Do We Really Need a New Phone Every Year?

While watching TV on Saturday afternoon it has become apparent that many cell phone providers are pushing the opportunity to get a new smartphone every year. TMobile, AT&T, Sprint and Verizon are working very hard to get new customers. One way to do this is to offer a new smartphone every year instead of every two years. Several years ago it would be hard to imagine that this would be a big selling point. Today, with new smartphones coming out every single month, it is a huge selling point. I do wonder if people really need a new phone every year. I have had three phones in the last two years and the transition has not been the easiest process. In fact, I am still trying to figure out some of the ins and outs of my Nexus 4. Every time I post to social media asking a question I get made fun of because I do not know how to use a specific feature or option. I am someone that has a pretty good grasp on technology so I cannot imagine that the common American really needs a new smartphone every 365 days. Perspective is extremely important and I will attempt to look through the glasses of the common US customer.

Smartphones Can Do Everything, But...Picture of generic smartphone

While smartphones have the capability to do almost everything it is often true that most users just use their phones for the very basic functions. One of the selling points of an Android phone is the ability to customize almost everything. Since purchasing my Nexus 4 back in February 2013 I have customized two things - my home screen and my background. Yes, that is all. I have not added widgets. I have not changed the icons. I have not adjusted the font on the apps. In fact, I only have a handful of apps that I use. I have one productivity app, a couple social media apps and my email. This is someone that uses their smartphone more than several hours a day. If I am only using it for these basic needs it would make sense that others are doing the same as well. It may very well be the case that the common smartphone user doesn't even use the phone for anything other than to check Facebook, Twitter, email and surf the web. It does not take a new smartphone every two years to do these basic functions.

When looking at the most used apps in the world the same names pop up over and over. Google Maps, Facebook, YouTube and Google+ are the apps that are consistently in the top four. One of the reason for the Google dominance is these apps come preinstalled on all Android smartphones. There are very few unknown apps that ever crack the top 20 or top 100. You can probably name the top 20 off the top of your head as you have seen them over and over again. Apps like Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, Fandango and other social type apps. I don't think there is any argument to be made that social apps are extremely popular on smartphones, but, once again, it does not take a brand new phone every year to be able to post to Twitter or see what movies are playing on the Fandango app.

Streaming content through Hulu and Netflix has become very popular on desktop and even the smartphone. Some would make the argument that they need a brand new phone to watch movies without hitting bumps along the way. What is more important than the phone is the network. I can use a Samsung Galaxy SII to watch a Netflix movie and have no problems because I have 4G LTE on the AT&T network. The Samsung Galaxy SII is a phone that is almost two years old now. The same is true to be said about the iPhone 4S. If you want to stream live video content on an iPhone 4S you will have no issues if you have a strong network connection. As networks continue to advance it may be the case that a new smartphone is needed every year but that is simply not the case in September 2013. There are millions of American citizens that live in an area that is still 3G or even less. These customers will not benefit from a new phone every year other than a better camera.

Taking pictures is a huge part of the phone experience. If a customer came up to me and said they want a new smartphone every year for the camera and photo taking capabilities I would consider that a valid argument. That said, I see many phones that have a huge crack across the lens so it is likely the case that people are not looking to upgrade solely for the game. I would love to do a survey to see just how many smartphone users know how many mexapixels they have on their current smartphone camera. Microsoft is pushing a smartphone with 41 megapixels and it can hardly get off the ground in terms of sales. This makes me think that the camera is not the major concern for those looking to upgrade. Interestingly, when looking at other pieces of technology Americans are hesitant to update. I am sitting in a room with a Samsung HD TV that is over four years old. There are a few issues here and there with the TV but I have no desire to get a new one. In fact, I purchased a smaller Samsung TV not too long ago and I continue to watch the older model. If we get a TV every five or seven years why is it the case that we want a smartphone every single year.

When it gets down to it, I think we have to agree that a smartphone is a status symbol more than anything else and everyone wants to be the coolest kid on the block.




Add new comment