Why You Don’t Need a New Smartphone

Why is it that so many people I talk to on a daily basis insist that they need the newest smartphone the moment it’s announced? I, too, am an admitted card-carrying member of the early adopter club, but upon taking a step back and looking at the state of things, I’ve come to realize that we’ve grown to expect too much of our devices.

Yes, you should expect your device to work for you from the day you buy it until the day you replace it. The marketing teams at companies like Apple, Microsoft, and even Google would have you think that you need whatever it is they’ve built because it’s leaps and bounds beyond anything they’ve ever designed before. It’s that inherent need these brilliant marketing bodies have created that cause us the most harm when all is said and done.

I switched from iOS to Android about a year ago, and every time Apple does a keynote I find myself regretting that decision because the things the new iPhone or iPad do look absolutely magical. Likewise, the latest Nexus phone (Nexus 4) is a stunning piece of architecture that has many Android fans drooling (quite literally in some cases) as they eagerly await the day when they’ll have such an amazing phone in their pocket.

But really, do you need a new smartphone? Didn’t you buy the Galaxy Nexus, Samsung Galaxy S III, or iPhone 4S a little less than a year ago? Why do we feel the need to spend mass quantities of our hard-earned money on hardware updates that (at best) only offer a small boost in performance and functionality?

I’ll admit that I was jealous of my wife when she picked up the iPhone 4S shortly after it came to market. Siri looked great, but it wasn’t long before the honeymoon period ended and Siri became just another bloated, useless feature on what is really just a small step up from the iPhone 4.

No matter how good these things look during the keynotes, the boost you’ll get inside of one year is marginal at best. I’m sitting at a desk right now with an LG Optimus G (running the same hardware as the Nexus 4) and my trusty Galaxy Nexus. One of these phones is on loan from LG, and I admittedly want one. Truth be told, I could get along just fine with the Galaxy Nexus for at least another year. It does everything I need a phone to do, and it cost me a lot less than the Optimus G would in the interim.

How do we learn to control our wants?

That’s the question behind almost every conversation I’ve had with readers when I write about a gadget that just came to market. It isn’t so much why is this worth buying, or why isn’t it. It comes down to why it’s so difficult for most people to control their wants. We wanted the Surface when Microsoft announced it. We were let down when it turned out to be a fairly lackluster user experience tied to an aesthetically impressive piece of so-so performing hardware. Were we throwing our money at the screen and demanding that Microsoft take our money and give us one? Yes.

This is the game these multinational corporations have learned to play better than any other. Apple is perhaps the best at this game, and that’s why it’s worth more than any other company in the world right now. It found a way to take control of our wants, and make them seem more like needs.

Advertisers look at every possible scientific angle they can to find a way to target our very nature and make us crave whatever it is they’re selling. Have you ever wondered why diapers and feminine hygiene products are demonstrated with a light blue liquid? This is because blue is a calming and pleasing color to most people. The liquid could be green or even purple, but it’s blue for a reason.

Politicians are also great examples of this marketing genius. Polls are taken, committees have meetings, and focus groups are tested regularly to answer questions surrounding the color of a politician’s tie or the way someone parts their hair. This information is used to great effect in the political world. It isn’t an accident that candidates wear ties that match the state flag or team colors of the local college. They do this because it has an effect on us.

How do you control your wants? Your guess is as good as mine, but think about this the next time you see a commercial for a new phone and decide right there and then that you have to have one. Do you really, or are you being played by science?

Image: Google

Article Written by

Ryan Matthew Pierson has worked as a broadcaster, writer, and producer for media outlets ranging from local radio stations to internationally syndicated programs. His experience includes every aspect of media production. He has over a decade of experience in terrestrial radio, Internet multimedia, and commercial video production.

  • http://twitter.com/br3akth3lim1t Nathan Barnett

    Well I’m getting the Nexus 4 so I can get off my horrible regional carrier.(CSpire) I’m going to go to StraightTalk. :)

  • http://twitter.com/#!/gpowerf G.Power

    I have an original Galaxy S, and it is still fine. Does email just fine, voice search is awesome, browses the Web fine, and runs lots of apps just fine. Basically it is fine.

