Avoiding electronics envy

March 21, 2012

Despite well-publicized reception issues, more than 1.7 million people purchased Apple's iPhone 4 in the first three days it was available.      Getting started on this Tech Smart column has been difficult because I’m finding it hard to pull myself away from the captivating and remarkably crisp screen of my one-day-old iPhone 4.

Despite well-publicized reception issues, more than 1.7 million people purchased Apple's iPhone 4 in the first three days it was available.     

Getting started on this Tech Smart column has been difficult because I’m finding it hard to pull myself away from the captivating and remarkably crisp screen of my one-day-old iPhone 4.

I’ve spent quite a bit of time testing out and getting used to the quirks of my brand new smartphone since it arrived in the mail. Thus far it’s living up to all of the hype both good and bad. The screen is amazing, the processor peppy, the tweaked operating system an improvement on it’s predecessor, the battery life far more robust and the stylish external antenna a mixed blessing.

My initial reaction is that I made a great decision to upgrade from my older model for the latest hardware to be given a spot on the austere tables of the Apple Store. In every way I’ve noticed it’s better than the 3G I’ve carried for the last couple of years, and it has a whole range of new capabilities such as video chats and multi-tasking.

It’s certainly the state of the art for right now, but right now could be over in a matter of weeks. Something even more powerful and better running with further reaching capabilities will certainly be along soon. In some people’s opinions it’s already here in the form of HTC’s EVO 4G or DROID Incredible or Motorola’s DROID 2 and DROID X.

Maximum cutting edge time

But whether it’s smartphones or computers or scanners or mills, buying the latest and greatest still only guarantees a short stay at the cutting edge. Unless you’re financially blessed enough to upgrade everything constantly-and anyone who is so blessed probably didn’t get there by making wasteful purchases-it’s important to make purchases and upgrades when that cutting edge not only takes you to new places, but new places you’ll be comfortable staying at for a while.

The next generation of every technology is perpetually right around the corner. It’s easy to immediately become unhappy with a purchase because it can’t do something the next device is capable of. Conversely, it’s just as easy to suffer purchasing paralysis by constant over analysis where you never pull the trigger on adopting a new technology because there’s always that newer, better version on the way, and buying now means missing out on that.

Analyzing yourself and your needs first is the key to avoiding both pitfalls. By looking inward, you can gain an understanding of what your priorities are in terms of technological capabilities and efficiencies to be gained through their use. It is only after you know what needs are not being met that you should take a look around to see if there is a technology ready to assist you.

So if it’s a CAD/CAM system you’re considering to expand the products you can offer at your lab, or like me, a new smartphone to help keep you connected to work, family, friends and information on multiple levels, it’s crucial to know how the new technology will be put to use before you begin looking at individual devices and systems.

Filling your needs

Once you know what you need, it’s important to look at technologies that will not only address those needs, but will (at least in some areas such as hardware) go well beyond your basic needs. That’s not to say it’s smart to buy technology with functions you will never use, but rather to look for technologies that have room for you to grow into, as well as the potential to grow themselves. Make absolutely sure the new gear will accomplish your key tasks efficiently and effectively. Any additional power or capabilities should be technological overhead that you are basically banking for the future.

“It’s just as easy to suffer purchasing paralysis by constant over analysis where you never pull the trigger on adopting a new technology because there’s always that newer, better version on the way, and buying now means missing out on that.”

If you buy a system or a device that is the latest thing out and you use every bit of the processing power and other hardware capabilities, your investment will essentially be a time capsule to the moment it was purchased, and as I already said it soon will be outdated. Of course hardware can be updated, but rarely without a significant new investment.

On the other hand software updates are sometimes free and usually less expensive when they do have a cost. New software can make a system or a device seem brand new all over again, as it often unlocks some of the untapped hardware potential. When researching technology purchases, look into how often a system receives software updates, whether there is usually a cost for them and how substantial they tend to be.

Software updates made my iPhone 3G a more valuable device during it’s two years of service, and based on Apple’s track record with these things, I expect my new iPhone 4 to be similarly upgraded during the years of service I have planned for it.

I know Apple is on track to put out a new iPhone each year, but I plan to sit on the sidelines for the next few rounds. I have yet to find tasks I use my smartphone to accomplish that this one does not do, and what it does it does amazingly quickly. I bought this one confident that it is more than capable of doing what I need for more than the two-year lifespan of my mandatory AT&T contract.

With my research done and my internal needs assessed, I am confident in my technology investment and am excited to watch my new smartphone plow through all the tasks I call on it to do. Sure I know my current one might no longer be the latest and greatest even by the time you’re reading these words, but I have no worries that it will fail to meet my needs during the lifespan I have planned for it.

Now the only question I have left about my decision to go with the iPhone 4 is where to find a decent case to ameliorate those pesky antenna issues and protect this thing from the inevitable accidental drop or two it’s sure to be subjected to.

Noah Levine writes the monthly Tech Smart column on consumer electronics for Dental Lab Products. Contact him at nlevine@advanstar.com.