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When is the right time to upgrade?



In the world of mobile and computing, the next big thing is always right around the corner.

As soon as you buy something, or sign a contract, something bigger and better this way comes. It can be a damn sight more than just annoying for you to splash out five or six hundred big-ones on a shiny new phone or tablet (or sign yourself into an 18-month contract) only to find out a month later that your phone’s value has decreased dramatically, and had a new more-core better resolution higher mega-pixel thingmybob flashed in your face by that annoying Mr Jones next door, which wasn’t yet available when you walked into the shop and put your wallet where your mouth was.

Inevitably, with the mobile technology advancing as fast as it is, this situation isn’t as uncommon as we would like. Phones and tablets are often made obsolete what feels like hours after their launch. There is always something bigger, better and “badder” looming round the corner. How can we avoid this?

Technically speaking of course, we can’t, but there are steps we can take to future-proof ourselves against this inevitability as much as possible, getting as much longevity out of our phone before it begins to feel like it belongs in a museum, which we will get to in just a moment.

Which are the devices that tend to age fastest?

Well, if you purchase a mid-to-low range phone, you probably aren’t interested in keeping up with Mr Jones in the mobile technology race, and your iPhone 3GS, HTC Wildfire or Blackberry Bold will continue to serve you for all your SMS, music, email and Facebook needs for some time to come. If, however, you love to have the best of the best, you may be finding that your Samsung Galaxy S2, Lumia 900 or iPhone 4s just doesn’t cut the mustard compared to the latest handsets out there, despite those handsets being head-and-shoulders above the previously mentioned lower/mid range devices,

The ones that age most noticeably are the ones made to show off, made with the extra fuel-injected “va va voom” steroid infested machine with the latest processor, biggest brightest screen and all those retinas and NFCs that comes so packed with gigabytes and OLEDs it feels like it’s going to burst. Yesterday’s flagship is today’s budget model.

The best example of a business model based on this is that of Apple; they always have three handsets on sale, the new flagship (iPhone 5 at the time of writing) at premium cost (£35 per month or £500+ to buy the minimum capacity model in the UK, $200 on contract or $600+ to buy unlocked in the US) followed by the previous top model (4S) with no additional capacity versions available on a mid-tier price-range, or the once-revolutionary but now unloved iPhone 4 free on contract in the USA and probably likely to cost you a measly £12 a month in the UK with unlimited calls and data.
With the rest of the mobile market, it’s not so clear cut. If you bought yourself a Galaxy S3 last summer, you may have been slightly miffed that Samsung decided to release a second Flagship, the Note 2, only a few months after, assuming that a phablet would be up your street of course.


So, what do we do?

Well, the best thing to do is to follow the next few steps:

1. Asses how badly you need a new device.

Do you need a phone/tablet right now or can you wait? Is your current device working well enough and does it have all if the functions that you need?

2. Look at the technology that’s available on the current market.

Is the current technology brand new technology? Has it been out a while? Could it become outdated soon?

3. Research, research, research.

Read up on new announcements, rumours, articles, product release cycles, see what is possibly or probably coming soon. is what is coming a new technology or a refinement of an older technology?

4. Check for necessity, usefulness and fads.

Is the current or future technology something that you care about? Can you go without it? Will it future-proof your phone? Could it be hinderous rather than helpful?


If you need a device right now, then obviously you have no choice but to choose from what is available right now. If you can hang on with your ropey device of yesteryear for a couple of months, take a look at what is currently available. Is it a new technology? Have 8 megapixel cameras been around a few years? Is dual-core old news? Does the tag “3G” at the end of a name make a product sound enticing? If the technology is old, chances are that it will be outdated soon, however at the same time, it is probably a much more refined version (An Evo 4g may have been one os the first mobile phones to support 4G, but it uses Wi-Max which in real world use was found to not be that much faster than 3.5G, was battery-draining and wasn’t widely adopted. And it caused the phone to have an ugly bump.)

What is coming out soon? Do you really want to buy a quadcore-powered phone at full price now when there are “Octa-core” phones coming out soon? What is the potential wait on the new technology? Samsung recently announced flexible screens, but do you want to potentially wait a year for that technology to become implementable in consumer products or do you want something sooner?

Do you really need the new specifications in your phone? Perhaps you really do want the 1080p resolution that the next generation of handsets has to offer, but unless you are an enthusiast perhaps you aren’t going crazy to be able to use a phone with a glasses-free 3D screen. Perhaps all that 3D screen and projector reportedly coming with the next flagship device is going to add to cost and weight of the handset while causing an unnecessary drain on the battery life. Perhaps you love gaming and would love a phone that has thumbsticks, or perhaps they would just get in your way. A wait of one month for a phone with double the amount of ram may mean the difference between one year’s update support and three years update support, is that something that interests you?

When you do see something coming your way that satisfies your need for the latest and greatest, probably the best way to protect it from obsoletion is to go out and get it as soon as it launches. If you buy a product six months after its release, chances are that by the time you unbox it at home, your Mr Jones will knock on your door to tell you about the next amazing bit of kit just announced, and suddenly your new handset won’t feel so shiny any more.


How do you avoid buying an outdated mobile phone or tablet? Has this ever happened to you? Does it bother you? Do you prefer having the best device on the block or a device that suits your needs? Tell us in the comments below.