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The Joys of Being a Late Tech Adopter (nytimes.com)
69 points by sneeze-slayer 49 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 71 comments

Besides phones, other applications:

- Wait for movie hype to end to avoid crap movies with great marketing. I usually wait to borrow them from the library.

- I buy all my computers used from Craig's List. I'm typing on one I paid $500 for that would have been $2,000 new.

- Latest news about "superfoods" or nutrition. I heard about someone who waited 5 years to act on food trends. None lasted that long before more latest nutrition news superseded it.

- Reading daily news. Doesn't improve my life nor make me better informed.

I still check my email too much.

It shocks me how many people get upset when you tell them that you avoid following the latest daily outrage that the news media presents us. A while back I realized that exactly nobody spends time "catching up" on daily news if they are required to unplug for any significant amount of time, so why should I bother to follow it in real time?

They are shocked you are not like them, you are shocked them are not like you.

The loop feeds itself unless one of the parties ceases being shocked. I've found it easier to cease being shocked on my end, than waiting for the universe to change to suit my fancy.

Great perspective.

Not exactly nobody: I do actually spend time catching up, but maybe the interesting part about that process is the sources. There's a few online aggregation sources/tools that I sometimes use, but old school weekly periodicals (Christian Science Monitor, The Economist, etc) shine, to the point where I sometimes wonder if that's how I should be doing all my media consumption. Maybe even tech chatter, if I could pull it off.

"You have to know what's going on in the world" is what my parents would say. News always makes me upset or angry in some way, so I avoid it too.

You're just cheap like me. :D I'm frugal, which makes me adopt tech late but that's because I'm waiting for the price not because I don't believe in new tech. Late tech adopters are more skeptical in the beginning and almost end up adopting it because everyone around them have adopted. It's not necessarily the price that gets in the way.

Computers definitely peaked in performance almost a decade ago, but this might change with more parallel software and core counts - but emphasis on parallel algorithms.

Superfood is also marketing hype. But I’d say there is an underlying truth: fresh, whole foods are more nutritious than spliced up or fried options and a diet lacking nutritious food can easily be deficient. Herbs are pretty crazy packed with (sometimes unique) beneficial compounds though.

edit-possibly it’s that plants pack nutritional compounds into their fruits, leaves, and bodies and the smaller the whole component of a plant is the more densely packed it will be.

> Computers definitely peaked in performance almost a decade ago

haha no way. I was lent a octoccore server from ~2009 recently, and I'd describe it as a hairdryer with a modicum of compute tacked on.

My personal dev machine is ~4 years old is a boatload faster core for core, and matched the octocore overall performance (DB benchmark on real world task, not disk-bound).

>Latest news about "superfoods" or nutrition. I heard about someone who waited 5 years to act on food trends. None lasted that long before more latest nutrition news superseded it.

The Atkins diet bore all the sociological hallmarks of every other diet fad when it became popular in the first decade of the millennium, however, its basic advice (reducing carb intake) seems to have been valid from today's perspective.

Lots of Craigslist computers are bought with stolen credit cards


How would that statistic be accurately calculated?

I just wish that smartphones had a more standardised OS.

Old laptops are fully usable in exactly the same way as a modern machine. They might be slightly slower.

Well, I mean, it's getting more difficult to deal with 32bit hardware, but that's about 10-15 years old now.

My 32bit atom netbook is still usable; still gets security patches; runs the latest everything (it's just very slow, and e.g. some distros dropped 32bit support).

I think that the phone manufacturers, Google, etc, should address the fact that they are creating mountains of e-waste for no good reason. The last new phone I bought was partly because old software stopped running on my version of Android. That's really a shame.

I'm keeping an eye on the progress of the Librem but that's a tiny niche market for nerds like me and doesn't address the wider problem.

> I think that the phone manufacturers, Google, etc, should address the fact that they are creating mountains of e-waste for no good reason. The last new phone I bought was partly because old software stopped running on my version of Android. That's really a shame.

this might be naive, but I do suspect we are getting close to an inflection point with the two year phone lifetime. up until the last few years, phone hardware was advancing rapidly and major features were being added to the mobile OSes every year. no one who could afford to wanted to keep a phone more than two or three years. now that mobile tech is more mature, they will start having to cater to people who want to buy a quality device and keep it for longer. arguably apple is already doing this; iOS 13 will still support a phone from 2015.

