Buy Current Technology, Not State of the Art

Companies in the tech industry love to tout their latest and greatest must-have gadgets. Cell phone providers are a great example. We’re constantly bombarded with ads for the newest smartphones, which cost only $200 with a 2 year contract! What they don’t tell you is that today’s new device is tomorrow’s outdated technology.

This is an idea I first became aware of from Clark Howard, a consumer expert and radio show host.

The problem with always buying the latest technology is that devices are nearly obsolete as soon as the box is opened. By that point, companies have already moved on to promoting the next greatest thing.

My wife and I have been overtaken by tablet envy. We had been in the market for our first tablet for several months, waiting for the right deal to come along. This week that deal came and we decided on an iPad 2. You might be thinking that we’re a little behind the times since it’s 2012 and the iPad 3 (“new iPad”) just came out. But the $500 price tag of a new iPad was out of reach for us. After visiting Apple’s website we found that we could get a refurbished iPad 2 for $350, which is very reasonable for a device that just a year ago many experts were calling the greatest tablet ever.

Apple includes the same warranty with refurbished devices as with new ones, which shows you they really believe in their products. They even replace the battery and outer shell, which are the two parts that take the most wear.

That the iPad 3 came out recently doesn’t change the fact that the iPad 2 is a wonderful product. I’ve seen reports that the new retina display is causing all sorts of issues — overheating and long charge times — in addition to reports that wi-fi reception isn’t as good with the iPad 3. The absence of these issues, combined with a much lower price tag, means that the iPad 2 is still a viable product and a true bargain.

This trend can be applied to many other categories of devices such as HDTVs, digital cameras, GPS units and laptops. Early adopters pay steep prices for the privilege of being among the first to get their hands on new technology.

For the frugal among us though, buying current technology that meets our needs doesn’t have to break the bank. Waiting a year or even a few months can mean big savings, or in some cases more features for the same price. Take HDTVs for example. In 2008 the average 32-inch LCD TV cost over $850. Today you can get one for as low as $199, and it’s likely to have more features than the original models.

Spending more money to get the best possible product is a losing proposition. New products will come out every day, making your device obsolete faster than you might imagine. Avoid state of the art technology and your wallet will thank you.

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19 thoughts on “Buy Current Technology, Not State of the Art

  1. Wow! You’re so right. And your iPad example was the perfect way to bring the point home that it’s often better to buy current technology than technology that’s still in the early adopter phase.

    • Thanks! Yeah, so much of the focus is on the new iPad, but some people don’t realize that the previous one is still an amazing product. I’m really excited to start playing with it!

        • I’ve also heard good things about the Kindle Fire, although I’ve never used one. If you shop at Amazon and use their Prime service to stream movies that could be a good option. I’ve seen a refurbished one for $169 from Amazon…what a deal!

  2. I follow the same principles. I don’t feel the need for the latest and greatest. I am content with any kind of upgrade. For example, when I bought a new laptop, I could’ve went all out and got the fastest laptop on the market. Instead I bought what I felt was the best deal knowing it was still a big improvement from what I already had. I’d like to have a tablet someday, but I know the longer I wait, the more the prices will drop as competition heats up and more models come out.

    • You’re right! The prices are only going to drop in the coming months as more Android tables become competitive with the iPad.

      Thanks for sharing your laptop example. As you’ve discovered, the key to buying any electronic device is to ask yourself what you need it to do. That prevents you from overspending on features you don’t need and won’t use!

      • I wish someone had hammered that into my head 10 years ago. Back before I started to get more responsible with my finances I would keep splurging on the latest computer hardware or the best portable music player. If I thought I could afford it at the time, I’d get the top of the line.

  3. My wife and I are a bit behind the times when it comes to technology. Last year we finally broke down and got smart phones, and even then only got the “old” iPhone 3GS. You’re right on that a little bit of patience will save you a lot of money on tech-related products.

    • We got our first smartphones last year as well. You’re smart for getting the older model, which is still a perfectly fine product. We might be behind the new technology curve, but who’s counting? 🙂

  4. I try to find many electronics as refurbished. As long as they come with the standard warranty of the new version, it’s a no brainier. After all, it’s still new to me!

  5. I never buy anything that JUST comes out for this reason—and for the mere fact that the price will eventually drop. I did buy one thing one time when it was new to the market—the first Motorola Droid—but Verizon has a “new every two” option where you get $200 toward a new phone every two years. I would never just up and buy a new phone unless I absolutely had to do so.

    • I completely agree. Another benefit to waiting a little while is that all the bugs are worked out by the time you’re ready to buy. You have a chance to see what others think about the product, so in a way you’re taking less risk.

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  8. Very applicable to me right now. For all of you saying you’re behind the times for only recently getting a smartphone – I still don’t have one 🙂 I do want one but I can tell you for a fact that you can indeed live without one! I want an iPhone but yes, I will definitely be getting an older version. I believe the 5 (?) comes out this summer so at that point, I imagine all the older models will drop in price even more and I’ll pick from one of those which like you said, at some point were each thought to be the Greatest Piece of Technology Ever.

    • Hi LF! Thanks for stopping by. Yes, the iPhone 5 is supposed to come out later this year. I can tell you right now that the current iPhone, the 4S, is amazing. If the data plans weren’t so expensive I’d have one myself. The cell phone companies usually discount the previous model from $200 to $100 with a 2 year contract, and the previous-previous model to free with contract. I just got my first smartphone last fall, but I have an Android because it was free. To be honest, you’re not missing much by not having a smartphone. It is nice to have internet on the go, but again it’s a want not a need.

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