Save money, buy last year’s gadgets
Category: IT World
New versions of the latest gadgets come out faster than ever. But last year’s model is often good enough and cheaper, says Matt Warman.
How often do you replace your mobile phone? The average is 16 months, and for smartphone users that drops to 11.5 months. Yet that ‘old’ phone almost certainly still works and is unlikely to lack crucial features that make a world of difference. In straitened times, hanging on to gadgets for longer is an obvious way to save money, but an increasing number of people are adopting a new approach: simply buy last year’s model in the first place.
Companies such as Apple have been fuelling this trend themselves: where previously they ran down stocks before bringing out new models, today they still make and sell the iPhone 4 – two models behind the current iPhone 5 – and the iPad 2, which is again two models behind the newest version.
Samsung’s Galaxy SII, similarly, is now available free on a range of bargain tariffs. Free software upgrades mean the devices do not lag behind as much as they might have done a few years ago.
We replace our televisions an average of once every seven years, so not quite every gadget has convinced consumers that they must have the very latest model. And as analysts pointed out at Apple’s most recent launch, the key reason to keep old models on sale, even at lower margins, is to encourage more users to buy into a brand. Amazon’s Kindles sell at cost price as the retail giant bids to persuade more users to buy books through its various portals rather than via, say, Google or Apple’s iBooks.
And in fact, it’s that need for brands such as Google, Microsoft and Apple to expand their ‘ecosystem’ that is behind the continued availability of products that would previously have been dropped more quickly. For consumers who can rise above the need to always have the latest thing, however, it could be a money-saving boon this Christmas.
Apple iPhone: save £210; Samsung S2 v S3: £110
Buying Apple’s iPhone 4 outright now costs £319, compared to £529 for an iPhone 5. The difference is in the design, with the new model being taller, thinner and lighter, and in some of its capabilities. Siri, the ‘voice assistant’, was only introduced with the 4S (now £449) and the 5’s processor is considerably faster. But the allure of an iPhone is web browsing, the interface and access to apps, and those are still there. Similarly attractive deals are available on contracts.
Similarly, Samsung’s Galaxy S2 and S3 have been the top-selling Android phones for several years now, and the S2 is £379 in Phones4U compared to £489 for the S3.
Amazon Kindle: save £100
The basic Amazon Kindle is now just £69, compared to £169 for a top-of-the-range 3G-enabled version of the latest model, the Paperwhite 3G. You won’t get a screen that lights up for that money, but given that paper books never did that either it seems like no great loss. The appeal of the Kindle remains the ability to carry vast numbers of books around in an easy package, and while the £69 model has a button to turn pages rather than a touchscreen, again that’s not a serious sacrifice compared to saving £100. You’ll also need a WiFi network. If you compare the Kindle to the Kindle Fire HD tablet, you save £90, but the ereader isn’t seriously competing with the video-playing Fire HD.
Video games consoles have by and large got better and cheaper, but Microsoft’s Xbox currently comes in two versions. The 4GB version is identical to the 250GB version except in the size of its hard drive. So you can save around £40 and get a console that is likely to be perfectly adequate for most needs. Admittedly, however, the larger version is likely to be worth the extra money.
The latest PS3, however, is slimmer than its predecessor (also called the PS3) but aside from that makes no significant changes to the original versions processing power. Although build quality is not as good as previous versions, it does also come with a substantially larger hard drive for a lower price. (Telegraph)