Mar 05, 2012

How often should we expect a new iPhone/iPad?

It seems as if I just got my wife her shinny new iPad 2, and here comes iPad 3. Come to think of it, I DID just get - it was a Christmas present. Now admittedly, that was 9 months after release, but have things evolved to the point that iPads/iPhones/Androids have to renew itself at least once a year? Of course, technology evolves, but has it reached the point where Apple et al are emulating the car manufacturers of the 1950s - new grill, bigger tail fins for each model year, and planned obsolescence built in? Or are the changes sufficient to really justify a new (and expensive) variant on an annual basis? 

The automobile analogy is on point in some ways but not in others. For those new versions of tablets/smartphones that are really just "cosmetic" changes, whether in a minor change of OS or a new strip of chrome running around the bezel, it is a method of being able to send out press releases about a new model and still keeping customers interested in the product while not spending a lot of money on it. This isn't just theoretical marketing, look at video game systems, which have typically had a 5-6 year lifespan. Sales tend to ramp up over the first few years, then flatten out and ultimately decline. Sales can be periodically increased by releasing of new versions or including packaged software - the red Nintendo Wii with NSMBW that was released just before Christmas of 2010 being a good example.

In that light, I would expect to see something "new" on an annual basis or perhaps more often. But the difference in the car analogy is the rapid pace of change in the mobile device industry. Processors are constantly increasing speed, storage gets cheaper, new tech comes on line, etc. That drives releases of new devices, and if a company like Apple wants to maintain its image as a leading edge, innovative company, they really have to release new versions of their devices as the technology matures, LTE and 4G being two examples. In the end, the next new thing is only new for a short time. That's the nature of progress, I suppose.
I still have an iPad 1. It works great. I didn't upgrade to iPad 2 because it didn't have the higher resolution screen I wanted. So I'll be getting an iPad 3 when they are available.

You really have to think about what sort of new features & capabilities are in the newer model. I wouldn't upgrade just for the sake of upgrading, but if there's something I really want then I will buy the new device.

I think the higher res screen on the iPad 3 is going to be great for ebooks. So that's my main reason for buying it.
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