When do we renew our phones?

Two days ago Microsoft had their Windows Phone Summit where they published some features of the upcoming Windows Phone 8. At the same event Microsoft announced that the current Windows Phones can’t be updated to WP8. This launched intense conversation about why would anyone buy a Windows Phone now since it will be an ancient relic in six months. Let’s take a closer look at this dilemma.

There are three things that lose a lot of their value when they are purchased – cars, computers and mobile phones. That is because technology evolves constantly. And it does it fast. Right after a new model hits the shelves even newer model is being published. Lumia 900 just became available in finland and now we know it will be somewhat outdated in six months. Some people take this as if the phone stops working the moment Windows Phone 8 models arrive to the market.

Most consumers don’t care if they own the newest model available but some tech enthusiasts do. So the dilemma touches mostly them. It’s funny how most of these enthusiasts give more value to the newest hardware instead of the user experience. In some cases the phones will have technology that has only a small amount of real world applications. If you happened to get a phone with NFC when the first ones of those came available you probably noticed there’s not much use for the nice feature. But now there is. And that phone is not the hottest new model anymore.

Manufacturers usually offer updates to the older models when they publish newer models or, like in Microsoft’s case, new operating systems. Purpose of their updates is to bring the older models as close to the new, upcoming, models as possible. It’s called good customer service. For example when Microsoft published Windows Phone 8 they promised updates for the current Windows Phone models. These updates can’t bring such changes as quad-core processors or SD card support for the current models but who expected that? The updates will alter the user experience to be as close to the WP8 experience as possible.

Last autumn I had to give up my former employer’s phone so I had to buy a new one. I knew I wanted an Android phone from HTC. EVO 3D had just came in store but I hit my eyes on Desire HD which was relatively cheap so I got that. I knew it was old model that wouldn’t get any more updates but it still had a relatively new version of Android. I was surprised when the phone told it wants to be updated to newer version of Android. Few months later HTC updated the phones operating system and user interface which was another surprise because I kind of wanted to experience the new Sense interface. Another pleasant surprise came in February when HTC told that my Desire HD will have another os update which gives me Android 4. So the phone I thought was dead at the moment I bought it is now going to have most of the features the new flagship phones have. This is extremely good service from HTC.

Some consumers are brand loyal to one manufacturer or operating system and get only that manufacturer’s phones or phones that have a certain operating system. These consumers don’t actually have a problem to own the most high-tech model at the market. They are happy with the flagship model of the brand and they know it will be the flagship until the next year.

The problem is bigger if the brand doesn’t matter. Manufacturers bring out one top model per year. If you buy a top model at spring, a “better” one comes out at summer from another manufacturer and another on comes out at autumn. When one top model comes available the next one is published and the object of desire has changed. This happens several times every year.

So when is the right time to buy the newest phone available? If you are going to wait the next top model to be in stores you have to wait just so you can find out it’s already outdated. So go and buy the damn phone available right now. It will still work after a year.

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