11 ways tech companies try to pull the wool over your eyes

11 ways tech companies try to pull the wool over your eyes
Obfuscation, omission and good ol' fibs

One of the great things about the technology industry is that everyone in it tells the truth about everything all of the time.

Ha! Of course they don't: like any other massive industry, tech is responsible for more porkies than the world's horniest hard-working hogs.

From sins of omission to pretending that words don't mean what they actually mean, here are some of the ways tech firms can pull the wool over your eyes.

1. Up to 67% more graphics!

"Up to" is one of the great fibs of tech: it's used to describe broadband speeds you won't get, Wi-Fi throughput you can't achieve, performance improvements that only apply in very specific circumstances and battery life that's only possible if you don't actually use your device. It's the tech equivalent of MPG figures for cars or the RRP on supermarket wine promotions.

2. Truly unlimited limited unlimiteds

In the real world, unlimited means something isn't restricted or controlled in any way. In tech, it means quite the opposite. For years, ISPs cynically advertised unlimited broadband or data packages that had all kinds of limitations, usually in the form of data caps hidden in the small print of fair usage policies.

The British Advertising Standards Authority cracked down on such practices in 2012, but that doesn't necessarily mean that the package a firm describes as unlimited isn't subject to restrictions or controls. Restrictions or controls such as…

Unlimited - generally quite limited

Unlimited - generally quite limited

3.Surprisingly good benchmarks

It was rife in the PC industry and now it's turning up in the mobile market too: we're talking about manufacturers deliberately optimising their devices so that they'll score well in specific benchmarking apps. The one culprit appears to be Samsung, whose Note 3 just happens to enter a high performance CPU mode when certain benchmarking apps are used - but Samsung isn't the only firm accused of such shenanigans.

4. The speed you need

The Advertising Standards Authority ruled that UK ISP Virgin Media's website was making promises it couldn't keep.

The "unlimited" package that offered "consistently fast broadband even at peak times" was subject to a traffic management policy that could slow connections down by as much as 40%.

Traffic management - a nice way of saying that the brake's on your internet speed

Traffic management - a nice way of saying that the brake's on your internet speed

5. Big numbers

UK high-street retailer Carphone Warehouse said that the Galaxy S4 had generated more than four times the pre-registrations as the Galaxy S3. It even quoted a figure: 446%.

That sounds amazing until you look into the figures, as The Guardian's Charles Arthur did, and discover that the numbers don't add up and the term "pre-registration" is utterly meaningless. Is a pre-registration a sale? Nope. Is it a pre-order (a meaningless term in itself)? Nope. Are our inboxes plagued with such nonsense? You betcha.

6. Showing shipments instead of sales

When you're young, you try to make yourself sound older by including fractions in your age - so you'll say you're five and a half or seven and a quarter, because that sounds older than five or seven. Tech firms do the same thing by quoting shipment numbers instead of sales.

Shipping isn't the same as selling - it means sending products out to retailers, who will then try to sell them - and when a firm brags about the former but won't talk about the latter you're usually dealing with a dud. Watch out for carefully chosen statistics too, such as "our market share is up 132% in Bogota!" accompanied by silence about the US and EU.

Shipping - not sold

Shipping - not sold
Carrie Marshall

Writer, broadcaster, musician and kitchen gadget obsessive Carrie Marshall (Twitter) has been writing about tech since 1998, contributing sage advice and odd opinions to all kinds of magazines and websites as well as writing more than a dozen books. Her memoir, Carrie Kills A Man, is on sale now. She is the singer in Glaswegian rock band HAVR.