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Consumers are upgrading their technologies less frequently [stats]

Upgrading your phone and laptop every year used to be common, but the cycles are slowing. Let’s discuss.

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We used to upgrade every year

Smartphone technology used to be updated so quickly that by the time you picked up a new phone, it was already out of date. It’s no secret that companies like Samsung, Motorola and even Apple flooded the market with subsequent product launches. A majority of the time, the hardware and feature upgrades between models were minimal at best.

But people kept buying in more and more frequently, which is why we have the new wireless subscription models that allow you to upgrade more often than once every two years.

Who needs a new iPhone?

However, it looks like that model may be about to change again. According to one BTIG analyst, smartphone upgrade cycles are taking longer, resulting in fewer sales, especially for Apple. The analyst firm lowered their annual sales estimates for iPhone sales as well. Customers just don’t feel the need to upgrade.

iPad sales have declined for the past few years as well, and for good reason. Nothing is enticing customers to upgrade, especially when they already have a fully working device capable of doing what they need.

It’s not just smartphones and tablets either, because there are a lot of people sticking with the same old PCs and computers they’ve had for years. Even PC upgrade cycles have slowed so much that in 2015, the market saw the absolute lowest level of sales since 2007.

Folks — like gamers — who live on the cutting edge are just now starting to upgrade because virtual reality tech calls for more powerful hardware. It took an entirely new and innovative type of technology to get people to start upgrading their PCs, at least more frequently.

Varying hardware upgrade cycles

It’s interesting, considering all of these devices have different release cycles. If we go by Apple’s schedule, new iPhones are good for about a year before customers are tempted to upgrade. If you don’t count the “S” incremental updates, then iPhone owners don’t really need to upgrade until about the two-year mark.

In comparison, Samsung’s smartphones aren’t relevant nearly as long, but the company also releases way more devices than Apple.

Then there are tablets, which have a slightly longer lifetime of about two to three years.

We’re not even going to discuss computers, which can have varying lifetimes depending on the type, brand and hardware — though it is worth noting that hardware upgrades for computers have slowed in more recent times.

There are several reasons why these devices have different upgrade cycles. With smartphones, it’s because we use them more often, and because the technology is advancing at an alarming rate. Computers and tablets, on the other hand, remain relevant longer in terms of processing power, so there’s no need to upgrade as often.

Why aren’t customers upgrading?

All this information is great to know, but it doesn’t answer the main question: Why are upgrade cycles slowing?

Barring economic changes — let’s be honest here, everything is getting more expensive — the build quality, hardware and even software for a lot of these devices are good enough to stretch out those upgrade cycles. As the saying goes, if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.

When customers have a working smartphone, tablet or computer, they’re less likely to upgrade.

With smartphones especially, the big wireless providers have dropped contract-based subscription plans, prompting customers to stick with one device for longer. There’s also the fact that they have to pay full price for a smartphone up front, as opposed to paying subsidized fees in a contract. When you go from paying $200 or cheaper for a new phone to well over $400, you tend to make that kind of purchase less often.

What does this all mean?

To be perfectly honest, it just means that consumers are playing things smart for now. Companies like Apple will likely have to adapt, lest they bleed revenue after launching incremental hardware upgrades that no one wants.

We’ll probably see these companies slow their product launches. Apple, for instance, may release fewer products over a greater period of time to minimize a loss in revenue. Samsung will definitely have to do something like this if they haven’t already.

In the end, this is not necessarily bad news for everyone, but it does signify that the mobile tech market is slowing a bit, even if other markets — like wearables and smart home tech — are booming.

#Upgrades

Megan Ray Nichols is an editorialist at The American Genius, and is a technical writer who's passionate about technology and the science. She also regularly writes at Smart Data Collective, IoT Times, and ReadWrite. Megan publishes easy to understand articles on her blog, Schooled By Science - subscribe today for weekly updates!

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Career consultants help job seekers beat AI robot interviews

(TECH NEWS) With the growth of artificial intelligence conducting the job screening, consultants in South Korea have come up with an innovative response.

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When it comes to resume screenings, women and people of color are regularly passed over, even if they have the exact same resume as a man. In order to give everyone a fair try, we need a system that’s less biased. With the cool, calculating depictions of artificial intelligence in modern media, it’s tempting to say that AI could help us solve our resume screening woes. After all, nothing says unbiased like a machine…right?

Wrong.

I mean, if you need an example of what can go wrong with AI, look no further than Microsoft’s Tay, which went from making banal conversation to spouting racist and misogynistic nonsense in less than 24 hours. Not exactly the ideal.

Sure, Tay was learning from Twitter, which is a hotbed of cruelty and conflict, but the thing is, professional software isn’t always much better. Google’s software has been caught offering biased translations (assuming, for example, if you wrote “engineer” you were referring to a man) and Amazon has been called out for using job screening software that was biased against women.

