“Should I upgrade my phone, iPad, Kindle, Nintendo DS, or other device?” Questions about upgrading personal tech are among the most frequent questions I get, for good reason. Upgrading personal tech is a big deal – it’s an investment of time and money and it’s an investment in the future. Nothing makes you feel quite as silly as buying a new personal tech device, only to have the new model come out the very next week.
Upgrading tech can be expensive. Even though tech prices keep dropping, you’re still shelling out funds you wouldn’t be spending had you kept your old device.
Upgrading tech can take time. There is a learning curve for new devices. Chances are your new device does something new and different from your old device (after all, that’s why you bought it, right?), and those new features take time and effort to learn. You might have to play with the settings of your new device to configure it just the way you want it. And if it’s really new tech, such as the iPad 2, you might have to spend time waiting in line or hunting for a store that has the device in stock (see, Buying an iPad 2 Is Hard to Do).
Upgrading tech is an investment in the future. New technologies are just around the corner: 3D for personal gaming devices, 4G network data speeds from cell phone carriers, and NFC payment systems for mobile phones (near field communication systems that allow you to swipe your smart phone to make a payment at a store). All of these emerging technologies will be available by the end of 2011. Buying a new tech device today may mean that you miss out on these new features, making your new device obsolete in record time.
The easiest decision is, “No, I won’t upgrade. I will wait.” But with that philosophy you could end up still using this cell phone:
“Alright, fine,” you say. “I will upgrade frequently so I always have the latest and greatest tech.” But then you end up with a drawer full of these:
So when should you upgrade? Decisions, decisions. Because upgrading is a complex decision, you need to take several factors into account. The answer is different depending on your situation, but here is what you should consider:
Do you need a new device?
Perhaps your old phone broke or was stolen so you need to replace it, that’s a good time to upgrade. Or let’s say your teenager is finally getting his first cell phone. Does it make more sense for him to get your old phone and you upgrade to a new one? (It doesn’t always make sense to do this. At first I gave an old cell phone to my daughter, but her plan was expensive so then I got her the Virgin Mobile Beyond Talk plan which was much cheaper for us. My daughter ended up getting a new Android phone because my old phone wouldn’t work on the Virgin Mobile network. See, Smart and Cheap).
Is there a new feature you need or are craving?
Maybe you’ve never had a smartphone before and are realizing the benefits of having apps and/or data on the go (see, Killer Apps). Maybe the camera on the new iPad will allow you to have video chats with loved ones when you’re away from home, so you really want that feature. Maybe the Android phone will give you a mobile hotspot for free so you can save on having a data plan with your iPad.
Do you have to sign a contract for your device?
Most cell phone carriers have a two year contract for buying a new phone. Yes, you can buy a smartphone for full price, but few of us want to spend $600 on a phone when we can spend under $200 with a two year contract.
Make sure you’re buying a new device though. Right now, AT&T is offering the iPhone 3GS for $49. Great deal, right? No, the iPhone 3GS is almost two years old and you have to sign a two year contract to get that price. If you took this deal, you would end up with a four year old phone at the end of your contract. That’s way too old for a smartphone in these days of rapidly changing technology. You don’t want to be stuck with a dinosaur.
Other devices, such as the iPad, Kindle and Nintendo DS, don’t require that you sign a contract so the decision to upgrade these devices involves no long-term commitment.
Is there a fixed release schedule for your device?
Apple launches their new devices every year with predictable dates: the iPad is in the Spring (March, April), the iPhone is in the Summer (June, July) and iPods are in the Fall (September). New Kindle models tend to be introduced in the fall before the holiday season.
Android phones are trickier. Because phones running the Android OS are made by many different manufactures, new models of Android phones come out almost every month. Keeping up with the latest and greatest Android phones would involve winning a lottery with a big jackpot and then spending that jackpot on new Android phones. Not your best option.
Will you be an early adopter?
In spite of the long lines for an iPad 2, it’s generally not a good idea to be an early adopter. Wait a little while and then search online to see what others think of the new device. Last week HTC launched the Thunderbolt, the first Android phone on the market that works with Verizon’s new 4G data network. Many people have bought the Thunderbolt, excited about taking advantage of Verizon’s 4G speeds, but this first generation phone may not be their best choice for a phone. (see, Engadget Review of Thunderbolt).
Only You Can Decide What’s Best for You
After thinking through all of these factors, if you still crave your new device, if you can’t sleep at night because you’re so excited about its new features, or if you simply can’t wait to upgrade, then go ahead and do it. Take the plunge. Get your new device and remember what it was like as a child to feel the joy of getting a prized new toy. Revel in the fun and let us know how you are enjoying the wonder of your new tech.
* Photo by Michael Marusin
**Photo by Michael Hanscom