Dear Ms. Smartphone: It seems to happen every Fall. I see the ads for the new phones and I want so badly to get one. Since my current phone works well and it is compatible with the ones my friends use, I am conflicted about the real need for one! Zack, San Francisco
Dear Zack: With all the phone buzz (no pun), a lot of us are feeling that same “pain” to “attain.” Since I began this column on mobility, I wondered if there were parallels with the car industry.
Smartphones are in their infancy, so when we get a new phone there are step-up improvements. Cars used to be like that, and it made sense to reach for a safer, more efficient model.
But, over time, cars became more standardized and reliable. The two or three year trade in cycle for cars was done in by the recession and other factors.
That said, people need to be sold a reason to get a new phone.. or car. That’s where advertising comes in. For autos and trucks, advertising in the US is about $18 billion annually. It’s considerably less for smartphones: they live within the environment of mobile ads, if that makes sense.
You mention in your post that your current phone is compatible with the ones your friends use. Marketing people would call that a socio-cultural factor. There are economic issues, and psychological factors when it comes to buying or leasing a new phone. For example, which phone features do you weight heavily and pay attention to? Imagine the emotions you feel the ‘day-after’, once you unwrap the box and are routinely using the new device. In our culture, ‘the right call’ may be to try new things and keep ahead of the technology.
If you decide to get that new phone, consider donating your existing one to a senior or older person who is not tech-savvy.
I find that seniors tend to keep their smartphones and flip-phones ‘forever’. In the classes I teach, their older phones become a hindrance to being digital savvy and Internet aware.