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Travel Insider readers have been introduced to an exciting array of new products during 2003.

Some have been great.  Some have been not so great.  Here now are the results of our 2003 Best Travel Technology Product Awards.

You can buy these products with confidence.

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2003 Best Travel Technology Product Awards

Analysis and Commentary

Here is some additional information and analysis on the results of our 2003 Best Travel Technology Product Awards.

In addition to simply voting for the best in each category, some interesting additional information and interpretation can be gained from looking at the results in more detail.



In February 2004, over 2000 Travel Insider readers voted for their favorite products from a short list of items that had been reviewed during 2003.

The winners are detailed on this page.  Here, below, is more information on how the winners were chosen.

Voter Sample Skewing

A problem with any type of voluntary participation sampling/voting is that the people who choose to participate may not be representative of the general population within which they belong.

This problem is further exacerbated when the sample is drawn from a small group of people that are not necessarily representative of the general population to start with.

This voting is no exception.  Because voters are readers of our newsletter, we know something about their general demographics, based on a reader survey in December 03.

Travel Insider readers are strongly skewed to upper income and upper education, and rate themselves as early adopters and gadget lovers.

They are older than typical web users (average age of 54.2), comprising 63% men and 37% women. They are very well educated (80% have at least college education, and 41% have post graduate qualifications) and are strongly skewed to upper income levels (47% reporting over $100k in total family income and 27% reporting over $150k total income). 91% of readers live in the US, and 71% are married.

44% of Travel Insider readers describe themselves as ‘Gadget Lovers’ and 42% consider they are early adopters of new technologies. 87% have purchased products online three or more times in the last year, and 68% have purchased online six or more times. 71% intend to buy a new cell phone in the next year.

Travel Insider readers travel a great deal. The average reader travels more than ten times a year - five times on business within the US, twice internationally, and three times on vacation.

Plainly, Travel Insider readers know a great deal about technology and travel!

How we Analyzed and Interpreted the Results

We correctly anticipated that few people would vote for all products, because very few people would have hands-on experience with all the products offered.

So, how then to rank the results?  Which should be considered better - a product with lots of positive votes, or a product with a higher percentage of positive votes?  Our general approach was to look not so much at the simple number of votes cast, but rather at the spread among those votes between high scores (3 or 4) and low scores (1 or 2).

For this reason, results are shown below in pie chart format, enabling you to quickly assess whether a product received predominantly positive or negative or neutral voting.

Here are several of the more interesting results.

The battle between Bose Quiet Comfort 2 and Plane Quiet

Although the Plane Quiet headphones ended up winning, the Quiet Comfort 2 headphones from Bose came a close second.

We say this not to detract from Plane Quiet's win, but perhaps to add to it.  Both products had been reviewed in 2003 and both were candidates for the award.  We even conceded, in our Quiet Comfort review, that they were probably slightly better at noise reducing, and slightly better in terms of finish and presentation.  But we also observed that they cost $300, whereas the PQ's, with only slightly less excellent performance, were one quarter the price (Travel Insider readers get a 10% discount, making the PQ price a true bargain at only $71.99).

In the first two charts, we compare the spread of votes for the QC2 with the votes for the PQ.  It can be seen that the PQ has a stronger percentage of people giving it the maximum rating of 4 (= 'very satisfied') but it also has a slightly stronger percentage of people giving it the minimum rating of 0 (= 'very unsatisfied').

Even so, clearly the PQ product is more generally well regarded than the QC2 product.



The Zero Voting

We feel that the 0 score was misunderstood by some people, and individual voting analysis revealed that a significant number of people who voted a zero score also checked off the box indicating they knew nothing about the product or had no opinion.  Quite likely, these people thought that zero meant 'have no opinion'.

Having considered the implications of the mistaken 0 voting, here are two more charts, showing the results of just 1 - 4 voting for the two products.

The lead of the PQ over the QC2 is affirmed with this alternate analysis and so, both ways, we're pleased to confirm the Plane Quiet as the winner.



Most Favorite Item Voting

After discarding invalid/inconsistent voting, and noting that not all ballots included a choice of most favorite product, we ended up with just over 1000 votes for the two 'most favorite' products.

In the first category - technology - three products scored significantly above the others.  In the second category - other travel - the Search Alert locks were clearly the high scorer.

However, note that these results don't necessarily indicate which products readers thought were best.  It is as likely to indicate simply which products readers were most familiar with.



The Love/Hate Relationship with High-Tech

The reader scoring of the Nokia 3650 (discussed on the main award page) is fascinating to see.  A large and almost identical number of votes for both the maximum and minimum rating, and then almost identical numbers of medium ratings too.


By way of comparison, another state of the art device, the Palm Tungsten T3, scored much more asymmetrically.  Although it too had a larger 0 score than Palm should feel comfortable with (compare, for example, with the first two pie charts for PQ and QC2), on balance readers were much more strongly favorably inclined to this device.


A new technology that is just now starting to move into the mainstream is VoIP telephony.  As can be seen below, this too has a substantial percentage of readers who do not yet feel comfortable with the service.

It is certainly true that earlier implementations of VoIP gave poor audio quality, and without a gateway into the regular phone network, were of limited use.  But the new services, such as Packet 8 and Vonage, have addressed these shortcomings, and are rapidly becoming accepted as a viable and sensible alternative to ordinary 'old fashioned' wired phones.

With over 3% of all cell phone users (= 4.5 million people) now having abandoned their traditional wired home phone, and with the growing impact of VoIP service, the future of regular phone service would seem to be increasingly constrained.


SearchAlert - Good and Bad

Although we awarded SearchAlert the 'Best Travel Product' award, it is interesting to see that a large percentage of people gave it a 0 score.

As well as the ever present consideration that 0 scores are sometimes unreliable, we believe that there is another factor that explains this surprisingly strong 0 rating.  In the first few months after SearchAlert was released into the market, many travelers were suffering problems with ignorant TSA workers choosing to cut off the SearchAlert locks, rather than using the master keys they had been supplied with to open and then relock the locks.

Some users even reported that airline or TSA personnel would refuse to accept suitcases locked with these locks.

Although the TSA did indeed approve these locks, and claimed to have trained its staff in the procedures for how to identify and then open the locks, plainly this did not occur to nearly the extent it should have.

However, the generous warranty offered by SearchAlert's manufacturer (if the TSA break off a lock, CCL Security will replace it for free, even though it absolutely isn't CCL's fault!) salved the pain caused by the TSA's ignorant inefficiency.  And with a vastly reduced number of reported incidences of problems, it seems that the TSA has also now completed training their staff.


In addition to choosing the best products, the reader voting patterns uncovered some interesting issues.

We all look forward to repeating the exercise in 2004, building on the results of the 2003 Awards.

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Originally published 20 Feb 2004, last update 30 May 2021

You may freely reproduce or distribute this article for noncommercial purposes as long as you give credit to me as original writer.





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