    Yeah, a Nexus 4 would be smoother, but am I less of a person just because the Galaxy S skips the odd frame and the Nexus 4 doesn’t? No.

    This doesn’t just apply to smartphones, this applies to every single thing we can purchase. Most of what we buy in consumerist societies is out of wants and not needs, and it ultimately doesn’t lead to happiness. You cannot fill an existential void with all singing all dancing new cutting edge material goods, it is an exercise in futility! You cannot, catch up, overtake and wrestle Moore’s law to the ground. You will for ever purchase, purchase, purchase and remain unfulfilled to the end of your existence.

    Begin pragmatic about your needs and learning to appreciate what you have will ultimately lead to more happiness and success than consuming with blind abandon.

  • George Blair Jr

    I’m major big time one of these people.

  • http://www.facebook.com/bobby.gomez.737 Bobby Gomez

    I agree, I’m still using a Blackberry Curve which I use for text, email and to answer a simple phone call. It works for my needs.

  • http://cookiesandcakemc.tumblr.com/ Jonathan Fite

    This is exactly how I feel. I love my GS3, but there is something inside me that wants the Nexus 4, even though IMO it is a downgrade from my epic GS3. I even sometimes have those wants for the new iPad Mini, because at my school, it is all Apple devices. I think the world around us wants the newest and greatest things, and that is a big influence on deciding to buy the new device or not.

  • http://twitter.com/KarlNU Karl Newark

    2 years is right for me, using a Nexus device but it also fits for an iOS devce, you get one year of having the latest and greatest Hardware and software, then a year of up to date software, this prevents the device from ever feeling truly outdated, this is why I wouldn’t recommend getting the last generation deice when the new one is released, buying a cheap Galaxy Nexus or a iPhone 4S now may seem like a good idea, but in a years time when you are 2 generations behind and the software support stars to dry up, the desire to upgrade could be depressing.

  • http://benjaminwagener.de/ Benjamin Wagener

    I’m one of the few persons who really need a new smartphone, cause I actually have none. I’ve got just a over 6 years old Sony Ericsson K610i and that’s not enough for today, especially if you’re a webdeveloper that has to test his apps…

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1430310093 Wolfee Darkfang

    I think that a lot because I still use a LG Optimus Q which doesn’t upgrade past android gingerbread 2.3.4. So many simple apps I can’t even download, like google wallet or chrome.

  • http://bkgcom.blogspot.in/ Bharat Kumar Gupta

    excellent article Ryan, it ll def teach people to spend money wisely and only when they really need to. I had this laptop which was upgradeable the total cost of upgrade to me was 178 $ i save lot of money by not buying the new one bec i controlled myself, i gone for what i needed then what i wanted, i also follow chris in saving money from coupons and following great deals, really you have to be smart to enjoy your money, Thanks articles like these really make people responsible and very needed IMHO.

  • yejey

    New devices look cool and shiny,yet they poses the same effect as the ‘precious’ like in LOTR

    I’m just afraid to take my BB Playbook outside of my room for fear that I might drop it..

    Thus I like old chunky tech which usually weighs like a brick, and sometimes strong like one!!

  • gbyers72

    My phone is not even dual core = I need a new phone :)

  • PMcK

    We’re not being played by science but by marketing. The technology and engineering that create these toys … sorry…tools are great. But do we really need to carry a left-handed spanner (wrench) everywhere we go?

  • http://labs.webdiastutoriais.com/ Hugo Dias

    Btw you should create a mobile version for lockergnome, or transform this one in responsive

  • Allen Redding

    If I had a phone that worked properly I would not feel the need to upgrade right now. My problem has been that I get the sub-par model phones thinking I am getting a deal when I just end up getting a cheap phone. I am waiting to get a nexus 4 that I will hopefully keep for at least two years or longer.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jrdnv Jordan Vasquez

    I normally go through many phones a year but I do it buy l by swapping and trading. I only truly buy a full phone every two years or two. I like you have a Galaxy nexus like you and I adore the phone. Only nexus phones for me going forward!

