Saving the Gadget? The Dilemma of an Android Fanatic.

The following is an opinion piece from one of our readers, Lars Aronsson.

That things progress very quickly in the world of mobile technology is no secret: there’s always something bigger, better, faster and more powerful around the corner. In the last 15 years, cell-phones have gone from being a rather exclusive gadget, to a necessity of modern living that you wouldn’t leave home without. Since smartphones can do so much, and they keep getting a wider range of uses, it’s sometimes easy to get gadget envy and crave that last superphone that just came out.

As you all may know, the grass is often greener on the other side, and I for one can get so intrigued by a new handset that I just got to have it – even though the one that’s in my pocket right now is more than adequate and only a couple of months old. How fast things move forward on the smartphone scene perhaps became more apparent than ever with the recent launch of the Android device HTC Desire at MWC in Barcelona. HTC’s latest Android beast is basically another version of the Nexus One, with a few improvements.

I bought the HTC Hero unlocked in late September last year when it was fairly new, for the equivalent of $625. In a couple of weeks, the HTC Desire will start selling in Europe.  I can soon get a phone with a more state of the art version of my favorite mobile OS, a 16% larger screen with 2.5 times higher resolution, an improved and more advanced display technology, an almost twice as fast processor and the double amount of RAM. On top of that, for good measures, I’d get a stereo FM radio with RDS as well, only six months after buying the HTC Hero. And I would get all this for the same amount as the Hero back in September. That’s quick progress.  If Apple only had been able to match this impressive rate of development, I just might have had an interest for the technologically inferior iPhone.

I would lie if I didn’t say I desired the Desire, and I did consider buying it for a while. Even though I have more important things to spend my money on, like food and shelter (it all depends on how you prioritize, of course – true phone fanatics may beg to differ). But then I thought; do I actually need a new device? What’s wrong with the Hero? Sure, it would be really nice to browse the web and watch pictures and movies on that huge and vivid AMOLED display. I could play games with great hardware accelerated 3-D graphics; the entire system would be a lot faster with that Snapdragon CPU and multi-tasking would be smoother thanks to the massive amount of RAM. I could enjoy all this longer without recharging as well, since both the processor and the display have power saving features. But do I really need all this? No. The Hero can do most of what the Desire can (especially when the Éclair update arrives), albeit on a smaller scale.

It’s a bit nuts, but I have bought three new devices in less than a year – two of them in the high-end. For each new handset, I’ve thought: this is the last phone I’m going to need for a very long time. But then something new and exciting pops-up that totally geeks me out. However, I think I finally have moved beyond yearning for the greener Google on the other side of the digital river. I’d say it’s time to, in the spirit of John Lennon, start living in the moment and enjoy what I have here today, instead of always wanting something more (at least when it comes to gadgets, one step at a time).

Voices have been raised against Google and affiliates for pushing out new and better products too frequently: the Motorola Droid was released in early November 2009, soon thereafter the Nexus One arrived and now the HTC Desire is the current Android pièce de résistance. I fail to see why this is a bad thing. When you buy a new gadget, no matter when, it’s bound to soon be upstaged by a more advanced one, anyway. It’s always been like that.

I do understand why some people can get a bit stressed about the frequent upgrades, though. It’s hard enough just to keep up with all the new releases, let alone actually having the latest and greatest device out there. Doing so will probably just give you an ulcer and a hole in your wallet.

Instead, I think one ought to applaud the ingenuity that keep pushing technology forward, enjoy the device you have, and rest assured that when you eventually feel it’s time to upgrade – total awesomeness will be there waiting for you. I think yearly or even biyearly upgrades generally are sensible choices – and the longer you wait, the more you’ll get.

Do you recognize yourself in my battle against spending way too much money on gadgets? Does it all depend on how big a phone nerd you are? How often do you upgrade to a new device? My biggest challenge will probably be to resist the rumored Enterprise version of the Nexus One (if it ever comes out), sporting a hardware QWERTY keyboard. I quiver already…

I am determined to not buy a new device for all 2010, and if I’m truly good at my new philosophical, Zen-like approach to technological advances, I will not even want to buy one either. Will I succeed? Only time will tell.

