the last two months we have seen a plethora of new mobile phones hit the market
from the biggest names in the business. The Sony Xperia X Performance; the
ill-fated Samsung Note 7; the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus; the Google Pixel and Pixel
XL and the Sony XZ. All this started me thinking about the whole technology
upgrade cycle that the world lives with.

manufacturers have attempted to have us on an annual upgrade cycle since the
birth of smartphones so that may seem like a relatively new phenomenon but I
would argue differently. I would make the wild claim that it is a deeply rooted
psychological human trait of a desire to improve. Ever since some eccentric
cave man sat tinkering in the corner and invented the wheel, we have been on an
upgrade cycle. The wheel turned into a crude wheel barrow which turned into a
more stable device with multiple wheels for carrying goods which turned into an
animal-drawn vehicle which turned into a self-powered vehicle and, before you
know it, we have the modern car. And as good as the modern car is, we are
seeing constant improvements.

about so many aspects of our lives. Many of the purchases we make are not made
because a product has stopped working or has been used up but instead, we are
making a purchase because something else is better. Think of cars; televisions;
joggers; watches; bicycles; houses; the list goes on. When you think about it
(which I obviously have) it could easily be argued that the conspicuous
consumption situation we currently find ourselves in drives the global economy.
Without the constant need to improve, upgrade and consume there are many
organisations, and even industries, in the world that would cease to exist.

was first introduced in 1989. Version 17 is the current version. Microsoft Word
was first released in October 1983. We are now up to version 16. The Asics
Gel-Kayano running shoe is up to release 23. This is also a powerful indicator
of the psyche of humans and their purchasing. As much as we apparently have a
desire for everything that is new and shiny, we are OK with new revision
numbers of the same model. Maybe we somehow prefer that. If our desire is to feel
good about ourselves by having the latest item, it makes it more obvious to
everyone that you have the latest version when it is a simple numbering system.
Maybe the decline of the Ford Falcon in Australia was simply due to the fact
that no-one could tell what the latest model was? The FG was after the BF which
came after the AU which immediately followed the EL. When the Falcon was at its
strongest in Australia, the models followed a logical order. The XA was
followed by the XB and the XC and the XD and – you get the picture. Anyone
could work that out. Without any proof but my random thoughts, I am convinced
that part of the desire to upgrade is to improve our status in society and if
it isn’t obvious to my peers that my AU is a better model than your EL, then
what is the point in upgrading?

on that, Apple and Samsung will continue to lead the way in the mobile phone
wars as they are numbering their phone releases. With Sony and Google, I can’t
immediately tell if the XZ is newer than the X Performance or the Pixel is more
up to date than the Nexus. It is only a casual observation but maybe the
marketing teams at these two companies need to learn a lesson from Samsung and
Apple. When you consider that there are more active mobile phone connections in
Australia than people, it seems obvious that the majority market for phone
sales is in upgrades rather than new connections.

don’t know there is an easy way to get off the upgrade treadmill and,
personally, I am quite happy with it. I love to see what creativity and
innovation our fellow humans can come up with next.

Mathew Dickerson

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