I love gadgets but here’s why I’m immune to the temptations of new devices

Despite my love for new technology, I’ve become averse to adopting it right away. This may be a reflection of having conservative parents who worked as retailers in the tech industry. Even though my dad had access to the latest gadgets, he hardly ever switched to using them everyday. When advising clients, he made it clear which devices actually offered value for money. Most of the time the newest device wasn’t on that list.

Even when I had enough money of my own to spend, my aversion for new tech remained. It was clear to me that future-generation devices are always much better than the first-generation ones. After removing the inevitable kinks and adding the much-needed features that the first device missed, the second device does the job significantly better.

Another reason for not wanting to upgrade to a new device is the result of a wider trend, and it has only become more obvious to me in recent years. The new devices on offer won’t make my life that much easier. My first smartphone was a touchscreen Pocket PC device, and it was tonnes better than any Nokia phone on offer at the time. I could look at full-sized images, browse the internet on Wi-Fi, manage a planner and use Google Sync.

Then I bought a Blackberry 8320, which seemed like a step in the past. But it wasn’t. Although I missed the touchscreen, the ease of using a full keyboard was quite something. Finally came the iPhone 4S, which changed my life in more ways than any phone had.

Now we have the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. Sadly, they are nothing but the same old iPhone with a bigger screen. Apart from tiny upgrades in the operating system, which is available on older devices, there is nothing about the new iPhones that is attractive to those not part of the cult. There are Android phones which offer a lot more, but none of those features are enough to change my mind.

The Apple Watch may be gorgeous, but I won’t be buying a first generation device. Mostly, though, a smartwatch seems to be nothing more than an additional layer of distraction right now. This is true of Google Glass, too.

There is hardly a profession where reading and replying to every text message, email, Facebook or Twitter notification as soon as you can is important. Most things can wait, and they must if we are to do anything productive in life. The suggestion here is not to become a Luddite, but, when a screen is only a wrist-flick away or in your eye, the temptation is too high.

The only reason I may end up buying a new internet-enabled device is if I am forced to. This could happen either because the device stops working, gets destroyed or doesn’t perform as I need it to. My nearly three-year-old iPhone 4S runs iOS7 and I have no complaints whatsoever (I won’t be upgrading to iOS8, because that would be suicide. Reviews suggest that the user experience becomes choppier.) My nearly four-year-old iPad2 runs iOS7 and works perfectly well. My four-year-old MacBook Pro 17″ runs Mac OSX Mavericks and runs like a leopard. My four-year-old Kindle 3G does everything I need it to.

I love you, gadget-makers, but to get me to actually buy something new you will have to do a lot more.

What drove Steve Jobs?

In 1995 in the Lost Interview, Steve Jobs said that an article in Scientific American sparked his passion for building tools for humanity:

I read an article when I was very young, in Scientific American, and in it researchers measured the efficiency of locomotion for various species on Earth. So, you know, bears, chimpanzees, racoons, fish…and humans were measured too.

How many kilocalories per kilometer did they spend to move?

The condor won. It was the most efficient. And mankind, the crown of creation, came with a rather unimpressive showing about a third of the way down the list. But someone there had the brilliance of measuring a human riding a bicycle. Blew away the condor. All the way up the charts.

And I remember that this really had an impact on me. Humans are tool builders, and we build tools that can dramatically amplify our innate human abilities.

That’s why we ran an ad in the early days at Apple: the personal computer was the bicycle of the mind. I believe that with every bone in my body. The computer will, as history unfolds and we look back, rank at the top among all human inventions.

Despite this, people still doubt the value of science and science magazines. 

The smartest phone

What is the impact of the iPhone on the mobile market?

Millions of iFans eagerly await the new iPhone, which is expected to be revealed on September 12th and to go on sale later this month. Analysts expect it to outsell Samsung’s Galaxy SIII, its nearest rival, which has shifted over 20m units worldwide since its launch in May. Each new model of the iPhone has sold as many units as all previous versions combined. Since the launch of the original iPhone in 2007, it has brought in $150 billion in sales revenue, with $74 billion of that in the past year. The iPhone is Apple’s biggest product, accounting for 53% of the company’s revenue. Indeed, if the iPhone were spun out as a separate company it would be bigger than Microsoft, whose revenues were $73 billion last year. According to Asymco, a market-research firm, Apple claims two-thirds of the profits among handset-makers, despite having a smartphone market share of 21%, as the charts below show. The iPhone has been the world’s bestselling smartphone for five consecutive years, but will its run last? In 2011 Apple spent only 2% of its revenue on research, while Google and Microsoft both spent 13%.

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First published on economist.com.

Image from here. Visualisation by The Economist.

The importance of death

On a day when the world mourns the death of a visionary, I ponder about the words that he left behind:

For the past 33 years, everyday in the morning I’ve looked in the mirror and I’ve asked myself, “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” and whenever the answer has been ‘no’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.