The Limited Lifespan of Technology

What do cars and technology have in common? Both lose value the moment you purchase them.

For cars, this isn’t much of an issue since they will usually continue to run just fine for several years. Unlike smartphones, computers, and other tech, they don’t need upgrades. The average age of a passenger car/light vehicle in the U.S. is over 11 years, according to IHS.com. They even get special “historic” license plates in most states after 20 years! Personal technology, though, rarely offers a fully functional lifespan for more than a couple of years.

OS upgrades leave many existing devices behind
Technology you use in your home and at work isn’t as durable as cars. There are three main reasons why personal tech doesn’t do so well in the longevity game.

1.  It breaks easily, particularly mobile technology like tablets and smartphones.
2.  Major operating system (OS) upgrades are often too advanced for existing
     hardware.
3.  Consumers are used to wireless technology, which makes infrequent, but
     dramatic, upgrades.

Are consumers fighting constant upgrades?
Some consumers who have managed to keep their mobile devices longer than manufacturers expect (meaning they haven’t broken them) are voluntarily holding on to them for longer periods than before, Gallup reports. More than half of surveyed consumers told a Gallup poll in April and May 2015 that they hold on to their phones only until they stop working or become obsolete. So, when is a device obsolete?

Most consumers don’t seem to be bothered by an OS upgrade for at least several months. This might explain why 44% told Gallup they stay with contracts to get a phone upgrade every two years. By then, they are ready for something new. Mobile devices are further burdened by network upgrades. Have you tried to operate a 3G device in an area with the “lightening speed” of 4G? Networks don’t serve older devices well, and few have space for upgrades.

Computers operate past their OS support lives
Like cars, desktops and laptops operate even when they’re technically obsolete. There’s a bit of relief in that apps and developers are far more focused on the mobile world. In addition, many computers come with the capacity for upgrades, something few mobile devices offer. Still, while most OS systems may function for years, they lose official support long before they stop working. Microsoft ended support for Windows XP after a 10-year run; support for Vista will end in 2017, also after 10 years. Apple phases out support for its older OS releases even more quickly.

Not surprisingly, Microsoft and Apple both offered limited free upgrades to their latest OS for customers who had more recent versions. There’s nothing like an upgrade to make you aware of all the new software out there you hadn’t considered because…you had an older OS that couldn’t run them.

Consumers are intrigued by new tech approaches
While new apps and other toys are fun, the fact is that many consumers don’t want to learn how to use a replacement device every year, according to Accenture. In the spirit of the Internet of Things, consumers are more interested in buying new approaches to technology.

•   In January 2015, 12% of consumers told Accenture they plan to buy a wearable fitness monitor in the next year
•   40% said they plan to make this purchase in the next five years
•   Over the next five years, consumers plan to buy smart surveillance systems (41%), smart thermostats (39%), and 3D printers
    (35%).

Sure, it’s a lot of fun to have the latest car or the latest technology, but if you decide to wait a little longer before your next purchase, don’t worry; there is always something new and exciting to look forward to no matter when you decide to replace that “old” technology!

(1) http://press.ihs.com/press-release/automotive/average-age-light-vehicles-us-rises-slightly-2015-115-years-ihs-reports
(2) http://www.gallup.com/poll/184043/americans-split-often-upgrade-smartphones.aspx?
(3) https://newsroom.accenture.com/industries/electronics-high-tech/most-consumers-encounter-challenges-using-new-types-of-high-tech-devices-accenture-survey-finds.htm