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BLOG: The danger of the smartphone utopia trap

JR Raphael | April 18, 2013
The level of choice and diversity within Android and the never-ending release cycle that diversity creates has resulted in a smartphone utopia trap.

All right, Android fans, tell me if you're heard this before:

"I don't know. All these new phones look pretty cool, but I want to wait to see how the [insert name of rumored upcoming device here] compares."

As a guy who writes about mobile technology, I hear that all the time. And it got me thinking: The level of choice and diversity within Android -- and the never-ending release cycle that diversity creates -- has resulted in a highly contagious condition that's circulating among Android enthusiasts:

The smartphone utopia trap.

Think about it: How many people do you know who are constantly searching for the perfect phone? People who, despite their desire for a new device and the presence of an overwhelming number of desirable options, are always holding off -- always waiting for that mythical piece of perfection off in the distance to arrive?

There it is: the smartphone utopia trap. And now's the prime time for its symptoms to develop.

Here in the States, we've got the HTC One coming out this Friday, the Samsung Galaxy S4 on the way days later, and what appears to be a significant new release from LG soon thereafter. Combine all of that with the existing top-tier handsets like Google's Nexus 4, Samsung's Galaxy Note II, and Motorola's Droid Razr Maxx HD, and we're looking at what may be the most impressive high-end lineup we've ever seen.

But then there's what's ahead. Google's I/O developers' conference is in mid-May, and no one knows for sure what types of gadgets will be unveiled there. Motorola, meanwhile, is rumored to be prepping its mysterious new"X phone" for release sometime this summer. So, hey, maybe it's worth waiting to see what's in store.

Maybe. But consider this: Even if you hold off to see what Moto's cookin', by the time that device comes out, you'll be wondering about the Note III and next-gen Nexus phone -- both of which are bound to be rumored for the fall. And when those devices hit, you'll have the Galaxy S5 and HTC One 2 (?) on the horizon. The cycle never ends.

That's why it's so easy to fall into the trap of always waiting -- always questing for that perfect device that's just out of reach. The thing to remember, though, is that a phone isn't a lifelong commitment. In fact, it's pretty easy these days to justify buying a new device every year, if you're so inclined.

Case in point: Since I switched over to prepaid cell service, I've been paying about $600 less per year for basic service than I used to pay with Verizon. With the same exact budget, those savings allow me to buy most any phone unlocked and off-contract -- and, in the case of a Nexus device, still have money left to spare. In fact, I'm probably spending less than average on annual phone-related expenses despite my higher than average hardware upgrade rate. And that's not even factoring in any potential dollars earned back from reselling older devices.


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