Tech Life: 8 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Be an Early Adopter
Early adopters of new technology are, God love ‘em, those folks who are the first to embrace manufacturer innovations in the marketplace. In my day, they were first family on block to get a microwave or a VCR. Today, they’re the first to have an LCD TV or smartphone. These are the consumers that manufacturers dream of and often cater to. They are plugged into tech trends and they don’t mind standing in line or camping out all night to indulge their new-gadget habit. They respond to buzz, and they create buzz. They are product evangelizers and brand ambassadors who reset the standards of everyday technology and they’re responsible, in part, for the embarrassment you feel as you tuck that old flip phone back in your pocket.
But early adoption isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. I think there’s a very real downside to the rush and blush of new technology. So take some comfort in your four-year-old flip phone and that hulking, boxy, analog TV. Here are eight reasons why you shouldn’t be an early adopter. (See also: Frugal Advice for the Gadget Addicted)
1. Higher Prices
New technology means higher retail costs. Efforts to quickly recoup R&D expenses and the factors of supply and demand all skew the price of new devices in favor of the manufacturer. It can take years for market forces to normalize and reflect the real value of an item.
2. Rapid Outdating
A first generation product implies a third and fourth generation. Typically, the greatest technological advancements are reflected in second generation releases. At that point, consumers have had a chance to test the earlier product in the harsh laboratory of everyday life. Speed, energy efficiency, memory, and software choices all tend to improve later on.
3. Kinks and Bugs
Similarly, any kinks and bugs are most glaringly apparent upon a product’s initial release (ala the early antenna issue and short battery life of Apple’s iPhone). Consumers complain and manufacturers correct a product’s shortcomings in later releases.
4. Poor Resale Value
Since the greatest improvements usually happen between a product’s first and second generation, first-gen versions have lower resale value. Just try unloading that early iPod, if you’re not convinced.
5. Low Competition
With their patents firmly in place and other manufacturers scrambling to figure out how to match the wizardry, first generation products have very little competition. Low competition means little choice, and little choice means higher prices for consumers.
6. Buyers Are Uncompensated Testers
Early adopters of new technology become de facto product testers, pointing out bugs and product issues that may or may not be addressed with a first generation patch. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like to work for free — I’ll gladly let someone else use his piggy bank to be a guinea pig.
7. Lower Service Levels
Newly launched products often suffer from minimal service levels since manufacturers can’t always accurately predict popularity or performance. Later versions usually have a more established (and therefore more robust) support infrastructure.
8. Undetermined Usability
Let’s face it — novelty is part of our attraction to new products. The only thing better than getting something new is getting something that’s new to the world. But what do we do when the novelty wears off? How can we be sure the new product will become an indispensable part of our lives, or merely a brief rung on the evolutionary ladder of bigger, better, faster, and more mobile?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not criticizing early adopters or questioning their place in consumer culture. They’re an essential category of willing buyers that lets the rest of us enjoy less expensive and more refined products. I salute the buyers of those early $2,500 LCD TVs and $600 iPhones. You’ve taken the hit that we more cost-conscious consumers just refused to take. We thank you; our wallets thank you.