last-years-modelNot that we need any more reasons to spurn conspicuous consumption these days, but I’m a big proponent of the message behind Last Year’s Model. It’s simple and to the point: do you really need a new gadget? I’d be willing to be more often than not the answer is probably no.

Maybe that’s a little surprising coming from someone so entrenched in the gadget space, but I’ve actually been discouraging most upgrading for years (namely because I find people typically upgrade for the sake of upgrading). When it comes to buying new kit, I think there are actually a few important things one should take into account:

  • Companies love to issue seasonal gadget upgrades — which I often refer to as “incremental differentiation.” We should be more critical of being oversold on what often amounts to extremely minor product updates (in the grand scheme of things).
  • Thanks to an increasing stasis in hardware specs and staying power by way of firmware updates (think Xbox 360 + NXE, iPhone + firmware 2.0 / 3.0) and hacks built by the community, people have really begun to lack a compelling reason to upgrade their devices as often as they did just a few years ago. (And yes, this totally freaks out a lot of companies who don’t yet know how to adapt.)
  • It’s hard and time consuming to research, identify, and buy devices and systems that work well and get the job done — so when you do, you should appreciate them all the more.

So, do you really need that next device? Maybe so, but for whatever it’s worth, I used my last digital camera for years — and through many, many product updates — and eventually shot over 10,000 images on it. (I would probably be using it to this day had I not dropped and broken it.) Likewise, my HDTV is a few years old now, and my desktop PC is almost five — both still work so damned well the idea of an “upgrade” seems kind of silly.