Why Business Assets Don’t Always Need to be Latest Gen

There’s a lot of pressure on businesses to always appear on the cutting edge of technology. However, with budgets getting tighter and talk of a recession in the air, do you always need tech that’s also poised on the cutting edge (at least according to the manufacturers)? Today, we take a look at how the lifecycle and usability of digital tech, especially smartphones and laptops, extends far past that which annual upgrades suggest, and how to sort the actual need for an upgrade from the market hype and fear of missing out created by marketers.

Know Your Industry

When it comes to the ‘need’ to be working on the very latest generation of gadgets, whether that need is perceived or real can vary heavily depending on your industry. Typically, companies already operating on the cutting-edge of technology have a greater need for a faster asset lifecycle then those in other industries. However, even then there’s rarely need to keep up strictly with release cycles that are today more manufactured than indicative of real technology shifts. All the same, keep awareness of your core industry, and features that matter most to you, when making your decisions.

Tech Advances and Marketing Sell Are Not the Same

Early in any electronic innovations life cycle, upgrades were pretty important. The generations would represent massive gains on earlier releases, typically delivering better performance, faster speeds, and enhanced capacity. 

Of course, upgrades still offer improvements on these matters, but the rate of evolution for smartphones and PCs has slowed dramatically. We see camera tech improving greatly- but there’s a point of diminishing returns. Returning to the smartphone arena, everything but the most basic entry-level model released in the last 2 years has come with plentiful storage, powerful cameras, solid batteries, and great hardware.

Occasionally, we see an innovation like 5G. If your staff are regularly working with 5G tech, you’ll need to make sure they have the work tools to use it. However, for a sales rep on the road, or your customer service representatives, it’s little but a sweetener. There’s no meaningful performance drop using 4G, and it’s far from obsolete. The average user will experience almost no perceptible difference in viewing experience. 

RAM is another great demonstration of this. Yes, a phone with 12GB of RAM is faster than a phone with 8GB of RAM. A laptop running 32GB of RAM can handle many multithreaded tasks a lot quicker than one with 16B or 8GB. If you’re running virtual machines, or high-end software like AutoCAD, that matters. If you’re browsing the net, connecting to Zoom or streaming, and using the company’s cloud storage, it’s a finesse that won’t give any real user experience upgrade.

This, really, is the make-or-break decision between whether an upgrade is worth it to you on business assets. Hardware spec changes look very impressive in promotional materials, and are pushed hard as each new generation releases. Yet, reality is that any device from mid-range up is already close to optimized for the average user experience, and the new bells-and-whistles are marketing draws. Unless you or your staff member is one of a very niche audience who actually needs the expanded functionality, it’s nice, but not necessary.

So always evaluate next-gen ‘innovations’ with realistic approaches. The raw numbers aren’t wrong, but it doesn’t mean the device is inherently better.

The Software Argument

With laptops, the lifespan of the operating system is set by either Microsoft or Apple, depending on what you’re running. Typically, OS support runs for 5 or more years before an operating system needs upgrading. It’s awkward running a business where no computer is running the same OS edition, but that doesn’t mean throwing the whole unit away. The OS can be upgraded for a fraction of the cost provided the underlying hardware still provides value.. 

With smartphones, it’s more fixed. You get one operating system, and without jailbreaking the device, that’s what it will have. However, both Apple and Android offer running support for backdated operating system editions for years more than you may expect. Apple actually wins here, offering OS updates for up to six years post-release. Android typically runs on a two to three year cycle. That’s a long time before you run the risk of incompatible software.

Portable Convenience

Lastly, let’s talk about batteries. As most laptops and smartphones now use internal batteries (precisely to make them difficult to change), and more people are operating on-the-go, you need a reliable device. However, li-ion batteries will work at least 80% of out-the-box capacity for two years or more. And, whatever manufacturers would like you to think, internal batteries are perfectly replaceable. While under warranty, this should be done at the manufacturer’s cost. Once it’s moved past warranty, a skilled technician can assist.

The e-Waste Conundrum

Not only does constant pressure on businesses to upgrade create budgetary stress, but it’s a major feeder of the e-Waste crisis that’s threatening to become a serious environmental problem. Bearing this in mind, as you do replace business electronic assets, do your part for a more sustainable environment, and use an ethical electronic waste recycler. Not only does this help your business to more eco-friendly practices, there’s a strong chance you’ll get some bucks back for the old gadget, so it’s a win-win.

Your business gadgets do not always need to be upgraded annually to stay functional. A good mid-to-top tier laptop will give you at least five years of front-end lifespan. Most smartphones of the same tier will last at least 2-3 before there’s any need to look at upgrades. Unless there’s a solid reason, both within your industry and considering your or your staff’s job description, annual upgrades are merely a waste of business budget.

It’s time to be a frugal entrepreneur, and step outside of the constant marketing cycle that pushes overconsumption on businesses and individuals alike. You can beat the herd mentality by simply asking the questions that count, and ensuring your upgrades are purposeful and relevant to the business, instead of something undertaken for visual appeal and FOMO alone.