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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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mobile apps, android tablets

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Smartphone technology used to be updated so quickly that by the time you picked up a new phone, it was already out of date.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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Tech News

Want to save snippets of a Zoom meeting? Listener makes it possible!

(TECHNOLOGY) Listener lets you screenshot or bookmark important sections of live meetings, as well as curate a playlist of snippets, to share or playback.

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Listener for Zoom tool landing page on laptop.

We live in a very computer-mediated world where the bulk of communication is done virtually. Many of us spend a great deal of time – whether for work or pleasure – on video calls connecting with people that we’re unable to meet with in person.

Zoom became the unofficial mascot for the pandemic and has shown no signs of going anywhere. So naturally, people are looking for ways to put this to even more of an advantage – like by creating messaging extensions to utilize in lieu of live meetings.

Now the folks behind Listener are getting in on the action by creating Listener for Zoom.

The new tool allows users to bookmark important moments of Zoom calls in real-time and easily turn long recordings into bite-sized video clips.

As founder Nishith Shah puts it, “Zoom meetings just got more productive!”

Listener allows users to do a myriad of things, including live bookmarking to create short video clips; ability to transcribe your entire meeting; edit video clips by using transcripts instead of struggling with video editing tools; share video highlights with your team; create playlists from video highlights across different Zoom meetings to tell powerful stories; use projects to organize your meetings and playlists.

Founders say that Listener is designed for pretty much anyone who uses Zoom. In early testing, the founders found that it is especially helpful for product managers and UX researchers who do customer interviews.

They also reported that early-stage founders have been using Listener to add powerful customer videos to their investor pitch decks. It is also helpful for recruiters and hiring managers who search transcripts across hundreds of hiring interviews to remember who said what and to pass on important clips to other people in the interview process.

The tool is also beneficial for teams and hiring, as customer success and sales teams create a knowledge base with Listener to train and onboard new employees. They also use it to pass on customer feedback to the product teams.

This could also be great for clipping video elements that are appropriate for social media use.

On January 11, 2022, Listener was awarded #3 Product of the Day on Product Hunt.

Listener for Zoom is free while in Beta. The tool works only with licensed (paid) Zoom accounts.

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Opinion Editorials

Job listings are popping up left and right, so what exactly *is* UX writing?

(EDITORIAL) While UX writing is not technically new, it is seemingly becoming more and more prevalent. The job titles are everywhere, so what is it?

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UX writing

The work of a UX writer is something you come across every day. Whether you’re hailing an Uber or browsing Spotify for that one Drake song, your overall user experience is affected by the words you read at each touchpoint.

A UX writer facilitates a smooth interaction between user and product at each of these touchpoints through carefully chosen words.

Some of the most common touchpoints these writers work on are interface copy, emails, and notifications. It doesn’t sound like the most thrilling stuff, but imagine using your favorite apps without all the thoughtful confirmation messages we take for granted. Take Eat24’s food delivery app, instead of a boring loading visual, users get a witty message like “smoking salmon” or “slurping noodles.”

Eat24’s app has UX writing that works because it’s engaging.

Xfinity’s mobile app provides a pleasant user experience by being intuitive. Shows that are available on your phone are clearly labeled under “Available Out of Home.” I’m bummed that Law & Order: SVU isn’t available, but thanks to thoughtful UX writing at least I knew that sad fact ahead of time.

Regardless of where you find these writer’s work, there are three traits an effective UX writer must-have. Excellent communication skills are a must. The ability to empathize with the user is on almost every job post. But from my own experience working with UX teams, I’d argue for the ability to advocate as the most important skill.

UX writers may have a very specialized mission, but they typically work within a greater user experience design team. In larger companies, some UX writers even work with a smaller team of fellow writers. Decisions aren’t made in isolation. You can be the wittiest writer, with a design decision based on obsessive user research, but if you can’t advocate for those decisions then what’s the point?

I mentioned several soft skills, but that doesn’t mean aspiring UX writers can’t benefit from developing a few specific tech skills. While the field doesn’t require a background in web development, UX writers often collaborate with engineering teams. Learning some basic web development principles such as responsive design can help writers create a better user experience across all devices. In a world of rapid prototyping, I’d also suggest learning a few prototyping apps. Several are free to try and super intuitive.

Now that the UX in front of the writer no longer intimidates you, go check out ADJ, The American Genius’ Facebook Group for Austin digital job seekers and employers. User-centric design isn’t going anywhere and with everyone getting into the automation game, you can expect even more opportunities in UX writing.

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Tech News

How Apple is trying to combat the AirTag backlash (hint – its not working)

(TECHNOLOGY) Apple’s weak-kneed attempts at fixing their AirTags issues aren’t working. They can be placed on anything (or anyone), and it is detrimental.

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Apple airtag being held between two fingers.

A few weeks ago, I wrote up an article on how the Apple AirTag can be used to stalk and track people, and now it’s happening. Unfortunately, not all stalkers have the same glamour as Joe from the hit series You.

Engadget reported that model, Brooks Nader, says someone used an AirTag to track her. Per her account, she didn’t receive the notification until she was walking home, alone, at night. If that’s not scary enough, now imagine she was an android user. The only way for her to know someone was tracking her would be if she had installed the Tracker Detect app.

As stated by TechCrunch, “Apple has made its own post-launch efforts to tighten up how AirTags that don’t belong to a certain user can be detected, but these notifications have proven buggy and have often waited far too long to alert users. Add in the fact that Apple has seemed to treat Android integration as an afterthought, not a necessary partnership in order to ship a device like this, and Apple’s incompetence looks a bit more severe.”

The app itself, which was released on December 11, 2021, is getting a lot of negative feedback. One issue is that to see if you’re being tracked you have to manually scan to find the AirTag. How often and when you do that is up to the user. Whereas with the Apple Find My app, it alerts you automatically without the user having to scan anything. It’s not perfect, however. It’s buggy and can take hours to notify the user that an AirTag is tracking them. However, it’s still better than the android app.

Another dreadful scenario that hasn’t been factored in this equation is children. Not all kids have devices, much less Apple devices, nor should they necessarily, but if someone was going to track them, they would be easy targets.

Apple, for the love of all that’s decent, pull AirTags and reconsider how they function. Examine the ways an AirTag could be used without using the mesh network of all iPhone users so that it doesn’t continue to emit a location or, I don’t know, give up. If it doesn’t mean anything to you to risk other’s lives with this product then consider the possible dangerous consequences as a reflection on Apple.

Contrary to popular belief, not all publicity is good publicity.

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