Buyers Remorse is a Way of Life in Tech

by Tim Bajarin   |   October 29th, 2012

[dc]H[/dc]ave you ever bought a tech gadget and two weeks later, a better version of it comes out? Or purchased one of the new HDTVs with high resolution and then seen a new version with even higher resolution come out just weeks later for the same price? It may be relatively obsolete after CES in January as all TV makers will introduce their 4K or Ultra HD sets with 4 times the resolution of today’s HDTV’s.

Whether consumers like it or not, buyers remorse is just a way of life in the world of technology and that will never change. How come you ask? Well, there are a lot of reasons but the basic answer lies in the fact that no matter what product a tech company puts out, it is in its DNA to make it better, faster, thinner, lighter or develop a whole host of other tech related advancements that enhance the product further. I have been covering the tech market for 35 years, and this cycle never changes. However, the pace of tech advancements today is faster then I have ever seen in my years of covering technology professionally.

When Apple introduced both the iPhone and the iPad, they pretty much committed to a year long cycle before new models came out. This was because as early as 2003, Apple was updating the iPod every 6 months and consumers were squawking about this pace of upgrades and their buyer’s remorse. So Jobs said at one MacWorld that they were going to start this yearlong cycle to help alleviate those concerns. And this has been the case from then until last week.

So, why did Apple introduce a 4th gen iPad just seven months after the 3rd generation iPad hit the streets? My educated guess is that once Apple perfected the A6 chip, which they introduced in the iPhone 5 and doubled the speed of iPhone, they really wanted to upgrade the iPad as soon as possible so that both products performed at these new processing levels. Having both equal in performance makes a lot of sense because once you use the iPhone 5, you clearly want that same speedy performance in your iPad too.

Keep in mind, Apple does not do R&D then put things into manufacturing over night. The fact that they were going to put an A6 chip in an iPad was probably put in place at least 18 months ago and while they could have held it off until next March, the performance gains they had with the A6 chip was just too good to hold off releasing it until next year.

But this same logic drives much of the tech vendors thinking about product releases. Many Android backers and PC vendors update smartphones, tablets and laptops in 6-month increments. And if a consumer service has new features, it usually gets upgraded even faster, even if it means offering a new device with more advanced features to handle the new services.

When I was a kid, I remember getting a hand held transistor radio so I could listen to baseball games. And I saved up my money to get this particular model that was small and very portable. I literally scraped pennies and dimes together over a period of time so I could buy this particular radio I had seen advertised in the back of Popular Science.

Well, guess what happened. As soon as I got the radio, the newest model was released and as a kid, I had my first bout of buyer’s remorse. And even today, that happens all too often for me even today. But at some point I just have to say that this product will meet my immediate needs and pull the trigger and buy it.

While Apple releasing a new iPad may have come quickly, the same will happen with the Nexus 7. Google is likely to introduce not only a new 10” model soon but also an updated 7” version too, even though the current one hit the market just 4 months ago. And given the pace of technology advancements, I will not be surprised if Amazon upgrades their current Kindle Fire HD six or seven months after the current model came out.

So, the fact that Apple introduced a new iPad not long after the last one came out should not be that upsetting to people. The opposite would be to tell Apple to slow down the pace of innovation and as a technology buyer that is the last thing I want Apple to do. The same goes for Google, Amazon and any other company who delivers innovative products. The key is to understand that what you buy today will meet your needs today since you may not even know what your needs will be tomorrow. That is the job of the tech companies; to anticipate users future needs and drive their R &D in that direction.

Tim Bajarin

Tim Bajarin is the President of Creative Strategies, Inc. He is recognized as one of the leading industry consultants, analysts and futurists covering the field of personal computers and consumer technology. Mr. Bajarin has been with Creative Strategies since 1981 and has served as a consultant to most of the leading hardware and software vendors in the industry including IBM, Apple, Xerox, Compaq, Dell, AT&T, Microsoft, Polaroid, Lotus, Epson, Toshiba and numerous others.
  • Grwisher

    Regarding: “So, why did Apple introduce a 4th gen iPad just seven months after the 3rd generation iPad hit the streets? ”

    Probably the new Lightning connector also played a major part. Apple gets many customers who are new to Apple through iPhone sales. It stands to reason that a new iPhone customer would not want to buy an iPad with a different connector.

    • Phil

      I believe you’re right about the connector being a catalyst for this release. If so we should expect the resumption of a 12 month update cycle, with the next release for the 2013 holidays.

      In addition, the timing of the new iPad update needed to be changed because holiday gifts were being superseded more or less straight after they were bought. Incidentally, Daring Fireball’s John Gruber predicted that Apple would move the release schedule for the iPad to the holiday season, but he was 12 months early!

      • David K

        There could be 2 cycles per year for tablets. 1st half = enterprise… Surface Pro for example. The 2nd half of the year would be aimed more for schools and consumers.

        • FalKirk

          With tablets, I think the big market will be education, not Enterprise. But it doesn’t change your time calculations. Education buys in the summer so a new tablet every Spring might make sense. I don’t think it will happen – but It’s a very realistic scenario.

  • FalKirk

    I think the third generation iPad was a rare miss for Apple. On the upside, it had the Retina screen. On the downside, it was larger, heavier and hotter. I think people were just as happy to buy the iPad 2 and they got it for $100 less!

    With the new processor, the third generation iPad is at least much faster than it was. The lightening connector was a nice bonus. Don’t discount the additional antennas either. While they may provide little addd benefit in terms of usability, the new antennas open up a new markets in Europe and Sprint in the U.S. Adding another 100 to 200 million addressable buyers is no small thing.

    It is my opinion that Apple WILL introduce a fifth generation iPad in the Spring. First, they want to take advantage of the education market. Second, they will make the fifth generation iPad smaller, lighter, faster – all with a retina screen.

    We’ll see.

  • mhikl

    Man made products can be like living organisms and have growth spurts. In 2007 four versions of the MacBook line were issued. There was a lot of change going on in the series and Apple issued twelve different versions of the processor over the three years from 2006 through 2008. As luck would have it, my iteration is the last MB that can’t climb mountains. My model wasn’t a good run and has been the cause of a lot of repairs and resentment but it was my choice not to get rid of it when it had some value left, but then I would just have been passing on my problems to someone else. However, I was told Apple realised that there were faults in the design and continued to repair my MB long after its insurance had run out.

    I will sell my iPad v3 in the spring when the next version comes out. I expect Airplay to be fully functioning and life will be a truly wireless experience. (So far, my only concern is its weight.) I’m a pretty flexible guy and two iterations in a year seems about right. More than that and I figure a company is in learning mode or being manipulative. Apple is past the learning stage and understands that quality is what brings in the profits, not manipulation