Do you really need that upgrade?

I get a little grumpy when I’m told it’s time to upgrade. Mobile phones are big upgrade targets, but any other widget or gadget thing is fair game too.

It doesn’t seem to matter if the so called ‘old’ device is fresh off the sales floor, last year’s model, or a durable piece of electronics holding tight after five years of use. Everything, always, needs an upgrade.

We upgrade when stuff still works. We upgrade when flyers promoting hot deals on must-have models hit our inboxes. And we upgrade when our friends boast the latest and greatest doodads with blinking buttons too.

I love this chummy Virgin Mobile brochure. It’s addressed to You, my friend with Carl’s and my name printed throughout.


“Upgrading is super simple. Get hooked up with a hot new smartphone,” says Virgin inside the ad.

Wanna see Carl’s hot phone? My smart *cough* phone sits right beside his.

cell phones

Super hot, right?

Upgrade culture.

Virgin Mobile isn’t the only ‘friend’ who thinks I’m due for an upgrade. My social circle wonders why I’m talkin’ to them on a relic too.

They all wanted to text, Tweet, and Facebook me while we were out for coffee the other day. I just wanted to chat face-to-face without the aid of technology. I lost that conversation, on Twitter.

You’re so vain!

Vanity is (apparently) a big reason to spend the bucks on a boast-worthy upgrade. Virgin spells out your ticket to showmanship in step three.

Virgin’s Vanity: “Start showing off your hot new smartphone.”

You hot show-off, you. So much hot.

Cool curmudgeon?

Sure, you can call me a cranky technophobe for failing to embrace new mobile technology by taking a six-year pass on upgrading my mobile. But you would be wrong.

I love new mobile technology, and I do my best to support it on my blog. In fact, supports your handheld device, whether it’s an iPhone, runs Android OS, or is a tablet. I embrace it all.

I just have my reasons for not upgrading to these devices.

Reasons to press the pause button.

Before pulling the trigger on that new upgrade, maybe stop and think.

1. How much are you spending? Swapping up to the latest toy every release can be an expensive endeavor. I guarantee you won’t keep up to corporate release schedules. Companies have the next ‘big thing’ planned before your current model hits the marketplace.

2. Hello, landfill? Are you there, garbage heap? It’s me, the electronic waste upgrader! Our insatiable need to consume more communications devices is bad news for the environment. According to the Electronics Takeback Coalition, 152 million mobile devices were scrapped in 2010 in the U.S. alone, with only 11% of these being recycled (source (PDF)). Is yours stacked onto that heap?

3. Needs vs. wants. Most of us screw up on this one. Is that new gadget an essential tool you can’t live without? Or are you a tool for wanting a silly feature to help you win FarmVille? It’s time to learn about delayed gratification, people.

Delayed Gratification
A delicious lesson in delayed gratification

Learning to wait can be good for your brain and bank account. It all starts with marshmallows.

4. Does it still work? My crazy cell phone still works. It rings when someone calls, and sometimes I answer it. Sure, technology changes fast and old systems are eventually deprecated, but holding off a few releases between upgrades can save you a lot of money over time.

5. Beware of cascading upgrades. Upgrading my pocket camera to a full-on digital SLR seemed a straightforward spend. But then I wanted more hard drive space to accommodate higher resolution pictures. Then my laptop needed *cough* more memory to run better photo programs. And then the cascading effect pissed me off, so I stuck with just the camera. Upgrading one gadget in your technology ecosystem can have a watershed effect, costing you dearly.

So where am I going with this?

I’m skipping out on a mobile upgrade again this year. At this point my old phone is such a cool ‘conversation piece’ that I can’t bear to part with the awesome.

Since I spend most of my days sitting in front of a computer, I’m pretty thrilled when I can turn the beeps and ringers off in favor of some fresh air outside. Freedom from being connected to everyone, all the time, is pretty hot.


Your two cents:

  1. Nick @ BayCrazy April 14th, 2013

    I was actually in a similar position not long ago…

    I didn’t upgrade my phone for years; I never particularly stayed up-to-date anyway, just more-so out of lazy disinterest than anything. I love technology, but phones never turned me on that much, I don’t like browsing on mobile devices and so I only use a mobile for calls and texts anyway.

    However, after having my trusted Sony Ericsson K800i (seriously long-lasting, solid, badass phone) finally give in after many many years of knocking-about… I got the Samsung Galaxy S3, on contract with orange…

    Now, first off; it’s an awesome phone.

