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His and Her Gadgets

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Do men and women look for different things when shopping for cool gadgets? Explore how gender matters in high-tech toys.

We live in a binary world: off and on, 0 and 1, up and down, day and night, hot and cold, men and women. So it was no surprise that when I started looking at the market drivers around electronic gadgets, I came to discover that gender counts. If it didn't, why in the world would Apple sell an iPod mini in the color pink?

Women Like Things Clean

Gender consideration goes far beyond color when it comes to the design and marketing of consumer gadgets. The considerations are more thematic. Men and women want different things. In the course of my investigations, I have come to understand that men like toys, women like clean, and everybody likes to look good.

To prove my point, I went to the heart of consumer gadgetdom, The Shaper Image of Beverly Hills, for a tour hosted by the store manager, Andree Booker. If anybody knows anything about consumer buying habits of high-end gadgetry, she does. Her clientele is upscale, with little regard for purchase price. Her customers want good stuff that meets their needs and fancies.

One of the company's most popular sellers is an electronic purification system, the Ionic Breeze GP Silent Air Purifier). The gadget kills airborne germs, fungus, and bacteria. According to Andree, both men and women buy the product, which comes is a variety of styles and with a range of features. But when it comes to keeping the air safe and clean for hearth and home and the welfare of children, the family, and generations to come, women tend to buy at the high end of the model line. They don't want reduced germs: They want no germs. And at around $500, the Ionic Breeze GP does just that: It kills 'em dead, to the approved satisfaction of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. Men, on the other hand, seem to be quite content to buy the $230 Desktop GP model, which is an air fresher designed for use in a small office. Men seem to want the air to smell good. Women want the air to be healthy, no matter what.

The need for clean is not just limited to the air. Women seem to like really clean eyeglasses, too. Andree showed me one popular item, The Automatic Eyeglass Cleaner. This gadget provides a level of cleansing that is not possible with hand cleaning. The product is so woman-specific that the company lists the product on its website under "Women's Personal Care." This is interesting because common sense dictates that men should have as dirty, if not dirtier, eyeglasses as women. But as Andree pointed to the cleanliness of my eyeglasses, men just don't seem to care. They are more than happy to wait until they can't see and then to clean their spectacles with the bottom of their T-shirts. Women want more. I asked Andree if she thought that women had a special gene that allowed them to see dirt that is unapparent to men. She smiled and showed me the Ultrasonic Jewelry Cleaner. Well, you can guess the answer.

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