Lars Aronsson

  • All I can say is thank goodness for Craiglist!

    I definitely plan on getting a new phone in June. Maybe even an Android tablet and a phone. Or a Dell Mini 5.

    I will not delude myself into thinking that I will keep it for any longer than that. After a year, I will no doubt upgrade.

    I think the best thing to do if you have gadget lust is to NOT read blogs like Engadget or Gizmodo. That's just asking for trouble.

  • Binkey

    Dude, just say NO!

    I have wanted a N1 since the first pics were leaked, but I am holding off until June. Why? Well, I am hoping to have a choice of several carriers and also hoping the prices of the N1 will drop a bit. It's also another way to practice controlling my addiction to tech.

  • Lee

    Hey Lars,

    I agree – it has been difficult to resist a new phone. I've had a Magic for only 5 months and I'm lamenting the new phones that are being released. For me, one of the major issues with the Magic is the lack of headphone jack (maybe also screen res), so I'm really interested to upgrade. Personally I like the Legend, but justifying the price of an unlocked phone is difficult . But one issue really puzzles me. Why do phone manufacturers never add a camera lens cover? When you have a 5MP+ camera which is obstructed by fluff (unless you add a bulky case), it appears to be a missed opportunity.


    • Adam McNutt

      my sony has a lens cover. In fact both of my Sony phones did. My Droid does not.

  • Andy

    I can live with hardware advances, but it bothers me that I'm not using the latest Android software. I dont understand why its taking so long to roll out v2.1 on older devices. Is there even an official answer to whether the G1 can run v2.1?

  • Ratnok

    Thank you VERY much for this post. I've been fiending like a meth head over replacing my G1 and almost pulled the trigger on the unlocked price that I vowed I would never do. My 2-year contract with T-Mobile will be up in December, and the price is the only reason I haven't bought one. I couldn't press the "buy" button (twice). I agree that the critics are idiots. They don't complain about the pace of releases for televisions, or stereos, or cars, do they? Last year, they were whining about how too FEW Android devices were coming out. So now that their "Year of the Android" has finally come, they are complaining that it's too much? Or is it really that they are seeing the reality that the iPhone has lost it's crown and Apple will never be able to keep up on the hardware front ever again?

  • Steven I

    I have decided to hold off on purchasing my next phone until HTC releases an Android phone that is compatible with T-Mobile's soon to be released HSPA+ network (would be nice if it was a variation of the Supersonic or at least a variation of the Desire). That will be the day I finally pull the trigger on my next phone.

    • jd230

      The Hero in Canada runs on the HPSA network already. I am surprised that the American ones don't yet.

      • Klaumi

        In the US a lot of phones run on the HSPA network, but the big carriers are planning to build up a great "HSPA+" network with a lot better speed!

  • Rizo

    Do you know how many time I added the Nexus One to my Google shopping cart? I just couldn't justify shelling out $529 + tax over my marriage. And then they entice you with the free overnight shipping! Blast them Googlians!!!

    • Fuzzone

      Sheesh! I thought only I was the only crazy person in the world who did that. I can't even let my wife see it in my shopping cart. But it looks nice there on the screen o:-)

  • "I would lie if I didn't say I desired the Desire, and I did consider buying it for a while. Even though I have more important things to spend my money on, like food and shelter (it all depends on how you prioritize, of course – true phone fanatics may beg to differ). But then I thought; do I actually need a new device? What's wrong with the Hero? Sure, it would be really nice to browse the web and watch pictures and movies on that huge and vivid AMOLED display. I could play games with great hardware accelerated 3-D graphics; the entire system would be a lot faster with that Snapdragon CPU and multi-tasking would be smoother thanks to the massive amount of RAM. I could enjoy all this longer without recharging as well, since both the processor and the display have power saving features. But do I really need all this? No. The Hero can do most of what the Desire can (especially when the Éclair update arrives), albeit on a smaller scale."

