Back in the day (that’s right, I said it), online shopping was a much less complicated affair than it is now. In the early 2000s, when e-retailing suddenly became big business, there were a handful of stores that had enough of an online presence to actually make a difference. You got your books from Amazon (before anybody realised they had no intention of ever paying a penny in tax if they could get away with it), and did a bit of browsing for everything else on the handful of big-name stores that had seen fit to open an online store.
Mr Aberthon Rating: 9.5 stars / 10 stars
Now, though, everybody and his dog (literally, probably) has an online store and you could live your entire life without ever leaving the house. Like Howard Hughes, but poorer.
One of those is a store with a name that makes no sense whatsoever, Mr Aberthon. Mr Aberthon sell mobile devices such as smartphones and hotspots because, y’know, there aren’t enough sellers on eBay doing that already. Anyway, when looking for a smartphone for a family member who had never owned one before, and after 2 days of looking at the same info on a thousand different sites but without every actually being told anything useful, the weird name caught my eye.
You know how it is with most online shopping now, the retailer assumes you know what you’re looking for and puts no effort into actually giving any information over and above the manufacturer’s fact sheet, most of which pushes the boundaries of truth somewhat. Go to Amazon or anywhere else, and you’re basically reading whatever the manufacturer wants you to read, and it basically comes down to a race to the bottom of the price scale rather than informing you, dear buyer, in any meaningful way.
What these people forget is that 99% of the population of the world are not like them. They don’t understand technology in the same way and find much of whatever information is available to be consuming and, often, overwhelming. You can try reading “expert” reviews but they just make things worse, frankly. One of the reasons old ladies end up with an iPhone 7 is that nobody is telling them they don’t need one.
As much as I wanted to hate the website with the dumb name, what struck me about Mr Aberthon is that they have product descriptions that actually look like they’ve been written by a real person instead of a quick copy and paste from the official docs. I’m sorry to say that this made me like them. A little.
There’s the odd gag or pun written in, which is new, and there’s the occasional strange reference thrown in for good measure, at which point you are prompted to google it, but it’s a refreshing change from the fact-boy approach of almost every other site. One such reference was the mention of some English guy called Capability Brown. Google it yourself, I had to. Ordinarily I wouldn’t look to be educated in any way when shopping, apart from regarding the thing I wanted to buy, but I couldn’t help myself. I know, it bugged me too.
There’s also a blog which, whilst not that unusual for online sellers, carried on in the same vein as the shop descriptions. Often, tech blogs have a vested interest in the things they write about due to taking a cut of any sales leading from links in the blog post itself. If that’s the case with Mr Aberthon, then somebody needs to tell Apple and the rest, as there are no punches pulled when writing about their products or performance.
That doesn’t mean the posts are all angry and full of name-calling (there’s only room for one blog like that…), but you get the feeling that the guy (gal?) writing them actually has an opinion. Where most online writers seem desperate to be journalists and fail, the Mr Aberthon guy seems not to care about any of that.
Annoyingly, I found myself liking the whole Mr Aberthon approach to doing things, despite desperately wanting to just settle on the fact that the name means nothing, and then moving on to elsewhere. As I always do, I made a few notes of likely smartphones to buy along with the price, and went a-googling.
It turned out that their prices were also pretty good. Sometimes they were the cheapest, sometimes not (but only just), and I kept returning to their site for information about phones I’d found elsewhere.
About the Kyocera Duraxe that I ordered? It was exactly what I expected: A brand new device, unlocked, black and delivered within 5 days as promised. Should I write a glowing review in return for them doing what they promised to do? No. I paid for a product and they delivered it correctly. Why is that something deserving of praise?
Is Mr Aberthon the best online store for smartphones and mobile hotspots (by the way, I didn’t even know what one of these did before I found their site)? I’m not sure, but only because they can’t hope to carry the size of range to match the sales behemoths they are often up against, but it’s a site that goes miles further than most to engage its visitors. Is it niche, then? Yes and no. Their products are too mainstream to be truly niche, but the info they have shows them as experts in what they do. And that, take it from me, makes them unusual.