The Cycle Of Tech Upgrades and Innovation

With technology becoming apart of everyone’s lives more and more (IoT, yearly phone upgrade plans, and screen time being tracked) one has to wonder where the line is of “should I upgrade” with “could I upgrade”.

Now that CES is over and you look at what companies are pushing; foldable phones, 8K TVs, smart ____, how often should people be upgrading? Let’s look at the consumer data for a few pieces of technology:

Phones:

I’ve seen a lot of articles over the past few months on how people are keeping their phones longer and longer. The economist has made the same point I have in another one of my posts about how smartphones have boomed in 10 years and are starting to stall.

Let us not forget that companies took this into account a couple years ago with planned obsolescence; it has become hard but not impossible to change your phone’s batteries. One has to tinker with a phone themselves rather than the phone having a removable back like they used to.

A phone battery has a finite amount of charges before it starts to degrade. Depending on how often you charge, will depend on when your battery degrades. Two years is the span when phone updates make the phone sluggish and the battery dies at a certain point before its suppose to.

Companies put out a phone every year when in fact they are not. The Notch is not an innovation, a foldable phone is not an innovation, I would even argue the smartphone itself is not an innovation. When Seve Jobs announced the iPhone, he called it three devices in one; iPod, phone, and internet comm device. The smartphone is a convenience. As smartphone cameras become better but not better than DSLRs’, the motto “the best camera is the one you have on you” proves that.

Why upgrade your phone? Because companies put one out every year? Because of aesthetics? The phone you have now is good enough for a while if not for updates.

For myself, I have a Pixel first gen and the battery has degraded so much that it dies at 30% sometimes. I’m on the fence of taking it apart and replacing the battery or just buying a Pixel 2.

Televisions:

The thing being pushed out at CES this year was 8K televisions. Not so much that you should buy one right now for two reasons: they’re overpriced and there is no 8K content to stream. Even if there were 8K content to stream, the bandwidth required to stream 8K isn’t where it needs to be.

I couldn’t find any solid data on how often people replace their television but you know yourself that people don’t replace them as often as phones. I could only find that people replace them every 5 to 7 years but the article is from 2012. That still seems accurate as there isn’t much a TV can innovate on beside quality.

TV manufacturers have made it hard to find a reason to upgrade. Again, the TV you have now is good for the long haul.

Computers

One can argue that a majority of people don’t really need a computer these days. The smartphone will suffice. There is a lot of tasks that a phone can’t do like video and photo editing, (although Adobe is making their software better on the iPhone to make editing on the fly easier), making documents etc.

To further this point, Apple has this Russian nesting doll business model with their devices as far as how they treat their products. They don’t treat the Mac and MacBook as a viable business plan. The iPad gets minor tweaks yearly, which they want you to treat as a computer. The iPhone gets a huge announcement as well as the Apple Watch which is their moneymaker.

Microsoft is killing support of Windows 7 a year from now. It will be interesting to see the data of the people and business’ who have windows 7 now and how the struggle of them upgrading will be for valid reasons.

With all that in mind, who is the desktop PC for? Business’ and hospitals for sure. The gamer, the media creator, everything else you can do on a Chromebook or cheap PC and that will get the job done.

Computer experts say that you should replace your computer every 4 years. This seems reasonable as computers become sluggish with the internal components degrading in that time.

This piece makes a good point that a desktop computer will get you the most mileage of any device you own.

 

Wearables

To me, a smartwatch is a solution looking for a problem. If you were to leave your smartwatch at home, would you drive back and get it? You probably would only because you spent a pretty penny on it. So disregarding that, there’s no reason to upgrade a device that there’s no need for at the moment.

However, there is potential for wearables in the health space. Right now a majority of people use it for heart rate, which is important but that’s not a reason for a must buy. Google and Novartis were working on a wearable contact lens for diabetics but have said that it’s infeasible to do. There are little tasks that wearbales can do but imagine it helping your doctor gives better decisions when treating you. Or contributing to clinical trials. That’s where the innovation is.

 

So where does the point of innovation and having to upgrade fall in line? Next time you want you to upgrade your device, think twice about the reasons why.

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