Beware of ‘added value’ features

Thanks to the ‘value add’ on my SanDisk USB memory stick I’ve become a hater of their products.

The product managers at SanDisk decided that memory sticks were boring and that they needed to make them more interesting. So my memory stick comes with software that ‘adds value’. When you plug it in to a PC it fires up a little app that is supposed to help you organise your music and make it easy to copy files.

That takes time, so the memory stick ends up being slow to use.

It takes learning. So the memory stick takes mental effort to use.

And it means my memory stick has a bunch SanDisk’s files on. They aren’t mine and I can never delete them.

I can sympathise with the product managers at SanDisk. They have a product that is a commodity and they want to differentiate it. They could have looked at the size, the style, the speed or the capacity.

The problem is that they’ve tried to add features and make the product ‘more than just a memory stick’.

A memory stick should be large in capacity, small in size, quick, uncomplicated and personal. Those are the basic values of the product. The pleasure of a memory stick lies in its ability to solve the problem of moving stuff simply.

SanDisk’s new features undermine three of those. Every time I use it I’m reminded that SanDisk makes products that are slow, complicated and that they mix their files in with mine.

When ‘value add’ undermines the basic values of the product – even just a little bit – then it damages the product.

More features and extra capability can mean less value.


  1. Tom Thomas

    Agree they’re a little slow, but this exact product did find a niche for us a few years ago when we were travelling abroad. This was just before the days of capable mobile devices, and the Sandisk product had the advantage that I could go into an internet cafe and boot a safe (if a little slow) session of Firefox with all my meticulously saved travel-centric bookmarks, etc. Also gave a bit of piece of mind when using banking sites (which was often).

    • gilescolborne

      Thanks for the comment. It’s nice to hear it’s not all pain! But I guess that’s my point – the niche features on a mass market product get in the way of most people most of the time. I’ve never experienced that edge case – just the pain that comes with everyday use.

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