If it ain't broke, don't replace it
In this week's CNET Australia podcast, we talked about the reasons (or not) to upgrade one's phone. I was singled out for hanging onto my carbon-dateable iPhone 3GS, for longer than a child clings to their favourite plush toy.
Naturally, I thought I put forward some excellent reasons for my thriftiness, but it started a train of thought about the other tech objects in my life, and at what stage I would consider replacing them.
TV and home theatre
A GfK Retail and Technology report I saw earlier this week stated that "55-inch models occupied six of the top seven model ranking spots" in Australia, during the last quarter. This made me briefly consider the future of the four-year-old 32-inch HDTV taking centre stage in my living room, and whether it is time to migrate to something with more visual acreage. But, while 32 inches sounds pretty piddling, given that there's only a metre and a half — if that — between the couch and the TV set, it's not really an issue.
In reality, a larger TV would necessitate a larger home, something neither myself, nor my bank manager, is willing to countenance.
Having surveyed the latest crop of TVs (if not reviewed them), there are plenty of neat features that my current set doesn't have — but none that would convince me to splurge on a new TV. Catch-up TV and streaming media are features that are increasingly touted by television manufacturers, but those features can be had on any TV with a spare HDMI port.
Any number of devices (a PS3, Xbox 360, WDTV, Apple TV, Blu-ray player or laptop, to name but a few) can be used to access some of those streaming movie and TV services, as well as any DivX file store lying around the house.
As I stated in the podcast, I do get pangs of technolust every time I spy a phone with a higher-resolution screen, but my trusty old iPhone 3GS still does what I need it to do: surf the web, read emails, play casual games, take notes, run Dropbox and store plenty of music.
Yes, it could be a bit more fleet of foot, but the price of an upgrade — another 24-month contract or at least AU$600 — feels too steep.
The Canon EOS 20D, which is my constant companion on any trip, be it business or pleasure, dates back to the year when Ban Ki-Moon became secretary-general of the United Nations (2006). It still shoots at a reasonable 5fps, but not even the most besotted fool (that's me, by the by) can see past its technical limitations.
The now-miniscule 1.8-inch LCD screen, springs to mind instantly, but it's the limited ISO range (1600 in regular mode, 3200 in extended) that's most limiting on a regular basis. Strangely, though, I've come to embrace these constraints — for instance, finding a unique (and safe) spot to place the camera, for unexpected bouts of night photography, is not only challenging, but also rewarding.
Indeed, the only thing I'm tempted to change about my camera is the glass that's mounted to it. As much as an L-series lens would dent my already meagre savings, if treated well, it could last through several cameras and, hopefully, until the grey hairs outnumber black on my noggin'.
This little opinion piece is being typed out on an 11-inch laptop, dating from 2010, and it still fits the purpose for which it was purchased; it's thin, it's light, it has a full-sized keyboard (important when one's living is the generation of words) and it can handle basic photo-editing and sorting tasks.
The wife has an almost identical laptop, but with a beefier processor and more memory, and, like the phone situation, there are occasional pangs of envy. Having football videos load a second quicker, though, isn't enough to justify the upgrade cost.
Even I may be tempted to upgrade a phone or a camera on a whim, but unless your surname is Tinkler, Rinehart or Forest, the car is a far more considered purchase, and change is usually spurred on by circumstance — a new addition to the family, spiralling repair costs or the end of a lease.
Unlike the categories listed above, my opinion, in this matter, is somewhat tainted by the fact that I have access to various review vehicles, which allows me to more easily live with my car's limitations — primarily, two seats and limited luggage space.
That said, my ride's tech spec is pretty rudimentary, and I have considered making changes with regard to the fairly ordinary-sounding Bose stereo, which is hooked up to a six-disc CD changer. To bring it kicking and screaming into the 21st century, with features like navigation, USB or iPod connectivity and Bluetooth hands-free, I could, with a bit of effort and cash, replace the entire stereo system.
With an unholy amalgam — consisting of a portable GPS, clip-on Bluetooth speaker and a third-party iPod connectivity kit, which plugs in to the stereo's external CD-changer port, not only has considerable cash been saved, but I've also retained the use of the steering wheel's stereo controls.
Having gone through my list and come up with no compelling reasons why I should upgrade, lest any of them fail or explode in my hands (except for, maybe, lenses for my camera), I challenge you, CNET Australia's dear readers, to go through your own tech laundry list and see whether you really need that bigger TV or that marginally quicker phone.
Let us know your conclusions in the comments section below.