I'm not so sure. We need an "IBM PC" of the smartphone world.

It's not a matter of the hardware manufacturers "supporting an OS". It's about the lack of standardization, hardware drivers, fragmentation etc.

Samsung don't support my 15 year old laptop, but it works and works fine, because it's a PC.

If the kernel drivers for my phone were mainlined that would be a huge step.

We need a tech recycling law and oversight. Many valuable materials are put into phones never to be seen again nor properly disposed. Standardized components would help. There will never be market pressure to recycle nor standardize without a mandate.

Sometimes, you're not stuck at 32-bit. When I was using my stockpile of ThinkPad T60 units, luckily, I was able to upgrade the CPUs to 64-bit easily. (Reportedly, most T60 motherboards supported 64-bit, even though most shipped with 32-bit, and the CPUs are socketed, and can be swapped without much laptop disassembly.)

I ended up upgrading from T60 to somewhat newer, less-well-designed other ThinkPad series, mainly for a larger display, so that I wasn't tied to my desk as much. And I still transplant original T60 keyboards into the somewhat newer models, since, after the T60, Lenovo started making the keyboard flex.

> I just wish that smartphones had a more standardised OS.

going back in time, we have ibm (yes !) to thank for that :o) i don't know, if it would be possible for current duopoly to replaced anytime soon...

I think particularly with phones, 5-10 years ago it was necessary to get a flagship model to get something that at least wasn't awful, and you wanted to upgrade that flagship as often as possible to get to 'good' as soon as possible.

The last 5 years we reached 'good' for all flagship models, and so you bought one to get that but could then just keep it until it broke.

Now, and going forwards, I think we're in the phase where non flagships are reaching 'good' too, so it's really compelling to just get something that's cheaper and more of a commodity device.

As the article points out, it'll be fantastic when we reach the point of having good phones that are perfectly nice to use day to day, but if we occasionally lose or break them the reaction is 'ah well, I'll just go buy another one tomorrow' because they cost $50 brand new.

I agree that we've reached "peak phone". The newer models don't have any features you particularly need so keep using your existing one as a commodity until it breaks. The sales cycle is now looking like it's supposed to skip a generation of users. Unless you are getting it for free that 1000 or 1200 dollars you spend on a flagship could be used to enhance your life, either through having more disposable income, a holiday or investment. Enjoy your life and don't be a slave to devices.

The foldable ones look to bring 2x the screen size. It's like having a tablet in your pocket.

But I'm a late adopter too, so I'll wait until that tech is robust enough.

> Now, and going forwards, I think we're in the phase where non flagships are reaching 'good' too

This will obviously vary from person to person, but I felt we already reached this point 4-5 years ago. After getting an unlocked Moto G2 in 2014 for roughly $200 new, I no longer felt like I was sacrificing so terribly much at that price point.

I treated myself to the 2019 Kindle Oasis and compared to my two year old Kindle Paperwhite (which has been donated to a grateful family member) it is miles ahead. The larger warmer screen is just incredible and I have no regrets.

On the other hand I am quite happy driving a 15 year old car and would not spend money on a brand new fancy car even though I can afford it. No Tesla or BMW or Merc for me.

It's different strokes for different people.

A couple years ago I bought an almost new video iPod circa 2005. It was my first Apple product so I didn't have the cable to charge it. I went to a Sprint store near my apartment and asked if they had a cable. They told me that they didn't carry "budget items" and that maybe I should try the Walgreen's next door. Ten short years this iPod was center stage at an Apple keynote and considered the best in the world, and it still worked just as well as it did when it came out. It just goes to show that the value of tech is relative to the times.

I'm waiting for the day when I can pick up a cheap Tesla that "only" goes 200 miles and "doesn't even drive itself". I'm already seeing Craigslist ads for Teslas where they have to state no autopilot. No car ad five years ago that would have to say that.

> I'm waiting for the day when I can pick up a cheap Tesla that "only" goes 200 miles and "doesn't even drive itself".

I just sold my first-generation 2016 Model X to a dealer at 80% of its original cost 3 years ago, which to me indicates a profound level of delusion in the marketplace about the long-term reliability of Tesla vehicles. Going through my own personal experiences and following stories of what Tesla owners have had to go through when they needed repairs, I've finally accepted what my friend said long ago about Tesla cars being repair-hostile:


Speaking as someone who has gone through 3 years of repairs with a brand new Tesla (fortunately all being under warranty), if your objective is to buy a car that will be reasonably reliable and easily and cheaply repaired as its aging parts break, an old used Tesla would be the absolute last car I'd ever consider.

