When you buy a product you're also buying the company that makes it.

Sales, gimmicks, ads, all pale to insignificance compared to how they treat you, the customer, in the days, weeks, months, and years following your purchase. It's something that needs to be considered part of the overall value and as part of the overall decision. Brian X. Chen, writing for the New York Times:

Product reviews are broken. They are great at telling you about the speed of a computer or the brightness of a screen. But there's a big gaping hole in evaluations of most products, from phones to computers to televisions.

The product evaluations neglect to mention the quality of a company's customer service, which becomes the most important factor of all when problems or questions related to the product come up.

I learned this lesson from a bizarre experience with a Samsung oven that I bought last year. This was no impulse purchase — I researched brands and appliances for days. But even that didn't help.

Chen contrasts this with the renowned customer support offered by Apple and Amazon. That's been my experience as well.

I've told the story before: When my iPhone 4s was hit by fireworks on New Years Eve, the screen ended up feeling like sandpaper. I took it to the Apple Store, and a Genius I'd never met before swapped it out free of charge. An iCloud restore and 30 minutes later, I walked out with what was essentially my phone made new again. Then I walked over to the carrier store and saw the rep telling a customer his non-Apple phone would need to be sent away for repair, it would take a couple weeks, and there were no loaner phones available.

This was back in the days before AppleCare+, and I'm now pretty sure it was replaced because Apple wanted to capture it and figure out what the fireworks had done to the screen. It was a unique situation. Today, though, I'd just pay the AppleCare+ free and get it fixed, at least twice if necessary. That removes a lot of stress from my life.

I, like many others I'm sure, have been driven apoplectic by problems getting non-Apple laptops serviced in the past, which is why I stick to MacBooks now. I've had several neighbors and friends-of-friend who suffered through problems with non-Apple tablets and phones as well. Many of them come to realize it's a cost, just like any other.

That's why, for years now, we've included Apple Store access, AppleCare service, iCloud restore, and other customer centric services as part of our reviews. Because it really does matter.