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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Smartphone technology used to be updated so quickly that by the time you picked up a new phone, it was already out of date.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 also the editor at Schooled By Science. She loves to keep up with tech industry trends and innovations. She hopes to discover and document unique ways technology can help advance society. Megan also enjoys writing about a variety of the sciences and how they tangibly impact your life.

Tech News

Dittach: Chrome extension keeps your Gmail files ultra organized

(PRODUCTIVITY) Reclaim your time with Dittach and quit digging through Gmail files for that needle in the haystack.

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So, have you ever been sent a picture of something in your Gmail and lost it for a few weeks? What about a copy of a form you need to sign? What about a document for your boss? If you’re sharing a lot of files in your Gmail, you may have a hard time keeping track of it all.

That’s where Dittach hopes to get back a bit of your time.

It’s a free Chrome extension that works with your Gmail to help organize those attachments in a way that’s a lot more efficient than the built-in filter – especially if you have thousands of emails in your Gmail.

The attachment adds a side bar to your inbox and displays thumbnails of the files you’ve received and sent, and that includes documents, audio, and video (most images of the sidebar sort by other, photos, docs, pdfs, movies, and music). There’s a date scroller to help you go through dates, and it even works with your search bar. And of course, you can then forward, download, print, or view the message that is attached.

Dittach captures the key elements of a good productivity app – it’s both incredibly intuitive to use, and it addresses a productivity need by creating time.

The applications of this software are vast if you use Gmail to manage your life, business, life + business, business + side gig + other gig + shopping addiction, or whatever permutation works for your life. If you have any privacy concerns: Dittach doesn’t make any changes to your account, emails, or attachments, and the extension can be removed anytime.

The biggest concern with Dittach actually comes from Google itself – it’s limited to how many attachments it can index every day, so older attachments may not appear initially during that first day – so if you have a lot of older stuff it may not capture them. The app is also in beta, so you may have some bugs with the experience, but it looks very promising. At the time of my review, the feature isn’t working due to a transition, but is expected to be back up soon.

Dittach ultimately is a great Gmail addition if you find yourself handling a great deal of attachments and need a way to quickly find them. Beyond business, I could see the applications of this for graduate students, working professionals, or even digitally connected families. There’s a lot of promise here, if you have the need – so if you use Chrome and Gmail – get Dittached from time wasting (when it’s available, of course).

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FCC Chairman confirms fears, jokes about being a Verizon shill

(TECH NEWS) FCC Chairman Ajit Pai jokes about being a shill for Verizon, feeding into what many suspected when he was appointed.

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Leaked video shows FCC Chairman Ajit Pai joking about being a shill for Verizon, as we all suspected when he was nominated. Last week Pai was a speaker at the Federal Communications Bar Association, an event similar to the White House Correspondents Dinner.

Major telecom companies and the FCC gather at this annual event for dinner, mingling, and enduring awkward political policy jokes. At the event, Pai roasted himself about major headlines from the past year, like his decision to kill net neutrality against the wishes of the majority of the nation. Hilarious.

Pai also brought up the whole thing where he refused to cooperate with an investigation into the validity of comments filed in support of ending net neutrality.

Although cameras weren’t officially present at the event, someone surreptitiously filmed and sent the clip to Gizmodo. The kicker comes around twenty minutes into Pai’s speech when he jokes, “in collusion—I mean, in conclusion, sorry, my bad—many people are still shell-shocked that I’m up here tonight.”

He goes on, “they ask themselves, how on earth did this happen? Well, moments before tonight’s dinner, somebody leaked a fourteen-year-old video that helps answer that question, and in all candor, I can no longer hide from the truth.”

Pai then starts a video, which opens with 50 Cent’s “In Da Club” playing in the background. This is the only thing I’ll give him points for on this amateur drama class project.