The Model X is a luxury vehicle. Luxury vehicles have always been expensive to maintain. Example:

Front strut for a 2016 Ford Fusion, $92 [1].

Front strut for 2016 Mercedes S550, $1,406 [2].

So I'm hoping the Model 3 will be different since it's a high production vehicle.

[1] https://www.autopartswarehouse.com/sku/Ford/Fusion/Monroe/Sh... [2] https://www.autopartswarehouse.com/sku/Mercedes_Benz/S550/Bi...

Sometimes waiting can lead to lost opportunities.

I bought a used original Kindle for text to speech. Newer models dropped the feature. (I think only the Fire tablets still have TTS, but only as part of accessibility.) Sure they can still be had used, for now. Once all break or Amazon drops support then it'll probably never come back.

Multiplayer games suffer from a wave-like network effect. If you wait too long to try the game the community may have moved on. Only the hardcore remain, and they may not be the nicest members.

Blows my mind that a feature as useful as TTS would be removed. Just screams abuse of market power.

Even a ordinary new car like a Toyota Corolla will be vastly safer than your 15 year old car, even if the old one is a luxury brand.

Agree. I was driving a 2003 car around until I got a rental for a couple weeks. The new features in cars make it worth it to be current: rear back up camera and “adaptive” cruise control. They have both saved me countless near misses and probably spared me an accident in just the last two years. I’m also able to parallel park comfortably too.

I will pick up a new Kindle as soon as they release a Type-C version, that will probably last a while as my current Kindle has that is getting flaky page turn buttons (basic 2013 edition)

That's it, there's good new and good old. That's something we need to know. Very often a new version of a product is not better. Just made shinier and with now less expensive parts that may or may not be as good as the first gen.

I always wanted a MacBook (the 2015+ Retina one), but they always seemed too expensive once the storage was upgraded, and sadly this year Apple discontinued it. But last month I happened to look on the right Amazon site and hey, they have unsold brand-new stock for the latest model with the upgraded storage in the colour I want, discounted several hundred euros. Finally a good price :D

Note that the 2015 MBPs are a great buy - you can upgrade the SSD yourself using a $10 adapter: https://forums.macrumors.com/threads/upgrading-2013-2014-mac...

Grabbed a used 13" model with 16 GB RAM, and put in a 1 TB drive myself. Couldn't be happier upgrading from a 2010 edition

If they release new models with fixed keyboards next year, I might upgrade and shell out for the SSD and RAM upgrades.

“We’re in the golden age of smartphones,” he said. “Your smartphone from two years ago still works great and will continue to work for a while.”

If this is where smartphones peak - usable for two and a bit years - we need to take ourselves out to the car park for a strong conversation.

Samsung Galaxy S5+, bought used November 2018, running LineageOS 16.0 (Android 9). I don't know, it's a 4/5 year-old model by now?

Enough for browsing, listening to music, texting, I don't play games on my phone (if I ever do, I might consider installing chess, but the need never arose).

I've my sights set on a new Fairphone 3 once my current phone gives up. The ease of repair, stock Android, great software support, plus ethical manufacturing have me sold.

You can play chess via the lichess site - no need for an app as it works great on mobile.

Nice, I am an absolute amateur though, I was more thinking along the lines of practicing offline against the computer, but it's nice to know where to go, when I'm ready.

There's an app too. There are a number of lower rated players though, if you want to play a human. There are puzzles for practising tactics which I find very useful.

I'm an amateur as well and just want to add that it's a vastly better experience to start playing against real players as fast as possible.

You'll adjust to your current Elo after the first few games and will have enough equally skilled players at any time.

I still have a HTC One M8, which is almost 5 years old. The processor is fine, storage seems fine, battery is almost dead which is normal... But 2GB of RAM is now not enough for the same apps I've used for years. Open a few tabs in Firefox and it slows down a lot. Before quad core processors, I found the CPU was a serious bottleneck, as well.

And fwiw, Windows Mobile phones had full fledged browsers and 3G long before the iPhone.