    Seriously, those are the simply reasons for getting a new one. XD

    No but it happens something similar… i'm just waiting, i have an old sagem dumb phone, wich does almost nothing, and i'm waiting for the right device, i'm getting nexus or desire.. it my last decision if i keep waiting i will not get an android never and amb burning inside for an android phone, two friends of mine alredy have android phones ( because of me ) and i just can enjoy android when i'm with them and obiously i can't be playing with the phone all the time…

    sooo…. i hope in april i'm getting nexus or desire ( i rather nexus.. for all thata updates stuff…)

  • Ron Amadeo

    The Hero and Mytouch/Magic use the same parts (processor, ram, screen) as a G1. You were basically buying 1 year old technology by the time the hero launched; a new shell with old parts.

    If you want the latest and greatest for the longest time: buy a phone when new processors come out.

  • Whatever, I'm still waiting for a successor to the G1. The Dell mini 5 is the only other phone thats made me think about abandoning the physcal keyboard.

  • I haven't felt too much pressure to upgrade since purchasing my HTC Magic. The only thing I regret is the lack of an ambient light sensor, making automatic screen brightness impossible. Otherwise this handset is perfect for me, although it could do with a slide-out keyboard. Having the latest version of Android isn't a problem either, thanks to the army of committed hackers constantly messing about with the source code and making new ROMs.

    My next handset will be no larger than my HTC Magic (sorry Nexus, Droid and iPhone, you are just too massive), and will possibly have a keyboard. It will not be ugly (sorry MyTouch Slide, if the shots I've seen are true then you should never be released). It will definitely have a faster processor, a bit of graphics oomph and it will most definitely have an ambient light sensor. It would be terrific if it used components for which all drivers were open source (helps those hackers heaps). Holding fast to these ideals will help me hold on to my cash, since no new handset truly seems to satisfy this at all (although the HTC Legend does intrigue).

  • You must have been reading my mind. The BlackBerry I have is just fine, and my Big Red contract isn't up till LATE this year. But I am dying to try out another phone on another carrier NOW, so it's been hard to be content with what I have.

    Maybe playing around with the iPad (yes, I am getting one) will take my attention off the fact that I don't have the bestest smartphone on the market…atleast for a little while

  • webby

    I agree with the author's general premise. I'm exited about all the advances. I'm not lamenting them as "too much too fast". I don't understand the complaints, other than that some just like to whine.

    I bought the G1 on Day One and had it for just over a year. Then I bought the Droid on Day One, as the G1 was way too slow, and I was not happy with the thin T-Mobile 3G network. I like the Droid, but no longer need or use a physical keyboard. I don't know when I will next upgrade — depends on the phones that come to Verizon and my finances. I will probably stay with VZW because of the superior 3G coverage. I will consider the Nexus One when it comes to Verizon, but ONLY if they fix the 3G reception issue.

    I could root my Droid to get greater speed and advanced features, as I rooted my G1, but I prefer not to go through that again — Being rooted is a pain, as there are always new roms (and you need to upgrade now and again), so it is basically a pain in the butt. Having your Android phone rooted is a high maintenance process over time, no matter what others may tell you otherwise, trust me, I was rooted for a year. It requries more time than I am willing to commit. I don't recommend it.

  • cintra

    This piece rings all sorts of bells with me too.. the first thought which came to mind was a hilarious piece about Overclocking, which put a stop to my obsessive overclocking phase 😉

    Well, perhaps that was my second thought, because I too came to within a finger tap of buying a Nexus One the other day, and just managed to control myself.

    Very difficult for someone who bought an HTC Magic as soon as they became available in Norway, and has seen new firmware versions and features come and go, while I sit here with a phone I love, but no access to Paid apps, no Buzz Nearby, etc, etc!

