It’s O.K. to Fall Behind the Technology Curve

Paying less in the future for a device that can do more is now taken for granted when shopping for consumer electronics. Gone is last century’s theory of planned obsolescence in which manufacturers designed and built products that would quickly wear out and have to be replaced. Whether it is a big flat screen TV or cellphone, handheld music player, digital camera, flash drive and or external hard drive, these electronics do not usually wear out before they are replaced. Rather, the consumer may feel compelled to buy because the device does more, does it faster or does it better for less money than the original.

“There is a fundamental shift that is taking place,” says Samir Bhavnani, research director at Current Analysis, a market research firm. “People thought a product would last 10 years. They keep it three years. They upgrade their cellphone every year.”

But this new form of obsolescence can stymie the consumer because it makes little sense to buy now if the product will be cheaper tomorrow. Knowing when to buy becomes as important as knowing what to buy.