It’s time we had a mature discussion on device lifecycles. We expect most things that we buy to last a few years. When you buy a new pair of jeans or a shirt, you expect it to last 3-5 years. You probably own sweaters that you’d rather not admit when you bought them. They look nice and do the job, so why throw them away? When it comes to furniture or anything in the kitchen, we expect things to last 5-20 years.
Things are different in the mobile world. If you listen to the pop culture and advertisements around you, you may think that the only way to keep up with the times is to buy a new smartphone and tablet with every new major release. I confess that I own a Galaxy S1 Mini. It dials, lets me receive calls and has an app that tells me when the next train leaves the station. I’d rather invest in my Beatles collection than a 5 inch screen.
Before you buy a new smartphone or tablet, make your own decision as to the acceptable lifecycle. How long will you use it before you buy “the latest, greatest model?” If you don’t decide, society will decide for you. Samsung released the Galaxy S in June 2010. Three years later, we see the media drooling over the Galaxy S5. The first iPhone was released in 2007. The “latest new” iPhone 5C and 5S models are the 7th generation of iPhones (iPhone, 3G, 3GS, 4, 4S, 5 and the 5C/5S).
I sure hope most of you haven’t bought every model in between. Don’t get me wrong – I’m a big fan of both ecosystems and hope they both keep pumping out amazing mobile technologies for decades to come. I just think it’s time we took a deep breath to reflect on how long we should keep devices that cost between $300 and $800.
What is the perfect device lifecycle? It depends. If you work in a tech startup, expect to succumb to “device peer pressure” every 18 to 24 months. If the only time you are mobile is during your commute to work, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with making a rule – “I will keep my new device for 3 years.” If you only make it to 2 and a half years before you break down and buy a “killer smartphone,” you still win.
If you are a heavy tablet user, go with every 3 years and keep your smartphone for 4 years. If that’s hard to swallow, think of it this way – do you really want to buy 5-8 smartphones every decade?! Unless you’re buying that many houses, restrain yourself. I have a friend here at Nubo who is proud of his inexpensive Chinese smartphone. He and I use our tablets more often and we prefer a smartphone that is a “square rather than a large rectangle.”
I encourage all of you to sit down with your friends and family and talk about how long you intend to keep your smartphones and tablets. Remember the lyric from The Eagles’ Hotel California? “We are all just prisoners here, of our own device.” Are you?