Thursday, December 16, 2010

Do I (really) need a new smartphone?

I bring this quetion up as I own an HTC Hero, it lets me do most of what I would like with a smartphone but do I really need to upgrade to a new handset? A question for myself ... but also the manufacturers and operators. Chances are, many people near the end of their contract may be asking the exact same question. Of course, you will always want to upgrade if your current phone has worn out or knackered ... however mine is pretty good condition and nothing has degraded ... yet, touch wood! Even the battery still gets me through a normal day. So, why would I want to upgrade, I mean do I really need to?

What do I get when I upgrade, or can I save money by not upgrading? Right now, handsets are getting better screens, better cameras and so on ... so perhaps I will upgrade soon to something a little more flashy. However, most of the interesting aspects seems to sit within the software, such as the browser and the apps. Perhaps I can upgrade the software and get most of what I need? But actually, thinking about it, I would like a better camera with a flash ... so perhaps yes, upgrade, stick with Android, stick with what I know and feel comfortable with. Will I need another one in 12-18 months time?

I assume (rightly/wrongly, please choose) this is a question all handsets manufacturers have been asking themselves these last couple of years. Rather than deliver every conceivable feature on their latest and greatest handset, they have to hold features back otherwise nobody will want or need to upgrade. But some manufacturers are more about shifting numbers of devices, they aren't really into the post sales side of things so do they really care as long as they hit their monthly targets? If the handset doesn't have all the latest wonderful features, is it ever likely to sell? Are reviewers going to damn it before it has even hit the shelf? Most handsets seem to have about 1 year shelf life these days, so whatever gets built needs to shift quick. With many manufacturers building Android handsets now, they have to be clever in differentiating their models so it has the 'must have' feature I can't do without.

I have a feeling that until something earth shattering and radical moves handset form factors beyond the current rectangular slab with a glass window on the front, the rate of change and upgrades are likely to slow down as software updates become more important to the user. We saw this happen in the desktop and laptop market. Might mean a slow down in smartphones sales at some point. So do operators really need to have 24 month contracts to recoup the costs of the handset? What incentives are there to keep your current handset ... this is the greener thing to do afterall!