    Beyond that, I agree with most of the things you say here – I don’t use a personal Twitter, message my closest friends only via FB (on a PC, I don’t sit endlessly communicating whilst out etc.) and don’t need a phone for much, and also don’t want to be eternally connected 24/7 to people.

    However… nobody said that you have to use your phone for that so, it’s not just about the extra communication potential. If you ever record any personal videos or take any pictures: a good phone, such as the S3… has a superb camera quality and is a handy media wallet, which is good to have in your pocket for whatever occasion; then, there’s endless little benefits, apps and potential with your base screen such as specialized news updates (aka, you could just set it to ‘science news’ stories), and just lots of cool things you can’t achieve with a ‘dumbphone’.

    Overall, I am glad that I got the phone; I don’t use it for anything you suggested you wouldn’t need it for, as I don’t need or want it for that either… but it is a nicer device to use, has a lot of potential, features, is multi-functional as a camera, cam-corder and a million other things through the use of apps and is just a nice little mini-computer for emergency info, or whatever may come up.

    And, whilst it’s nice to save money… if you upgraded once every… 3-4 years… it’s not really that significant in my opinion; as technology is not just about price either – it’s about the experience, quality, what you get from it… it’s a shame to reduce EVERYTHING to a monetary value as if that’s all that matters… I agree with most points here but… I do think an upgrade at significant points in technological development is worth it.

  2. Rick May 2nd, 2013

    I must be somewhat of an oddball when it comes to cell phones – I guess it’s just not all that important to me to keep up with all the latest gizmos – it’s not that I don’t like technology or that I don’t embrace it, I just don’t see the need to be “in touch” 24/7.

    One thing I have noticed in the past few years is that the art of “personal conversation” is almost non existant.
    I often sit at a mall food courts (or anyplace for that matter) and observe people sitting together at a table where they have gathered for lunch.
    Each person will sit with their phone on – in view, waiting for a call or a text message. If one doesn’t come in then they all seem to feel the urge to start texting like mad (I swear sometimes to each other at the same table). This will go on for the entire lunch hour. It makes me wonder what they did years ago when this technology wasn’t even available?
    I can’t help but feel that it’s just downright rude to sit there with someone and attempt to have a decent conversation while they have their face buried in their cell phone doing any number of things except talking to you.
    Why do we even bother to sit at the same table????

    I still have my old trusty Motorola flip (dumbphone) and I’m sure it’s over 12 years old.
    Works like a charm and does what it’s supposed to do – make phone calls.
    No built in camera or internet connection – I don’t even text on it.
    When I’m at lunch or out and about, I very seldom even have it on – no one needs to get in touch with me that urgently and if they do, they can leave a voice mail message and I will get back to them when I can. Saves having to answer the phone while driving too – 😉
    Another great thing about the old “fliphones” – NO POCKET DIALING!
    I can’t even beging to count the number of calls I’ve received from someone’s phone when it’s stuck in their pocket making calls on it’s own. How annoying is that?

    My phone is NEVER on when I go to lunch or when I’m in a social setting with someone – I mean really – it’s not going to kill me to be “out of touch with the world for an hour”?
    My phone company keep bugging me to “upgrade” and I keep refusing to do so – I mean why should I?
    I’m on a great plan with lots of minutes (that I seldom use to the max) yet I can communicate anywhere, anytime I need to with my simple little flip cell phone and it only costs me $24.00 per month.
    If I really need to make a phone call, I can – if I need to take a picture or a video – I have a camera for that, If I’m lost, I have a GPS and if I really need to look something up on line – I have never found it urgent enough that it couldn’t wait until I got home.
    My little cell phone is just fine and I can even get replacement batteries for it so I should be good to go for many more years to come.

  3. Les July 28th, 2013

    Thank you for writing this article.

    I had a QWERTY phone (NOT a smartphone), until about last year or so. My parents gifted me a new phone for my birthday last year (it has “features” of a smartphone, but not quite a smartphone). I’ve been using that “new” phone (that my parents gifted to me) for almost 10 months now. However, with the increasing “bombardment” of marketing of newer models of androids, and iphones, and whatnot, I’ve been getting increasing urges to invest in a full-fledged smartphone. But, here is the rub – I cannot financially afford to buy one (smartphones are too expensive for me). However, I decided to buy a “budget smartphone”. But, I’m also getting second thoughts as to whether it is really worth it. I’m completely in two minds as to whether I want to buy a smartphone simply to look “cool”. Mind you, I never really demanded any hi-tech gadgets (as a teenager) from my parents. Therefore, I’m also feeling guilty about even having thoughts about investing in another phone in the first place. This article is a complete godsend for me. I now know what decision I have to make.

    Thank you!!

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