outfit – Again, nothing unusual, one could say.

There seem to be mixed feelings towards gadgets – it’s a one-part lack of interest, one-part fear of getting it wrong and "breaking something", and one part vodka, (whoops, sorry, that’s my drink mix) and one-part "knowing too much about technology isn’t cool".

But let’s not paint all women with the same bronzer brush, shall we? Not all women are disinterested in gadgets, otherwise I guess you wouldn’t be here reading this.

Gap shrinking for the younger generations?

I’d like to believe part of that "technofear" – excuse me, I still can’t use the expression without quotes because it’s like fear of carrots or teddy bears to me, completely irrational – is a question of generation and familiarity.  Younger generations are living with gadgets, computers and mobile phones as a daily commodity, rather than a novelty, which hopefully means they’re getting to grips with them quicker.

So I hope we’ll see a growing trend of tech-friendly women, who are happy to show off what they know and learn more about the awesome gadgets out there.

Now, if only those Angels could come over and program my VCR… ;)

Vero Pepperrell

By Staff Writer | July 14th, 2006

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  • Creepy Lesbo

    That is because women do not have an overwhelming need to know about stuff they know they’ll never need to use. I have the most budget phone available. I couldn’t care less about the games, the conference calls, the profiles and all the rest of it. I can make calls, receive them, send texts and set it to silent. I don’t need it for anything else. I do not need to know how to set my hi-fi up to record something at 1pm on a Saturday because the BBC has a listen again service. Life is too short to care about things that don’t matter! It’s got nothing to do with us being stupid and everything to do with us being better at time management and seeing what is useful immediately. Stupid survey morons.

  • techmaven

    Same here. I’m pretty savvy with technology, but since I don’t conference call on my phone, I haven’t bothered to learn how to do it. The problem with most gadgets, especially the ones aimed at women, is that no-one asks actual women how they might want to use the damn things. I don’t want an mp3 player or phone in pink and shaped like a compact, with buttons so tiny I can’t use them. Nor do I need an item that comes with boring games. What I want is a phone or player with print large enough for aging eyes, a more sensitive equalizer/volume control, and a look that works for a woman who has long since passed high school. And for phones, some grown-up ringtones would be nice too- I like jazz and classical.

  • Vero Pepperrell

    Thanks for your comments, ladies! I’m glad this is creating some discussion.

    Creepy: Clearly, you’ve already found which gadgets work for you and which don’t. You may not see it that way, but by knowing the BBC Listen Again option is there, it’s using a web-based gadget to get what you want, when you want it! Gadgets, regardless of their form, are there to make our life easier, and you’re achieving that!

    ClashCity: Macs are great in a lot of ways, well beyond the purely aesthetic values. Give yourself a chance to learn how to use your iBook, and you’ll most likely find it’s got plenty of life left to it.

    TechMaven: You mean, you’re not into Crazy Frog ringtones? ;) I completely agree that the gadgets-for-women market is oriented at the very youngest end of the scale.

    In a very male industry, you can’t blame them for thinking that making a phone pink will make it more popular with women. Maybe we need more women in the actual production cycle rather than only at the marketing end?

  • clashcityrockerkat

    Hmm…I must admit I love gadgets, but often never know have to use them. I have an Apple iBook, (biggest regret of my life as I mainly bought it for aesthetic purposes only, without barely realising it runs a whole different operating system, what can I say, I was only 18), however, I hardly know how to use it, in particular all the handy little shortcuts which make them supposedly better than PCs.

    To tell you the truth, whilst I love gadgets and spend a fair few hundred each year on them, I never bother reading the manual, I just hand the phone/mp3 player/camera to my boyfriend so he can work it all out, and get him to teach me. I’m pretty lazy actually!

    But I know I’ll still continue to buy top of the range mobiles, cameras, laptops etc because I want the best, but I never know how to use the damn thing to harness all the oomph it has inside.

    Geez I’m such a rambler.

