Mobile Devices, Product Refresh Rates, and of course, Apple

This morning, I was looking around church, and you can see the distinctive rounded-corner rectangle of iPhones everywhere. You can also see phablets…but it is clear in our marketplace that iPhones are more common. As a teacher at a middle school, I can also attest that iPhones are also more common with 6th through 8th grade students, especially the new 5c, which so many bloggers insist is a failure.

Note: if people buy it, it isn't a failure. And when parents buy them for their kids because they are the same price as the Android on the shelf, you've done what you intended to do.

Here's the deal: my wife and I have iPhone 5 smartphones, which are only a few months away from being up for renewal. With all the new plans–including T-Mobile–we have thought about them and decided to keep our service with AT&T. We have no hatred for AT&T but brought prejudice against Verizon to AT&T when we moved to iPhones in 2008.

(Long story short, Verizon used to lock down phones, even charging you to move photos off of your phone–$0.25 each!–and we forget about the way that Steve Jobs and the iPhone eliminated so many of the restrictions of cell phone carriers).

At this point, our iPhones are nearly two years old. Here's the thing: they still work, and the only feature they lack (that we would want) are faster processors and the fingerprint technology. Slow-mo video might be fun, too.

Here's the thing: my Dad's iPhone 4 still works reasonably well on iOS 7, too.

When you buy into the Apple brand, you have a guarantee of sorts that Apple will try to keep that device up-to-date with the most recent operating system and features that the device can reasonably handle (you can jailbreak older phones to get “similar” features as newer devices, but doing so often comes with limited functionality or lesser functionality). There are exceptions…the iPad 1, in terms of hardware, became outdated very quickly. That's because the second generation iPad so drastically improved on the original iPad and even added new hardware.

The same thing can't be said about other platforms. If you buy Samsung, there's no guarantee that you will get the next version of Android. I went to Wal-mart the other day! and looked through the “other” tablet aisle. There were four versions of Samsung tablets on sale (All Galaxy!) and other than size, I couldn't possibly tell you what the “best” tablet was, and if that tablet was even current (is there a newer version?).

This is why I like iPhone numbering and why I didn't like the switch from iPad 2 to iPad to iPad Air. I want buyers to be able to quickly discern what model is the latest and best. For many first time iPhone owners, I can easily recommend a 5c, which is a much better phone than my iPhone 5. I just hope that the fingerprint technology shows up on all iPhones and iPads this year. In fact, this is why I did not buy the iPad Air. I'm expecting to buy the next iPad Air or even the rumored iPad Pro this year.

At any rate, there are a lot of people who “need” the latest device to feel okay–but then there are the rest of us. If you buy an iPhone or an iPad right now, you do so knowing that it will be replaced sooner than later, and that Apple will continue to support that device. I think this is part of the appeal of Apple. You know, under a SmartPhone contract, that you will get a new device in two years, and that your device, provided you care for it at some basic level, will last that long. All the apps and all the primary features will be all that you need. You don't get that promise with other devices, as good as they may be.

As I mentioned earlier, I've been trying to crunch the numbers with these new contracts (or lack thereof). I'm not sure T-Mobile gives us the coverage we need for the traveling we want to do; and although you can get service for 4 for $100 per month (versus the $245 we pay for 10GB shared with unlimited calling/texting on AT&T), but if we moved to T-Mobile, we would have to pay $199 up front for each 32GB phone plus $25 a month for each phone. We might get $200 for each phone on trade-in, but we would be paying $200 plus tax for four phones for 500MB LTE and then unlimited “slowed down” speed after that (right now, we are up to 7.5 GB this month with 6 days left. I'm not sure what “slowed down” means. Chances are that equivalent “high speed” LTE in T-Mobile would cost us more. Plus, we can use our phones as a hotspot under AT&T; I'm not sure that is true on T-Mobile. And since we are content with a two-year replacement cycle, there is no point in paying for the “early upgrade” fee.

Well, those are my thoughts this morning…I hope they are helpful to someone considering a mobile device or whether to “make the switch.” There is a lot to consider…best wishes to you as you contemplate what to do.


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