2012 Tech Recap – Don’t Get Caught In The Upgrade Cycle

The holidays are coming to an end and 2013 is just around the corner.  For my last post on B&E in 2012, I’m going to do a roundup of the some of the technology that came out this year.

Lots of bloggers write articles on this subject like “the 10 best gadgets of the year” but I’m going to cover it from a different angle.  Let’s look at the new technology that has enhanced our quality of life and saved us money.

Ultrabooks

In my opinion, Ultrabooks have been one of the biggest stories in technology in 2012.  While tablet devices have been marketed heavily, Ultrabooks haven’t been in the spotlight as much.

With solid state hard drives, lower power consumption, less weight and a sleeker design, Ultrabooks are the answer to the MacBook for the PC user.

Now that there are a variety of Ultrabooks on the market, consumers have choice which translates into better value.  Those looking for a sleek, responsive, thin device can buy an Ultrabook ($550 and up) for far less than a MacBook ($999 and up).

Small Tablets

Every PC maker (and now Microsoft) makes tablets these days.  Apple is the leader but others are trying to make a dent in the market.

The big story this year on the tablet front is the rise of the 7” form factor (iPad mini is 7.9”) as opposed to the 10” (iPad is 9.7”).

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I took a look at the BestBuy website and saw that they currently have 171 tablets for sale.  Of these, 36% are 7 inches and 27% are 10.1 inches.  So why are tablet makers focusing so heavily on the 7” segment of the market this year?

First of all, since Apple didn’t have a small screen tablet offering, many of its competitors thought they would exploit this and try to carve out a slice of this market for themselves.

Second of all, I think tablet makers are trying to offer consumers more choice.  Not everyone needs a 10” tablet or wants to pay the price associated with that size.  Like with Ultrabooks, people want choice and choice leads to better value.

Smart TVs

Internet connected TVs really started coming to market in 2012 with a host of features.  TVs from the likes of Samsung provide gesture and voice control, internet movie streaming, social media apps and much more.

Related: Is It Really Cheaper To Buy Electronics South Of The Border?

Personally, I don’t think advancements in TV technology are that great for our quality of life or for our pocket book, however purchasing a Smart TV may reduce our need for tablets.

For some, an internet connected TV may satisfy some of the craving for “always on” internet connectivity.  If you need a new TV and upgrade to a smart TV and bypass the tablet craze, you in effect save yourself the cost of a tablet ($300-$800).  Don’t just go out and buy both!

Wifi Enabled Cameras

2012 saw wifi enabled cameras picking up steam in the consumer market as well.  These cameras allow you to transfer pictures to your computer or upload them to social media sites without having to remove memory cards or worry about cords.

This advancement is alright but not that compelling when you think about all the people walking around with Smart Phones in their pockets that already have a camera and wifi built-in.

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This new class of camera will certainly save you time and effort but don’t run out and get a new point-and-shoot just for this feature.  Professional photographers will love this feature however!  Look for more companies getting on the wifi bandwagon in 2013.

So what about the technology that didn’t make the cut this year?  To me, the developments in large form factor tablets, smart phones, mp3 players and eReaders just don’t offer compelling reasons to buy.

The never ending upgrade cycle

When it comes to enhancing your lifestyle and saving money, remember that technology is always about bigger, better and faster.  Every year companies try to get us to buy their latest and greatest products.  Don’t fall into the constant upgrade cycle that many people get sucked in to.

Here’s a table I’ve created to give you an idea of how long to wait before upgrading your digital devices in order to actually feel like you are getting a big upgrade and good value for your money.

Price Product Type Years to own before upgrading
$$$$ TV 5 years or more
$$$ PC (Laptop/Desktop/Ultrabook) 3 years or more
$$ Digital Camera 4 years
$$ Smart Phone 3 years
$$ Tablet 2 years (time will tell)
$ MP3 Player 5 years
$ eReader 2 years (time will tell)

Generally speaking, the more expensive the product, the longer you should wait to upgrade it.  Also, products that are experiencing a lot of innovation will probably need to get upgraded more often.

Related: Is Gadget Insurance Worthwhile?

2012 saw a lot of new features that make our lives easier but also a lot of run of the mill faster, bigger, upgrades.  When you go out and make a new tech purchase in 2013, think about what products will enhance your lifestyle!

Andrew Martin is a personal finance and investing blogger from Toronto, Ontario with a background in technology and a passion for travel.  His blog, She Thinks I’m Cheap aims to help Canadians make more money by sharing facts, stories and advice.


6 Responses to 2012 Tech Recap – Don’t Get Caught In The Upgrade Cycle

  1. I bought my “forever TV”, a 51″ Samsung flatscreen in fall 2011 for about $600. I’m resigned to not having 3D television for a very, very long time. The “Smart TV” trend is a non-starter. Buy an internet player (or get one free from a credit card offer, as was available earlier this fall) and plug it in. Nuff said.

    I agree that ultrabooks are the big story in computing. I think Microsoft’s tablet is where tablets will begin to converge with ultrabooks, after which they’ll be much more like a laptop with a touch screen and roll-able/removable keyboard.

    The MP3 and — for most of us — digital camera are converging into the smartphone. It just makes sense to buy a smartphone that is really great at all of these functions.

    eReaders are interesting. I thought this was a silly distinction from the tablet (which I would never buy). But eInk is amazing. You can carry around a zillion books and almost never recharge. It’s lighter than reading a physical book. Anyway, I dove into this trend late in the summer by purchasing a $99 Kobo Touch. It’s going to be fantastic when I go back to work.

  2. I gotta say, the WiFi camera really intrigues me. Our current camera is having more and more problems so it will be due for replacement soon (three years old now). If I don’t wash the lens regularly the cover sticks shut.

    I have WiFi on my smart phone and the pictures fly off it and get shared with friends and family so much faster than the photos on my camera’s SD card (which can sit there for months before I deal with them).

    But the quality of photos from the camera, even with it’s current problems, are so much better than what comes off the smart phone (and it’s a very highly rated smartphone camera).

    I’ve considered the Eye-Fi SD Card but it has it’s limitations. It’s not pure WiFi but rather uses WiFi to integrate with Eye-Fi services. What I want is WiFi on my camera that lets me copy directly to my network’s shared drive or onto Picasa (Google+), TwitPic, or Flickr. No 3rd party service I have to deal with.

    When I see if the new Polaroid camera really is as good as the rumours say it will be then I’ll make a decision to stick with Canon or give cool new (old) kid on the block try.

    In my opinion, the most amazing camera is an Android based camera with WiFi and the Aviary software for editing and embellishing photos.

  3. We bought a SMART TV last year and we love it. We basically picked up the TV for a better price than a bog standard flat screen. We use You Tube and stream music and on the odd occasion log into Facebook and Twitter. I am looking for a deal on a webcam for Skype with my family being overseas it’s a great way to connect with them. Other than that I don’t have a cell phone or tablet or any other gadgets. Mr.CBB

  4. There are Wifi cameras now?!!! That’s amazing. I get cheesed off when I have to dig out a cable to transfer pictures. (The card reader on my dying laptop causes my computer to crash whenever I use it.)
    Note to self: acquire one of these wifi camera doo dads.

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