  • Lantz

    I’m a gadget nut and a Mac user professionally. My daughters (21 & 25) are a lot like me and can pretty much figure them out. they have watched their dad tinker with such things all her life. They would be good candidates for your Angel force. My wife on the other hand is technology challenged and I continue to have to explain the same things over and over and over again to her. She just doesn’t retain it.


    Being a gadget geek and recently reading an article where they said there was a name for my “disease,” I wasn’t too excited when I read this article…especially the way it was presented in Gizmodo and the way they mentioned that they have about 5 female readers…if they keep that up they will only have 5 because the rest will leave. Ok,just had to get that off of my chest.

    My bf thinks I’m more of a gadget freak than him. I usually just say I have more lower priced gadgets, he just saves up for the really big/$$ ones!

    I will agree that I don’t want my gadget to do more than I need it to…however, I’m becoming more and more a fan of the gadget that does everything. I now carry my 8125 instead of a phone, PDA and camera. My purse is a lot lighter and has room for that lipstick that I might need because I am still girly!

    I would be curious as to the number of people who took this survey and if it is generalizable to an entire population of women!

  • Marina

    My theory about the result of this survey is that the women asked were just too honest. Most of us have a feature or two on our gadgets we have no use for, and therefore have never used. Women, being honest, say “yes” when asked if there are features of their mobiles they don’t know how to use, thinking that not having used it means they don’t know. I imagine most would figure it out if they needed those features.
    Men, on the other hand, would either not dare admit there are technial things they don’t understand, or they assume they could figure it out if they tried, so they say their mobiles have no features that are a mystery to them.
    Alternatively men buy simpler mobiles, but I’m quite sure that’s not the case.

  • Yvonne

    I am a 42 yr old Gadget Girl. I own a LifeDrive, a T2, a camera cell phone, and an iPod Mini. I may not know everything there is to know about every gadget, or every feature, out there, but I know enough to out geek almost every employee in electronics department of Staples, and I can give any man a run for his money when talking techie. I have a 7 yr old Daughter who knows almost as much as I do about PDAs, iPods, computers, cell phones. She has her own Zire72 and has been using it for 3 yrs.
    Tell me again how Women are afraid of gadgets?

  • Camilla C

    I can’t help but think they asked the wrong women the wrong questions…
    My mother can’t work out her new mobile phone but I’m sure men of her generation wouldn’t get it either.
    However, my 18 month old daughter can set the Sky+ box, put on a CD, understands what the LCD screen on my digicam is for and adores mobile phones.
    And to echo everyone else, no, I don’t know every function of my phone but I don’t need to either. It doesn’t make me stupid, it makes me too organised and too time pressured to waste my time on pointless functions.

  • Meghan

    Let’s not generalize, now. I, for one, can pick up just about any gadget and figure it out in 5 minutes. I think a lot of women may have a fear of breaking the thing and that may be where the statistics are making us look bad. I say try it, it won’t bite.

  • Vero Pepperrell

    It looks like there’s a general agreement here that
    a. we’re not dumb and we can figure out gadgets if we need to
    b. it’s mainly the knowledge that using certain features wouldn’t bring us any benefits that keeps us from using them to full capacity
    c. we’re just too damn busy.

    “My theory about the result of this survey is that the women asked were just too honest. Most of us have a feature or two on our gadgets we have no use for, and therefore have never used. […] I imagine most would figure it out if they needed those features.”

    Marina: I think you make a good point there. I’m well aware I’ve never used video-conferencing on my Nokia N70 phone, but it doesn’t mean I couldn’t use it if the opportunity arises.

    But again, the women here don’t represent the masses either. Only in the course of today, I spoke to one woman who didn’t know what an RSS feed was, one who’d never seen a blog but had heard the word tossed around, and another who had never used an mp3 player “for fear of breaking it” (not in the physical drop-on-the-floor sense, but the fear of losing all music at the touch of a button).

    So out in the “real world”, there’s a large number of women (and men!) still unaware of the gadgets world. Granted, they’re probably not leading a worse life for it, but a different one, where walking into a store like Comet to buy a present for their niece or grandchild, they wouldn’t be naturally tempted to buy them an mp3 player, etc. These are the people these Gadget Angels are for, I’d imagine.