The skit is set in 2003 at “Verizon’s DC Office”, when Pai was an attorney for the company. In the video, Kathy Grillo, current Verizon senior VP and deputy general counsel, tells Pai, “As you know, the FCC is captured by the industry, but we think it’s not captured enough, so we have a plan.”

“What plan?” Pai asks. Grillo tells him, “We want to brainwash and groom a Verizon puppet to install as FCC chairman. Think ‘Manchurian Candidate.’” To which Pai responds, “That sounds awesome!”

Gizmodo posted the video on Friday after the dinner, and the internet exploded with reactions to Pai’s gag. Reddit in particular went nuts, to the point that one thread in r/technology was locked—as in no one else can comment—for “too much violence.”

In a thread on the r/television subreddit, a moderator reminds users, “please refrain from encouraging or inciting violence or posting personal information […] don’t post anything inviting harassment, don’t harass, and don’t cheer on or upvote obvious vigilantism.”

While some of the threads were full of awful remarks, other posters commented in the spirit of reasonable conversation. The general sentiment of those engaged in non-harassing discussions is that Pai is a symptom, not the cause of FCC’s problems.

However, many argued that the video showed Pai’s willingness to bend (then joke about) FCC regulations indicates he’s not a puppet so much as a willing participant in corruption. Pai’s appointment to FCC Chairman was suspicious from the beginning considering his ties to Verizon.

Although Pai is obviously joking in the leaked video, the general public isn’t find it nearly as funny as those at the dinner.

Check out the clip for some cringe-worthy digs at net neutrality and have fun questioning the integrity of the FCC.

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Tech News

FCC Grinches plan to steal poor peoples’ Internet access

(TECH NEWS) Merry Christmas! The FCC is trying to take away poor people’s Internet access, pointing the finger one way to distract you from the other.

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In case anybody with enough bandwidth to read this wasn’t sufficiently terrified by the FCC’s ongoing campaign to break the internet by dismantling net neutrality, the nation’s communication authority has kindly provided another reason for any digital-enabled American to expatriate and/or secede.

The FCC’s most recent reform proposal proposes to reform the absolute Hell out of Lifeline, the $2.25 billion program to provide low-income Americans with broadband Internet access. Also, phones. The Lifeline Program has been doing its job since 1985, when noted socialist firebrand Ronald Reagan instituted it to subsidize phone service in underprivileged communities. It was expanded to include broadband Internet access in 2016, and right now 12 million households benefit from Lifeline-subsidized phone and Internet access.

That’s apparently a problem.

The FCC’s stated concern is that the General Accounting Office recently found $1.2 million of the $2.25 billion Lifeline budget was being used fraudulently. Fraud is bad! But in case you don’t have your TI-85 handy, that’s less than a tenth of 1 percent. That is not very much fraud. Not enough to nix an entire program, at least.

The greater concern, as usual, appears to be about profit. Under the current Lifeline guidelines, many subsidized companies are small ISPs and resellers providing access to third-party networks. Often, these services are the only Internet access available in rural areas, tribal lands, and other underserved communities.

That doesn’t work for Commissioner Pai.

Earlier this year, Pai used “delegated authority,” the FCC’s version of executive orders, to bypass oversight and personally rescind subsidy access from 9 ISPs providing services to rural areas and tribal lands.

These reforms continue that trend. They ban subsidies for no-cost Internet service, which is the business model of 70% of current Lifeline subsidy recipients. It is notably not the business model of large ISPs that rhyme with Buhrizon. I’m sure that’s a coincidence.

They also impose an absolute budget cap, meaning that millions of poor households could lose their Internet access, and the increased opportunities for education and employment that come with it, if someone in a comfy office a thousand miles away effs up the accounting.

In short, it sucks.

The proposed reforms to the Lifeline Project are another example of the FCC, deliberately or through negligence, rigging the market in favor of major conglomerates at the expense of consumers, small businesses and the general public.

Lifeline isn’t perfect, but it’s doing its job. Whether the same can be said for Ajit Pai’s FCC is, at best, an open question.

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