Are smartphones making fools out of us consumers?

The Nation/Asia News Network

That the iPhone 6 is allegedly bendable is not a surprise. When a production line is working as fast as those of Apple and all its rivals, some unfavorable traits or flaws are bound to emerge. What is truly amazing is the manner in which cellular users are embracing everything thrown at them. Big screens. Small screens. Earphone plug on the side. Earphone plug at the top. Earphone plug at the bottom. A little bit more computing speed every three months. And on and on it goes. Some “upgrades” are understandable, but others are not. Cellphone customers have been caught in the crossfire among manufacturers and telecom service providers.

The “understandable” or necessary upgrades are made to ensure competitiveness of products, but unnecessary upgrades are only meant to ensure the financial competitiveness of the concerned companies.

And the problem is that, unless you are a tech genius, you can’t really tell whether a new phone contains necessary upgrades or is made simply to rob you blind. When a new phone hits the market, its producers do everything within their powers to make people buy it.

Make no mistake: all strategies are likely to be legitimate business practices, although, in the process, customers are made to believe that what they have now — tech wonders just a few months back — are obsolete and need to be replaced as soon as possible. There are worse things than unnecessary upgrades, such as the upgrades that could have been done earlier but were held back for business reasons. For example, if you can make a mobile phone that’s twice as good as your competitor’s, you can choose to make your product only “50 percent better” than that made by your rival. That’s enough to make your product a big hit, and allows you to keep “the other 50 percent” as future business ammunition. Again, it looks like a legitimate way to do business. Everyone can keep the best for last, so to speak. But again, it’s the customers who will have to buy two phones instead of one.

Of course, they have the choices of a) buying two phones, b) buying just the second phone, or c) buying just the first phone and gritting their teeth when the second one comes out. People who pick b) appear to have the best deal, but then you never know whether a “third phone” is around the corner. It can be argued that the fierce competition in the tech market is discouraging all manufacturers from holding back. In other words, belated upgrades risk becoming irrelevant. If you can make a TV that’s 100 percent sharper than your rival’s, you should go ahead and make it immediately or you will likely end up sorry. This is a reasonable assumption, although spotty upgrades can be a risk worth taking, if well planned. It seems like a no-win situation for customers, so what should they do?

If you buy a new phone every three years, maybe that’s okay in today’s world.

If it’s a new phone every year or six months, a review of how you use the gadget is needed. Why change it so often when all you do is make calls, send Line messages, beautify selfies and watch YouTube? If new commercials are making your 8-millimetre-thick phone feel heavy, kill the urge to buy a 4mm one and hold out for a paper-thin model, which should be available in no time. This is an editorial published by The Nation on Oct. 11