You probably faced this dilemma every so often: When should you abandon a smartphone, tablet, laptop or some other tech device if it still works and upgrade to a newer version ?
Of course, if you listen to the tech companies that make gadgets, the answer is – get a newer version as soon as it's out, no matter what. But that isn't practical for many consumers. So when should you keep your devices, and when should you trade them in for something better? Try following these handy guidelines.
Consider the battery. As you probably know, a smartphone battery is a little like a car battery. You charge your smartphone routinely, whereas a car battery, you typically charge if you left the car door ajar all night. Still, eventually, no matter how responsible you are with your smartphone or car, the battery will die and need replacing.
While you'll keep your car when the battery dies, this is usually the time to get rid of your smartphone, says Mark Tuchscherer, co-founder and president of GeeksChicago.com, a Chicago-based mobile application company.
In other words, don't spend money on replacing the battery; replace the smartphone .
"Users who are extremely active can kill a battery in one or two years, and if you're in a situation wherein you need to [consistently] charge your phone by 11 a.m., the time has come to get a new phone; especially since many phones, like the iPhone, do not provide access to the battery," Tuchscherer says.
Think about your timing. Don't simply upgrade as soon as there's a new offering. You bide your time and look at the calendar, according to Jason Bauman, an SEO specialist in Philadelphia.
He says certain times are better than others when it comes to upgrading a device. For instance:
Phones. Try the end of the month. "The best time, if you're going into a store, is at the end of the month, since most representatives work on a commission structure … They might be more willing to give you a deal on the device or accessories if your sale is the one that pushes them into a higher per-device-commission tier," Bauman says.
He adds that typically a good time to buy a phone is right after the new device comes out – if you don't buy the new device, that is.
"If you want to save money and don't need the latest and greatest, the previous year's model will have dropped in price," Bauman says.
Laptops and desktops . Avoid Black Friday deals, Bauman says. You know, the ones advertised in the paper or on TV that make you think it might be worth it to stand in line at 2 a.m., waiting for the doors to open.
"These are typically underpowered personal computers built to a price point instead of actually offering value," Bauman says. "So I think for big purchases, the best time to buy is whenever your chosen store offers a 12- to 18- month interest-free payment plan. This lets you spread the cost of your device over a year, making it easier to budget for."
He also suggests buying as powerful a model of laptop or desktop as you can afford. "A well-built computer can last you years. The cheap kind die a lot sooner," Bauman says.
Other tech devices. Don't upgrade until you really need to – that would be the digital cameras, e-readers, maybe your tablet if it isn't utilized all that often, your high-definition TV.
"The best time to get them is whenever they break," Bauman says. "Again, it's best to invest in quality."
When the technology will really make a difference. Consider how the new development may improve your life. For instance, if a new device is easier to carry because it's a lot lighter, that may make it worth it to lighten your bank account . If the technology is going to make something work faster than ever, allowing you to work more efficiently, then that may be a reason to make the switch.
And if the technology has advanced, there may be multiple benefits. For instance, new features may help your smartphone work faster, but you might also see the actual cellphone service improve as well, says Andrew Constantine, a Seattle-based executive at Hitachi Consulting, a management and technology consulting firm.
If you don't want to think about it much. You may see technology as a necessary evil and not enjoy thinking about it – you just want to be told when you should start thinking about upgrading.
Well, OK. There are some general rules of thumb to help guide you.
Smartphones. One to three years. If you live and die by your smartphone, you can make a case for upgrading annually . That may sound crazy to those who don't do much more than check email on their phone and use it for emergencies, but as Tuchscherer says, " There are many new payment options provided, including the option not to purchase a phone outright. The phone companies – even Apple – are financing phones with zero interest."
Because of that, he says, you may want to consider upgrading your phone whenever the next version arrives. "Taking into account the rate at which new phones are being released – and the amount of use people get out of their phones – buying a phone outright doesn't seem sensible, as most people will replace their phones in one or two years," Tuchscherer says.
But if you are buying your phone outright, and you don't feel like your cell is your second brain or an extra appendage, you will be fine going with every two years and probably longer.
"Smartphone evolution is incremental, so a smartphone that’s two years old is sufficient for most purposes," Constantine says. "It may not take the best pictures or be the fastest phone, but it will do the job."
Laptops and desktops . You can probably go at least three years.
"For most people, laptops will need to be replaced after about three years. It’s a benchmark that most businesses use and should be a good rule of thumb for consumers," Constantine says. "Any extra years are a bonus, and older laptops make great devices for younger kids or something to connect to your TV or stereo system."
That said, you can probably stretch out your laptop or desktop even longer, by purchasing a new hard drive or adding memory, versus buying something completely new.
Other devices. You can likely go four or more years without replacing them. Again, think tablets, digital cameras, e-readers, your high-definition TV. When the time feels right, upgrade. If it doesn't, don't. With other devices, the advancements tend to come around less fast and furious – and many tech gadgets are made well, says Louis Ramirez, a senior features writer at the shopping site, DealNews.com.
"In the tech world, TVs have a lot of staying power," Ramirez says. "However, if you have an older plasma TV or early LCD TV and its colors are fading or look washed out – then you could benefit from an upgrade. Otherwise, if your TV is five years old or so, there's not much of a difference if you upgrade today."
And so much of keeping your devices and gadgets around longer depends on how you maintain them, Ramirez says.
To keep your phone or tablet running like new, limit the number of apps you install on it and remember to perform monthly or seasonal maintenance weeding out any apps, photos or videos you no longer need," Ramirez advises. "With a little care and maintenance, you could make some devices last four-plus years."