    The big question for me is whether or not there will be a Nexus Two in the coming month or two, but my next phone will definitely be a pure Google Experience phone, where one pretty well knows there will be updates available (my only complaint with HTC)

  • Same here. I'd bought the 2G iPhone when it was first launched for the equivalent of about $450 and then when Android phones started shipping, I wanted to switch but kept holding off only because the hardware of those handsets wasn't really appealing. All that has changed now and I was all set to plunk some hard cash on the Nexus One and now HTC has come up with an improved version of the nexus one.

  • Darrell

    I am really not sure why people keep calling the Desire an improved version of the N1. Sure it has sense and an FM radio, but the N1 has the noise cancelling feature and being a Google phone will probably get updated faster (after all look at the hero, still on 1.6) the Sense UI has allready been ported to the N1 and I'm sure it will be improved (as happened with Hero Ports). I am due an upgrade on March 30th (Got my G1 on launch day) and seeing as the desire is out March 26th it may be hard to resisit. Hope that the UK subsidised release date is known by then so i can hold off for it.

  • Howie

    I have the same addiction. I justified the purchase of the constant "out of memory" messages of my G1. I know I could have rooted the G1 but decided on the easier, albeit more expensive, route and got the N1 on day1. That should hold me for at least another year.

  • krazytrixxxsta

    I'm facing the same dilemma. i usually dont buy a new phone until a couple of years has gone but, with the emergence of the android im finding it really hard to resist the temptation. in late december 2008 i purchase the samsung behold after having the the dragon tattoo razor for several of years. the sleekness of the phone and the concept of having a touch screen phone, the internet, and a mp3 player in the palm of my hands was irresistible. it was love at first sight. i thought it was going to be a long lasting relationship. As much as i was intrigue by the iphone i wasn't willing to switch at&t for obvious reasons like price and awful call service and i was not trying to fork out hundreds of dollars for and unlocked iphone. When android made it first appearance with the g1, i wasnt impress with the bulky look and design of the g1, so i just brush it off like yesterday news. a couple of months down the road, out of nowhere the mytouch 3 g appear and it quickly caught my eyes and i knew it was the beginning of the end for my samsung behold. better web capabilities, access to my email, more storage of memory, a better user interface, a sleeker and smoother feel, apps, an easier sync to my computer, a better music player. mytouch 3 g provided all of these and more. it was clear and obvious that it was the superior and better device, so i made the switch and never looked back. little did i know this would be the beginning of an android explosion. out of nowhere new phone started coming at the woodwork. better design, better features, faster processor, bigger ram, bigger memory and each had their own special implementation. Right now it a struggle not to purchase a new android device, especially when there always a better one right around the corner. 1.6 is ok but it not the 2.0 or the 2.1 if the the upgrade doesnt go through in the spring, i might give in and purchase a new device or root my phone. Damn you android, Damn you. why did i have to fall for you? LOL.

  • Why can’t we just say it like in the PC space…
    The current version works just fine, I had all the applications I needed working here, on my current machine’s specs; so why should I upgrade?

    Should be nice if we could say it like that for gadgets too.
    And why should gadget’s OS upgrade be a lot more tempting than upgrading Windows.

  • hazydave

    This is hardly unique to the world of hi-tech. As a long-time tech wizard, I always tell people "never buy it before you need to"… eg, you can't wait any longer, MUST HAVE GADGET NOW, your head will explode, you have the cash, etc. Because, you better believe there will be a new version in a few months that just blows it away. This is true of PCs, cameras and camcorders, Blu-Ray players, all manner of gadgets.

    It's especially true of Android phones. Part of that's the pent-up demand… a non-proprietary smart phone OS to rival Apple's iPhoneOS, one designed for real consumers, not corporate managers, etc. has been long in coming. So these phone guys are going crazy now, dropping dozens of new models, to make sure they're some of those left standing once the dust settles.

    This is much same kind of mad scramble that was in the digital camera market these past years. You had traditional photo companies, like Canon, Nikon, and Pentax. And the film guys, Kodak and Fuji, looking past film to figure out how to survive in the digital future. And the PC world companies, like HP and Epson, looking on the camera as just another digital gadget. And the camcorder companies, like Sony and Panasonic, looking on the camera as a retrofit of their existing technology, if they moved fast into that market.

