The Mid 2013 Technological Lull
It is a foolish time to buy almost anything within the technological sphere. As the tech geek among my family and friends, I have been asked many times whether it is a good time to buy a new phone, or a desktop, tablet, etc. The answer has not been as easy as it is right now. If you can help it, don’t buy any device at the moment. We’re in a lull. A boring lull but one that will save your pockets. Here’s why.
There are four major operating systems competing for market share in the smartphone space. Android has a monopolistic lion’s share of the market followed by iOS, Windows Phone and Blackberry. At this point in time, all four operating systems are not worth investing fresh cash in. Let’s look at each of them.
This represents a lull in Android progression.
Google I/O has just passed and there was no mention of Android 5.0. Instead, Android 4.3 is on its way with some changes but nothing too groundbreaking. This represents a lull in Android progression ever since Ice Cream Sandwich (4.0). We have seen 4.1 and 4.2 Jellybean in the past year. While changes in these versions have been lauded, I do not find the progression from 4.0 to 4.2 something that you must absolutely upgrade to. This means that your Android 4.0 to 4.2 device is already one of the best phones on the market. Whether you own a Galaxy S3 or a One X or variations from LG and Motorola, you are not missing out on anything new. I expect the next huge update to Android to come next year. It will be a quiet year for the most popular mobile operating system and there is no reason for you to part your cash at the moment.
The iPhone 5 is more than 6 months old. This means we are less than 6 months to the iPhone 5S / 6. The operating system (iOS 6) has been stagnant with new features such as the much maligned maps and Siri not living to its hype. The good news is iOS 7 promises to be a major refresh. Looking at Apple’s track record, new versions of iOS do not usually run well on old devices. Since iOS 7 will be an exciting refresh, buying an iPhone 5 will not be a prudent move. If you want an iPhone, wait for the next one. It will be launched within 2 quarters and it will run iOS 7.
Since iOS 7 will be an exciting refresh, buying an iPhone 5 will not be a prudent move.
Windows Phone is an operating system that bears a lot of promise but is still not ready for prime time. There are major features that have yet to be added. On top of that, the app ecosystem remains poor. Microsoft is facing monopolistic moves from Google and is finding hard to get the most crucial apps on its operating system. Windows Phone 8 is a good upgrade over WP7 but it is still not enough to justify a purchase. Wait for WP9. I expect WP9, Windows 9 and the XBOX One to realise Microsoft’s single OS vision. This means that WP8 devices are not worth your time as yet.
Blackberry made a massive effort this year. BB10 is what the former mobile giants hope will return Blackberry to the top. Unfortunately, BB10 is a version 1.0 product. It is Blackberry’s first foray to a touch only OS and there are many kinks to work out. BB is one step behind Windows Phone and I can’t recommend the later as well. It is not yet the right time to get a Blackberry. Wait for version 2.0.
The same deal occurs in the tablet space mainly because Android and iOS are pretty unified across both phones and tablets. The Nexus 7 and 10 are the devices to get if you desperately want an Android tablet. However, both of them are over a year old.
The iPad 4 was a move that shocked iPad 3 buyers. It relegated the later to an old product within 6 months. I am sure the iPad 4 will have a full year to run but we are already in mid cycle. If you wish to get a full sized iPad, wait for the 5. The iPad Mini is an interesting case. It is selling well, cannibalizing the sales of its larger sibling as expected. However, the iPad Mini is also in mid cycle and the next update should feature a high resolution screen. As such, hold the cash and wait for a few months.
Windows tablets are devices running Windows RT and not Windows 8. Windows 8 mobile devices are hybrids or laptops. As expected, Windows RT is not worth your time at the moment. The operating system is well made but app support is still low considering it is barely 8 months old. Give Windows RT tablets a pass at the moment. The OS is not ready and so is the hardware. Most RT tablets run on nVidia’s Tegra 3 processor. It is already dated and does not serve too well even on Android counterparts.
Tablet wise, buying one now is a big no as well.
Hybrids & Laptops
Windows 8 launched a wide variety of new form factors. We saw many types of hybrids, screens that flipped and twisted. Some could be detached or even had displays on both sides. It is a crazy world. The designs are interesting and some of them are innovative. Unfortunately, the hardware just isn’t ready.
Windows 8 is a right move for Microsoft but Intel has yet to catch up. Current processors are either too power hungry (Core i3 / 5 /7 series) or too weak (Atom Clovertrail). You can choose between amazing performance with poor battery life or vice versa. The good news is that Intel will be releasing Haswell (Core series) and Silvermont (Atom series) at the end of this year. Both of them promise good performance with good battery life. Early benchmarks and leaks are very promising and Intel seldom under delivers. If you are in for a Windows 8 hybrid or laptop – wait till the end of the year.
If you are in for a Windows 8 hybrid or laptop – wait till the end of the year. Ditto for Macs.
The same moves by Intel can be applied to Macbooks. The 2012 series is past mid cycle and I am pretty certain that the next upgrade will feature Haswell chips. It will be very foolish to buy a laptop now unless you really need one. This applies both to Windows and Mac. End 2013 will bring irresistible goodies. Wait for it.
Apple’s professional desktop line up has been left in the dust. There’s no reason to buy really dated hardware as Cupertino is more focused on pushing mobile products. The iMac line is reaching mid cycle on an old processor. Wait for the refresh.
The same can be said of Windows desktops. Ivy Bridge has not been a huge performance increase over Sandy Bridge. In fact, yours truly is still using a Nehalem chip that is performing very well… for four years and counting. Haswell will not be a tremendous game changer for desktops unless you utilize onboard graphics (or integrated graphics). Intel has pushed GPU performance and you will find significant performance boosts for midrange desktops. That of course will be due at the end of the year.
And so, now would be a poor time to get a new desktop.
Wait, Wait, Wait
This is kind of a downer. As a geek who has just graduated and is about to begin a full time job, I wished I could celebrate this transition with a new device. I could do with a tablet or a hybrid but it will be a poor move to buy anything now.
You should only buy if you really need a new device now.
The economist in me is focused on maximizing returns on each dollar spent. Sadly, technology is in a lull at the moment. You should only buy if you really need a new device now. Otherwise, wait. There are plenty of good things on the horizon. End 2013 and the coming year will be exciting.
For now, your wallet will enjoy some peace.
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