  • Jose de Cendra

    I’m going to buy an iPhone 5. But hey, I’ll do it next February when my iPhone 3GS has been actually in my hands for 3 years!! Not bad I think!

  • http://twitter.com/geekykido Justin

    I use a old Tracfone, it gets the job done. I don’t need a smartphone. My Android tablet. (Kindle Fire with a Jelly Bean ROM) assist me for my word processing and video’s when not at the computer.

  • http://twitter.com/Gallifrey103 Alexander_Sigsworth#

    The other question is, how do we know when we actually *do* need to upgrade?

    • Matt Whitehead

      When you are unable to do something you actually need to. I am still using a nexus one, for example. Faster available, but it still does the job There isn’t a good reason to upgrade. If I wanted, I could put a lot of work into flashing it with ics. I don’t have to yet. I may upgrade though to pass this phone on to my dad who is shopping for his first smartphone finally.

  • http://twitter.com/KyleWhitford kyle whitford

    My kids wanted everything that caught their eyes in Toy R Us. I asked- ” Do you want it? Or do you just find it interesting, attractive, compelling? ” Most of us confuse want with interest.There is a huge difference. I use a flip Motorola phone but also own an Evo and iPhone. Texting is difficult. So, I don’t text much. Works fine.

  • David Baron

    I have an LG Optimus 1. BTW Still being made and sold. Rendered obsolete by Qualcomm, the chip manufacturer by no longer supporting drivers for video for newer Android, and by Google by compiling more and more of their apps only for a newer but not necessarily superior ARM processor version. And by LG by never coming out with a proper upgrade even to Gingerbread without rooting and using risky, flaky, windows software. Geez!

    I like this phone. Does the job, sits comfortably in my hand. I cannot afford that Galaxy Note II. I can keep the LG and get a decent tablet for far less. But then I need to carry two devices and worry over two batteries.

    I rooted it. Run a mostly functional ICS and now JB on it, so I have my early-adopter urge fulfilled … for free. JB 4.2 apps that have not gone over to the newer processor run on it just fine. The opensource community is perfecting these ROMs, even if 100% functionality is circumvented by greedy and inconsiderate venders. Go to XDA and take a look!

    And to admit the truth (come on folks, fess up!) I am not really doing much more with this phone than I did with my previous Sony-Ericson! Had apps to do everything I do with Android and nicer implemented games (which I mostly do not bother with). And the battery lasted for days.

  • haidawe

    What about from an iPhone 3GS? XD

  • http://www.facebook.com/omarbilal1 Bilal Omar

    Happy Camper with Galaxy S 3 and Solavei!

  • agun

    In many ways we project our unmet childhood needs onto an object when we desire it without needing it’s functionality. First we have the unconcious narcissistic desire of having the newest smartphone as an attention getter. Then we also idealize our life with a new phone thinking that with it I’ll always feel secure and devoid of unpleasant emotions.
    The smartphone is marketed to the unconcious as a parent. A smart parent. Many of us sadly fall for it.

    Try to think about how many times you will realisticaly use a certain function in a new phone. Do you really see yourself using a certain function? How often? Is that a realistic everyday scenario? Is the function a gimmick? Go through the whole list of reasons why the new phone is superior to yours and see if you can justify the purchase. Then see what else you could do with the money.
    If nothing works, try to personify your current phone so it will be painful to get rid of it. Think about how the phone has witnessed and made possible all those special conversations you have had on it. Give your current phone a name.
    You could also think about the enviromental and human cost of unnecesarily upgrading to a new phone. Do you want more clutter in the house? Do you want to use up more finite resources just to get a bigger, shinier screen and a faster processor?

    The best way and the only lasting way to solve these compulsions is to process your covert (or overt) childhood trauma, however painful this may be.