Smartphone Updates: Redefining "Obsolete"

Summary:I must take enthusiasts to task for a misconception that is propogated every time a gadget doesn't get an available software update. I'm referring to claiming said gadget is obsolete.

Tech enthusiasts, and I count myself firmly in that group, have a desire (or obsession) for having the latest and greatest. That desire covers not only the gadgets we love, but the software that makes them what they are. As much as I like having the latest and greatest of mobile tech, I must take the enthusiast group to task for a huge misconception that is propogated every time a gadget doesn't get an available software update. I'm referring to the misstatement that once a mobile platform sees an update, all gadgets that run an earlier version of the platform software are immediately "obsolete". It simply isn't so.

You know what I'm talking about. Platform X gets an update that takes it from version 1.1 to 1.2 (or perhaps 1.11). Immediately, owners of gadgets that shipped with 1.1 start clamoring for the update, and when it's not made instantly available start moaning on enthusiast forums that their device is now obsolete. Perhaps we should take a look at the actual definition of the term.

Merriam-Webster:

Obsolete: no longer in use or no longer useful. Of a kind or style no longer current; old-fashioned.

As much as I like having the latest version of system software running on my gadgets, it is a stretch to claim they are no longer in use or useful until I get any updates. Based on this definition my gadget is certainly not obsolete without the update.

I suspect it's the second definition of the term that gets everybody tied in knots. It seems it is the mere thought that a gadget is no longer current (or worse, old-fashioned) that makes it OK to claim said gadget is of lesser value, or not as good as it was the day before the update was released. Never mind the fact the gadget still does everything it did prior to the release, it is no longer current.

As much as we enthusiasts would like to see things change, the fact is that not every device on a given platform will get every update that comes along. There are too many factors, all of them involving additional cost to the providers of the hardware, to see that change. We will continue to gripe and moan when a platform update is released but not for our device. But let's be realistic, the gadget is not suddenly obsolete. It's just not current. It still does everything it did the day we bought it. Just not as fashionably.

UPDATE: Colleague Matt Miller has a differing view to mine which he's presented eloquently on his ZDNet blog.

Topics: Mobility, Hardware, Smartphones

About

James Kendrick has been using mobile devices since they weighed 30 pounds, and has been sharing his insights on mobile technology for almost that long. Prior to joining ZDNet, James was the Founding Editor of jkOnTheRun, a CNET Top 100 Tech Blog that was acquired by GigaOM in 2008 and is now part of that prestigious tech network. James' w... Full Bio

zdnet_core.socialButton.googleLabel Contact Disclosure

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Related Stories

The best of ZDNet, delivered

You have been successfully signed up. To sign up for more newsletters or to manage your account, visit the Newsletter Subscription Center.
Subscription failed.