I would put all hardware in the same bag - can be good as new after 5+ years - but whatever electronics you want to buy today (be it a phone, "smart" TV, even a car), if you have any experience you know that vendors are now mostly in the business of providing a service, not just a physical product. And that's what you'll want to look up and pay most for. If the stuff becomes incompatible or not secure for everyday use because the vendor stopped (or didn't even intend) to release updates, what's the good?

Thankfully, it's still possible to update software yourself. If that's impossible, well, good bye from me. I'm not going to be forced to buy new stuff because the perfectly good old one is not going to be updated.

I can’t wait for people to start JTAGing their smart TVs.

I'm still using the HTC one M7. The battery is dying and the charging port is wearing out. I bought a magnetic charging cable so I can keep the plug inside permanently. I have dropped it several times and at least twice on the pavement. It has 5 2mm wide indentations in the aluminum frame. The glass is as good as new. It will probably survive another two years.

I loved that phone. If not for the lack of OS updates and the small amount of RAM, I'd still be using it. Everything since then by HTC has been considerably worse in terms of hardware quality.

I'm still on iPhone 6. 4.5 years old. I want to upgrade for bling factor, but it just doesn't die. I'll probably try DIY battery replacement once next iPhone is out. Either I get to brag about my battery replacement skills or I have a reason to upgrade.. Win-win!

The only thing about my iphone6s I wish was better is the camera.

In terms of cultivating better/more positive habits, it's probably better to just buy a standalone mid range digital camera.

Run the iphone until it dies/stops being supported by updates and apps that I care about.

With people looking forward to upgrade their mobile and hand-held devices for multiple reasons (including the "bling factor") I can't help but think about the current e-waste management policies and mechanisms in place. Especially in third world countries where new electronic devices are pouring in as gifts or imports (thanks to the migrant workers and inflow of remittance) and older devices are just being dumped as normal trash. The environmental impacts of the improperly discarded batteries just pile up becoming severely unmanageable day by day.

Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong, but I'd say "third world" (as much as I despite that term) has issue with waste management overall. Not just e-waste.

Here in "2nd world" e-waste is under control. Big portion of supermarkets have bins for disposing batteries and small electronics. We also have "electronics waste taxi" that comes to pick up large appliance for symbolic fee or even free, depending on exact location and item. Definitely better than collecting abandoned fridges and TVs from forests and roadside...

Fingers crossed 'third world" will get it under control sooner rather than later too. It requires a shift of mentality and some $$$. But it's totally doable.

I only recently moved from an iphone 5 to a 6. I actually consider it largely a step down due to the larger form factor. The 5 worked fine except for some applications I needed moving passed 32 bit support. If not for that I never would have upgraded. I'm always amazed at how people just must have the newest phones. Other than my issue with the 32 bit I saw no reason to change.

Why not iPhone SE? It was possible to get it real cheap in clearance sales.

Fingers crossed for iPhone SE2 in iPhone5 shape :|

Well I never bought either phone. Both were from family members that had them left over. Beggars can't be choosers.

Just bought a 6s (my first iPhone actually, though I have/had iPads and iPods). My former Samsung S8 and Android was working well, but was so fscking huge and fragile, it fell apart after only one year of use, with a screen replacement costing 270 bucks! Now I'm enjoying the creamy look HN is supposed to have, which I didnt't get on AMOLED.

Most of the authors examples involve buying a generation or two older and buying used. I would certainly expect previously owned gadgets to cost substantially less. While there is a lot less early adopter risk in this, most of the savings are realized from buying second hand.

Funny how it uses the original iPhone as it's example. I also got the original when released (though I used the buy from store and don't activate workaround). In my case, it didn't bother me at all when the next model came out, I just kept using my just as useful as when purchased it. Less true today as OS updates accelerate obsolescence.

Where I agree is with product updates. Version 1 can be significant as it was when I got my first iPod (Apple's first killer product). I got subsequent generations but not every one, mainly to increase storage, and never regretted any purchase. The difference between having an iPad or no iPad around the house is greater than having the prev gens iPad or the current.

The question is whether the extra year of having the first usable smartphone was worth the price, and the answer in my case was an unequivocal yes. Nowadays smartphones have reached a point of good-enough sufficiency, and that's why upgrade cycles have risen to one every three years.

I think Apple knows this perfectly. I'm not even sure whether the "I'll wait for the S upgrade" people (myself included) outsmart Apple or it's Apple who created the market for those who want to feel smarter than the rest.

