Dear Lifehacker, I’m always wary of buying new products, especially Apple ones, a certain amount of time after they’ve been released (typically around six months), as a new model is usually due before long and I don’t want to end up feeling like I have (or will end up having) outdated hardware. Is there a “sweet spot” after release when you can recommend buying? Thanks, Purchase Problems
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Sorry to disappoint you, but we don’t think there’s a single “sweet spot” that defines the ideal time to purchase a new gadget (whether that’s a phone, computer or tablet). Release schedules vary and are hard to predict. The only rule that really matters is: will the gadget be useful to you for a reasonable period of time?
It’s true that some Apple products tend to refresh on a relatively regular cycle, but this isn’t an absolute. Apple watchers like to try and observe patterns in release dates, but Apple itself generally puts out hardware products when it believes they are ready. The two do not always coincide.
Last year, there was something of an outcry when Apple updated its iPad models just eight months after the previous release. It was widely assumed that iPad updates would be an annual event, but that turned out to be incorrect. That didn’t render the older iPads useless, unless your sole criterion for usefulness is newness.
The words I wrote about that issue at the time remain entirely applicable here:
Technology evolves rapidly. You have to accept that a new model will almost certainly come along during the functional lifespan of your current product. You also need to recognise that this doesn’t obviate the usefulness of your existing purchase, provided you made that original purchase for sensible reasons.
There can be good reasons for holding off and not buying something as soon as it is released. You’ll give the manufacturer time to iron out any showstopper problems, and you’ll almost certainly pay less (Android handset prices drop particularly rapidly). The measure that is relevant is not “how new is this?”, but “how useful is this?” Jump off the upgrade treadmill and you’ll save money and reduce stress.
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