    So it is with the "consumer smart phone", which really means "consumer networked pocket computer… and oh-by-the-way, comes with a microphone". So you had the PDA guys at this for awhile, Palm and Microsoft, maybe include RIM in there as well, though they never made a non-phone PDA, they kind of followed that model. But they weren't setting the world on fire… these things did better with businesses than consumers. Traditional phone companies, too, like Nokia, also did smart phones, and sold well, but didn't set the world on fire.

    So Apple was the first one to really crack this kind of phone, and they did it from the MP3-player-grown-up approach, which looks to be what Microsoft is copying for Windows Phone 7. But basically, once Apple had the right idea, everyone pretty much saw the truth in it. Palm also reinvented their OS, going more web centric and also more iPhone-like. And Android actually came out of the phone industry (Danger, T-Mobile), with a bit of help from some WebTV guys.

    But regardless… there are a bunch of companies seeing this as the next big thing, not just a phone. You have the Phone companies like Motorola, HTC, and Sony-Ericsson, but in the latter case, it's a BIG SONY attached there… they're making an Android phone with CE sensibilities. Panasonic's getting into the business from that end, too. And now the PC companies are getting into this, seeing this as a replacement for or at least augmentation of the PC: Asus, Dell, etc.

  • hazydave

    So, like the digital camera wars, this is both excellent and annoying for end-users. The excellent part — all these guys are entering battle mode, trying to outdo themselves, and really changing this from "phone war" to "post-PC computing plaftorm war"…. what will you be using to surf the net or play games on, when you're not on the PC. It's an applications processor just like the PC, but in your pocket, it reads books, plays video and music, surfs the next, takes photos, gives you directions, social networks, etc. Oh, yeah, and maybe makes a phone call. The good part is that this improves things very fast… what was $600 and hot last year is now found on Craigslist or a yard sale for $25.

    The annoying part is that you can't afford every upgrade you want. But there's good in that, too. If you think the features change dramatically in six months, wait a year or two. Save up the money. Rather than three or four upgrades in two years, you can wait awhile, and get something that just blows you away.

    Set a goal.. what do you need that they don't have today? I want more main memory in an Android device… 1GB is even too small… spend the extra $5.00 and make it 2GB. I want SDXC support, none of this 32GB max (once they finally get those 32GB microSD cards out the door). Gotta have video out, preferably HDMI, maybe one of the new wireless protocols, but I bet they suck power. I'd like to see how well Android does on dual-processor SOCs, both on battery life and speed… should be pretty good, given Linux already does SMP. And at least an 800×480 OLED screen… I think my DROID is my last LCD screen for a small device.

    Also, you miss out if you're spending all that money on phones. Phone pricing is all fiction anyway, that's why you can get twice the phone for the same price after only six months. Sure, electronics get cheaper over time, but when the price is based on things other than cost, you know that's not the gating factor here. An iPhone ads about $40 in parts to an iPhone, yet costs more than twice as much. Go figure.

    Or go shopping. I might buy an Android tablet, assuming there's one that corrects the multitude of flaws exhibited by Apple's iPad. Sure, they'll change all the time, too, and yet, I have my set of demands. First, it must work as an actual eBook reader… that means in July, on the beach, in the full sun, I have to be able to see words. It has to be a photo and video viewer for my many cameras, which means, it accepts SD cards directly (full sized) and plays H.264 video at full screen size, or even full HD rez via the HDMI video connector. It has to be a storage device for these photos, too, like those Epson photo vault things, too… so there are a few USB host ports, to hook up cameras. Extra memory, too, like USB sticks as a minimum. Android already delivers most of the OS shortcomings from iPad… the option of a keyboard and mouse should be USB or Bluetooth. And so on.

  • i love my spica so much.

  • nice post. thank you so much for sharing. i like it :p

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