Solutions At Hand

Handhelds, smartphones, mobile technology and the digital lifestyle.

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    Michael is a trainer and consultant specializing in making mobility technology work in people's everyday lives.
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Buy now or wait for 700p?

Posted by Michael Brown on June 9, 2006

I was speaking with a client this week, and the topic of “when is the 700p coming out in Canada?” came up. Usually, when one device is on the market and another is due out soon, inevitably the question comes up of “should I wait for the new one to come out?”. It’s a real challenging one, especially for gadget freaks (like myself). Here’s my thoughts on that:

There will always be something better, faster, and cooler down the road. That’s a given. For some, that can mean waiting indefinitely for the “right one”; the device that “has it all”. For others, it can cause torment; “am I buying something now I’ll be replacing when the next one comes out, thus throwing my money away?” Tough questions, so here’s how to handle it.

Look at what you have NOW, and what you need NOW. If what you currently have meets your needs now, then you can usually afford to wait for the next one to come to market. If it doesn’t then the choice becomes a little tougher. Will the next one have a distinct advantage over the current model? If it will, and it’s a feature or features that you really need and will use, then maybe waiting is a good idea. Maybe you’ll need to buy what’s available now, and see if it meets all your needs. If it doesn’t, you always have the option of upgrading later. Let’s look at that in more detail.

When it comes to buying a new handheld, the only gating factors are product availability and money. If both are there, then you can upgrade whenever you feel like it. With smartphones like the Treo, there are a few other factors involved. There is a lot of time involved between announcing a new smartphone model like the 700p, and when it becomes generally available. Often, new models are first released in the U.S., and exclusively on a certain network (to give them one-up on the competition). Right now, it’s only available on Sprint’s network in the States, and I’m sure they paid dearly for the privilege of being first to market with the 700p. As far as Canada goes, it may be currently (or already have) regulatory approvals to ensure the cellular and Bluetooth radios meet the legal specs. After that, the Carriers (Bell, Telus, Rogers) will have samples with customized software to do their own acceptance testing and verification on their networks. After that hurdle, then they have to roll out sales and support information and training for their staff. Finally, retail models will hit the stores and we can buy them. But, Wait! Do you qualify for an upgrade?

You see, what you pay for a cell phone is not what it really costs. When you get a Treo for $299, that’s not what it really costs; the carrier paid about $600 for that phone from Palm. How they can sell it to you for less is that for the Treo to work, it requires service. So, they sell you the phone at a loss, but require you to sign up for a term. The longer the term, the less the Treo will cost you. So it doesn’t cost the carrier too much, they have a policy whereby hardware upgrades (that is, a new phone) is only available after a period of 18 – 24 months. So, if you’ve gotten a phone at a subsidized rate, you won’t be eligible to get another phone at cheaper rate until that period expires. If you really got to have the latest phone, you’ll be paying full-pop for it, and the fees for number transfer. In my case, I bought my Treo 600 at the subsidized rate in 2005. The Treo 650 was out in the states when I bought the 600, and I knew it would be 9 to 12 months before I saw it on Bell (Rogers, being GSM, tends to see phones first, as GSM is a more “universal” technology than CDMA, which is what Bell and Telus uses). When I bought the Treo 650 in the beginning of 2006, I had to pay full price at the time, since I was not eligible for a hardware upgrade. In my case, I knew that would be the likely outcome, but I needed the 600 when I got it, because I needed to develop training materials for it. I got the 650 for similar reasons, and because I needed certain hardware features the 650 had that the 600 didn’t (see my Five Weeks with the Treo 650 blog as to why). For me, the cost of upgrading was simply the cost of doing business.

As to the question, do I think the Treo 700p is worth waiting for? If you need a Treo now, get the 650 – don’t wait. The 700p is an evolutionary upgrade, with the new EVDO high-speed data radio, more memory, newer device drivers and software. There are other small improvements, but nothing really earth-shattering (other than the EVDO radio). When the 700p comes out in Canada, if you have a Treo 600, it would be a worthwhile upgrade as you’ll be eligible for the subsidized rate. For those with a 650, personally, I wouldn’t upgrade until I became eligible for the better price, and it had been on the market for a while (and thus has a much better price). In the tech industry, there is a phrase “early adopter tax”; those who have to get something right when it becomes available, and thereby pay the price for it’s development. In my opinion, the 700p is a nice device, but not a hugely compelling upgrade from the 650, unless you really need the speed that comes with the EVDO radio (i.e. heavy web browsing, e-mail with lots of attachments, or file transfer over VPN).

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