And that’s just part of what could go wrong with AI scanning your resume. After all, even if gender and race are accounted for (which, again, all bets are off), you’d better bet there are other things – like specific phrases – that these machines are on the lookout for.

So, how do you stand out when it’s a machine, not a human, judging your work? Consultants in South Korea have a solution: teach people how to work around the bots. This includes anything from resume work to learning what facial expressions are ideal for filmed interviews.

It helps that many companies use the same software to do screening. Instead of trying to prepare to impress a wide variety of humans, if someone knew the right tricks for handling an AI system, they could potentially put in much less work. For example, maybe one human interviewer likes big smiles, while the other is put off by them. The AI system, on the other hand, won’t waver from company to company.

Granted, this solution isn’t foolproof either. Not every business uses the same program to scan applicants, for instance. Plus, this tech is still in its relative infancy – a program could easily be in flux as requirements are tweaked. Who knows, maybe someday we’ll actually have application software that can more accurately serve as a judge of applicant quality.

In the meantime, there’s always AI interview classes.

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Google chrome: The anti-cookie monster in 2022

(TECH NEWS) If you are tired of third party cookies trying to grab every bit of data about you, google has heard and responded with their new updates.

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Google has announced the end of third-party tracking cookies on its Chrome browser within the next two years in an effort to grant users better means of security and privacy. With third-party cookies having been relied upon by advertising and social media networks, this move will undoubtedly have ramifications on the digital ad sector.

Google’s announcement was made in a blog post by Chrome engineering director, Justin Schuh. This follows Google’s Privacy Sandbox launch back in August, an initiative meant to brainstorm ideas concerning behavioral advertising online without using third-party cookies.

Chrome is currently the most popular browser, comprising of 64% of the global browser market. Additionally, Google has staked out its role as the world’s largest online ad company with countless partners and intermediaries. This change and any others made by Google will affect this army of partnerships.

This comes in the wake of rising popularity for anti-tracking features on web browsers across the board. Safari and Firefox have both launched updates (Intelligent Tracking Prevention for Safari and the Enhanced Tracking Prevention for Firefox) with Microsoft having recently released the new Edge browser which automatically utilizes tracking prevention. These changes have rocked share prices for ad tech companies since last year.

The two-year grace period before Chrome goes cookie-less has given the ad and media industries time to absorb the shock and develop plans of action. The transition has soften the blow, demonstrating Google’s willingness to keep positive working relations with ad partnerships. Although users can look forward to better privacy protection and choice over how their data is used, Google has made it clear it’s trying to keep balance in the web ecosystems which will likely mean compromises for everyone involved.

Chrome’s SameSite cookie update will launch in February, requiring publishers and ad tech vendors to label third-party cookies that can be used elsewhere on the web.

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Computer vision helps AI create a recipe from just a photo

(TECH NEWS) It’s so hard to find the right recipe for that beautiful meal you saw on tv or online. Well computer vision helps AI recreate it from a picture!

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Ever seen at a photo of a delicious looking meal on Instagram and wondered how the heck to make that? Now there’s an AI for that, kind of.

Facebook’s AI research lab has been developing a system that can analyze a photo of food and then create a recipe. So, is Facebook trying to take on all the food bloggers of the world now too?

Well, not exactly, the AI is part of an ongoing effort to teach AI how to see and then understand the visual world. Food is just a fun and challenging training exercise. They have been referring to it as “inverse cooking.”

According to Facebook, “The “inverse cooking” system uses computer vision, technology that extracts information from digital images and videos to give computers a high level of understanding of the visual world,”

The concept of computer vision isn’t new. Computer vision is the guiding force behind mobile apps that can identify something just by snapping a picture. If you’ve ever taken a photo of your credit card on an app instead of typing out all the numbers, then you’ve seen computer vision in action.

Facebook researchers insist that this is no ordinary computer vision because their system uses two networks to arrive at the solution, therefore increasing accuracy. According to Facebook research scientist Michal Drozdzal, the system works by dividing the problem into two parts. A neutral network works to identify ingredients that are visible in the image, while the second network pulls a recipe from a kind of database.

These two networks have been the key to researcher’s success with more complicated dishes where you can’t necessarily see every ingredient. Of course, the tech team hasn’t stepped foot in the kitchen yet, so the jury is still out.

This sounds neat and all, but why should you care if the computer is learning how to cook?

Research projects like this one carry AI technology a long way. As the AI gets smarter and expands its limits, researchers are able to conceptualize new ways to put the technology to use in our everyday lives. For now, AI like this is saving you the trouble of typing out your entire credit card number, but someday it could analyze images on a much grander scale.

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