The horror of a twice yearly upgrade
In March 2012, I bought myself a 3rdGeneration iPad. It was one of my life achievements, I can assure you. And of course, I was, and still am, very happy with my purchase (my bank account thinks otherwise). But thereís a dark side: I have something of a problem when it comes to tech Ė I start to get jittery when whatever version of whatever tablet/phone/console/toaster/magnetic toupee I have is about to be updated. Call it a psychological weakness or insatiable lust, but I absolutely must have the latest version of everything.
So of course, the fact that my 3rd Gen Pad - which was absolutely bleeding edge just a short while ago - has not only been superseded by another model just seven months since its whizz-bang release, but if the rumours are true, will be two generations removed by the time Easter hops round, is causing me sleepless nights and panic attacks.
For the sake of my sanity (of which there isnít much left anyway), letís just pretend this isnít a personal rant about the fact Iím left rocking a bit of tech deemed nearly three generations old in under a year, and try to focus instead on what Appleís strategy could be.
Remember when Appleís announcements were truly disruptive? Letís be brutally honest, that kind of revelation hasnít happened since the announcement of the original iPad, and before that, when the iPhone 4 blew people away. As a personal frame of reference, I rate each new Apple product with the following (highly subjective) scale: I know at first Iíll scoff at it (I called the original iPad ĎJust a big iPhoneí), but if after using it for a bit, I come away attempting to sabotage next monthís food shopping budget to try and get my hands on one, then Apple have done it again. Letís just say that with the 4S and iPhone 5, my family ate heartily. It was the first time in a while I havenít felt the uncontrollable urge to upgrade. This worries me, if I don't have uncontrollable urges for new Apple tech, something in my life is out of balance.
Apple's new device line up for March 2013
The improvements for the 5th Gen iPad aren't exactly a list that will make you want to camp outside the Apple Store for ten days with no food or water,( actually I take that back, just like a multiplayer session of Call of Duty, there will always be people who camp.) But how is this going to marketed as a must-have item? Perhaps they donít need to, perhaps they could sneakily stop producing its predecessors and leave it as the only option. Oh, wait a minute, they already have. So my iPad has gone from three generations old to obsolete in the space of two paragraphs. I need to check if my iPhone 4 is still working.
Technology moves fast, and therefore I guess, so must Apple. If new, faster processors can be crammed into their devices, and chassis can be made lighter than air, then it must happen. But isnít three generations in a year a bit excessive? Based on their specs, can any of them truly be called a generational leap? I canít help but wonder where this could lead.
First of all, are any of these upgrades worth it? Iíd suggest not. Most folk use their iPads mainly for surfing (the net, not the Atlantic), Facebook, and email. A lot of people are still using their 1st Gen iPads with absolutely no problem or desire for console quality graphics or processors that open their apps a quarter of a second faster (the fools). Where games are concerned, we continually hear how developers will be able to utilise the new architecture for mind-altering visuals and experiences, but how many of these games do we actually see? It can only be a handful at most before the next pad or phone is released. Remember, we heard all that guff with the release of the 3rd Gen iPad, but thatís already been consigned to the scrapheap, so when was it supposed to reach its potential? Although it looks set to change, at least consoles have traditionally had room to breathe over a 5-6 year cycle, meanwhile the only safe bet for iPad owners is playing Words With Friends in HD.
And is iOS going to end up like Android, with seven hundred billionty versions of everything? The main draws of iOS is that it just works, and itís hardware is relatively to decipher Ė youíve got your iPod, your iPhone and your iPad. Simple. Yeah thereís also Nanos and shuffles and the like, (and now the iPad Mini, which I must admit is the perfect size for gaming), but in comparison to the approximately 750, 000 handsets running Ďdroid out there, with all their Google Play fragmentation, everythingís a cinch.
And finally thereís the spectacle. When Apple announces something, itís usually something worth announcing. However if it seems like weíre drifting into ĎMehí territory. Thereíll be no need for thousands of journalists and elite members of the Technocrati to descend upon Cupertino any longer because Apple will probably cancel all their super-duper press conferences in favour of the slightly more economical press release due to the next generation of iWhatever being nothing more than a new colour. Perhaps.
You know what Iíd love to see from Apple? Something thatíll really put the cat amongst the pigeons again - an official gaming control pad. One that doesnít get upgraded after four days, mind you. I am not bitter.