At the end of the day, the economics of major upgrades vs. incrementals is very straightforward: major upgrades do bring significant new convenience features (e.g. once you are used to Face ID you don't want to go back) and if you want to own them today, you pay more. There's nothing smart about not benefiting from the new features today for the sake of saving a few hundred dollars.

> There's nothing smart about not benefiting from the new features today for the sake of saving a few hundred dollars.

I suppose you mean that it's obvious (i.e. doesn't require some masterstroke), not that it's a bad idea?

Sounds great to me. I don't upgrade my computing hardware until it's no longer fit for purpose for the most part, it would be stupidly wasteful to buy a new thing every 6 months regardless of whether I can afford it.

> There's nothing smart about not benefiting from the new features today for the sake of saving a few hundred dollars.

Sure there is. For every life-changing new feature, there are a dozen that end up not going anywhere. For the ones that are, their true advantages and disadvantages only become clear after they’ve been in the world for a while.

I’m thankful for all of the early adopters out there that hapily deal with the churn and find out what’s actually good so that I don’t have to— I can spend that time focusing on what’s important to me and still get most of the benefits, if only a year or two later.

"For every life-changing new feature, there are a dozen that end up not going anywhere"

"3D Touch" (IIRC?) would seem to fall in to that camp, no? I've never had a device that offered it, and the folks I know that do didn't realize they had it.

I left Apple phones before that feature came out, and because of that feature I feel like I have no idea how to use a new Apple phone. I want to say it's just error but I really feel like they just forced a bunch of UI into that feature too hope it would catch on.

> I think Apple knows this perfectly.

They research the market very well and optimize for maximum profit. Some people will feel left in the rain and some will think they made a steal. This is of no big concern for apple. Their overall profit is and in the last years it seemed to only go up and up.

Meanwhile the battery in my trusty and otherwise-perfectly-functional Sony Xperia Z5 Compact just swelled up and popped the back cover off. Just like what happened to my Z3 Compact. And apparently replacing the battery is an exercise in completely disassembling the phone and re-assembling it, which can take an experienced repair technician over an hour of time. The process also has a high failure rate, since it involves disconnecting and reconnecting both front and rear cameras, the loudspeaker, the LCD screen, and the NFC antenna.

I'm particularly salty about this because not only does this ruin a perfectly good device, but it can actually be quite dangerous.


I generally buy products when I need to than when I want to.

For other products I usually wait 3 months or more for all of the tech reviewers to get in their 2 cents on each product.

Although, waiting for longer periods of time might be more beneficial because then you know more information about the devices long term durability.

I have started to buy used Macs due to a bad experience with buying a Macbook Pro 2017. I think I may have had some processor issues at that time. The other problem was that during repair my laptop was lost for a few weeks. I had other concerns on the long term durability so I sold it for a large loss.

I have a Desktop computer that I use as my "lab" computer. I generally use it for video games but I have also used it to do some freelance work in the past.

I try to avoid version one of any product that I could own also.

Does this argument hold up when the next generation is significantly different? I would take an iPhone 6 over a 5S any day.

Obviously this argument is entirely contingent on how valuable the changes in the newer model are to you.

If you take a lot of photos, maybe a 2 megapixel jump is worth the upgrade. If you use your phone as a display of affluence, maybe the latest number is worth it to you. I think the point is that we should honestly evaluate the difference and honestly determine the value to ourselves, because for many people the compulsion to upgrade is basically rooted in a strange sense of obligation, rather than any measured utility delta.

The non-S are usually a much bigger improvement over their predecessors than the S. Almost as if Apple have an A-team working on the non-S and a B-team refining them into S with minor iterations.

However, the S is almost always the version I prefer; your so-called “B-Team” are the ones who polish the designs, and the results are clearly superior.

As the saying goes, a trifle makes perfection, but perfection is no trifle.

This rings true for me, I got a iphone 6plus at launch and hated the large form factor.

it broke and I bought a used 6s (non-plus) and it was so much more refined.

Not to mention the smaller size was way more practical. The only time I wished for a larger screen was to watch movies on flights and an iPad is way better for that anyway.

This may be sensible advice if being educated is not an option you're not interested in.

Blanket advice is great for dummies. We have the internet, with every opportunity to become knowledgable. You don't even have to read! Youtube alone has a dozen excellent tech channels that'll break it all down for you, in a somewhat entertaining manner too.

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