In the Wi-Fi-enabled, hallowed halls of the church of the technorati, there is no patron saint of patience. And in none of the encrypted scriptures will you find that tired adage, “If it’s worth having, it’s worth waiting for.” I mean, there’s a reason the USPS is sinking fast.
But I waited on iOS6. In fact, it’s been about two months now and I’m still waiting. Google Maps and YouTube are both in my top five used apps, and regardless of how easy it would be to download them again, I didn’t want to risk it. Besides, significant software upgrades usually come with a period of weeks-to-months before the various inevitable bugs have been squashed.
I did, however, decide to toss my iPad into the mix to see how it fared. Sure enough, many of the apps I used either ceased to start or developed some hitch—one of which, a game-halting cutscene bug in Lego Harry Potter, wasn’t resolved until last week. That might sound like a low-stakes problem, and it is, but it’s still frustrating and could’ve been avoided by simply holding off.
Of course, that’s easier said than done. It’s the classic curse of the tech obsessed: Latest is greatest, and to wait is to be left behind. But if you can stand to be just a touch out-of-date, waiting can save you a headache—from the minor to the massive—and a healthy bit of coin to boot.
Indeed, the deals are what make tech patience a true virtue. Since smartphone models turnover about as often as the staff at your local Arby’s, the previous model is often only months old and similar enough to its replacement that lagging behind a cycle or two isn’t overly painful. There are exceptions. iPhones come out on an annual basis and usually don’t see as drastic of price cuts as (gasp) non-Apple phones. And because of the nature of cell carrier contracts, you have to wait for the stars to align for the best time to strike.
If cellular clout is important in your circle, maybe this is an arena to let yourself indulge. Not for me. My $100 iPhone 4 has 90% of the functionality of the 4S in its stead, and 87.5% of the screen of the iPhone 5—all for about 25% of the price.
And how about video games?
After my Xbox 360 broke in 2010, I fell off the gaming wagon for a while. The only contact I had with the newest titles was reading about them and occasionally playing them at friends’ houses. Then, a week ago, I decided it was time to end the drought and bought the Xbox 360 holiday bundle. For $280, it comes with a 250 GB Xbox 360 with two games (a download code for Skyrim and a copy of Forza Motorsport) and a few free trials. Not a bad deal.
But the real value came elsewhere in the Gamestop. Since I’d been out of the loop of Xbox gaming, a wheelbarrow of great games had been released, bought, sold back and discounted. Games that you’d pay $60+ for on release day were marked around 25% of that price now—some unopened, some used, but all new as far as I was concerned. I made off with just two additional games to start—Fallout: New Vegas and Dead Space 2—but at a total cost of just half of what either would have run me in the first month or so of release.
Since we’re near the end of the cycle for the current generation of gaming systems, you can expect these deals on systems and games to get better, but not by much. We’re closing in on that point of diminishing returns. If bleeding-edge gaming is a must for you, then by all means, go in for that high-end Alienware or Nintendo’s new Gameboy/console combination, Wii U. Just know that the qualitative value you’re paying for is quantitatively greater in price—not product.
But there’s always that category of tech that you just can’t wait on, where being the first with the absolute pinnacle of consumer-priced achievement is a must. Unfortunately for me, mine is headphones. Like other varieties of audio equipment, headphones tend to maintain their market integrity particularly well over time and have a much longer turnover rate than your netbook or Razr phone. Take the excellent Sennheiser HD650. Released in 2003 at around $450, these babies are still hovering around $425 to this day. That’s chump change compared to the godfather Sennheiser HD800, which run around three times that price, but still perseveringly irksome for the hopeful and frugally minded.
Even these behemoths will one day tumble though, even if it’s only by a hundred dollars. All must-have technology is a way point in the long run. The trick is finding a stop for the right price that will keep you happy for a decent amount of time. All I know is, so long as I’ve got some decent headphones? I don’t mind a little bit of a wait.
Unless my iPhone breaks. Then all bets are off.