I, like many many other geeks, suffer from an affliction called gadget lust. Every new, shiny, blinky gadget that comes down the pike and replaces the previous shiny, blinky gadget must be had. I suppose it’s a subset of the general capitalist disease, but it’s a particularly virulent (and expensive) strain. And it’s not something I really want to cure.
I’d rather treat the disease. Manage the symptoms, as it were.
And what it comes down to for me, as an engineer and a technophilic geek, is examining the use case for each new gadget that I start lusting over. I have to take a coldly considered look at how the gadget would be incorporated into my life, and whether the change in behavior and routine it would bring will make life easier and/or more fun.
A few examples:
iPhone 4: I think the newest update to the groundbreaking smartphone is great (even taking into consideration the antenna issues, and whatever your feelings are about AT&T). The screen is awesome, it’s faster, the double cameras are cool, and so forth. It’s totally worthy of gadget lust, but I didn’t upgrade. My contract cycle was not up this time around, so we would have had to spend extra money to get this upgrade. With that in mind, I looked at what changes it would bring to my daily use patterns, and the answer, in all honesty, was “none.” So I passed. Next year, when my contract is up, I’ll probably jump on iPhone 5, but that’s next year. For now, I’m in remission.
iPad: This is a case where the gadget lust found a use case justification. As a blogger and editor, I have to check email and my blog constantly, and create light content as needed. The iPad fit a niche between my phone and my laptop making the bulk of my online time much more elegant and lightweight. It was an easy purchase.
Logitech Z515 Speakers: I spend a lot of my time sitting in a cubicle, and I like to have a little quiet music going. For a year or more, I’ve had a set of rechargeable capsule speakers. They’re ultra portable, but the fidelity isn’t much better than the speaker in my iPhone, I had to recharge them via USB each night, and plug them into a mic jack each morning. Then Logitech offered some review units of various speakers, and the Z515 caught my eye. It’s a rechargeable bluetooth-enabled portable speaker, which meant I wouldn’t have to go through the routine of plugging things in in the morning, and unplugging in the evening. The sound quality is leaps and bounds ahead of the capsule speakers (but then, it’s also more than 6 times larger and heavier). I can keep it plugged in, but the battery will last 8-10 hours on a charge. And best of all is the bluetooth. I come in, tap a single button, and it connects to the last audio source it used previously (usually my phone), and I can start playing music right away. It saves me minutes each day, and delivers a better listening experience. The use case analysis gives it a big thumbs up (which is why I plan to buy them when the review period is over)!
3D Television of Any Kind: Since 3D movies have, for the most part, failed to deliver the kind of experience to make everyone NEED to have such technology at home, I see no use case that makes sense to spend the extra money. Indeed, having to use special glasses (which will get lost or broken in a house with kids and animals), and the reduced viewing angles means the use case has a negative score.
You get the idea.
So yes, there are going to be new, shiny technological gadgets for us to lust over coming out every week (don’t get me started on all the new set-top boxes!). But we have to be able to take an intellectual cold shower and look at a few key factors before running our credit cards up to the limit:
1. Will this gadget save me time by having and using it?
2. Will this gadget improve the quality of my work or play?
3. Will this gadget make some aspect of my life easier/simpler/more elegant?
If you can’t honestly answer yes to any of those questions, then you should consider assuaging your gadget lust with the enjoyment you can get going onto the forums for the particular gadget and making fun of other people lusting over it. Or, I guess you could try guiding them through this same thought process and helping them manage their disease as well. Though that’s not as fun.