Is Technology Moving Too Fast for Our Wallets?

| By Editorial Staff

It seems we can’t go one month without being introduced to a new technology that catches our eyes. Promising to be faster, smaller (or, nowadays, bigger) and sleeker, these gadgets make us forget that we just forked over hundreds of dollars for the same exact device a few months ago.

Take the influx of iPhones – every year a new phone comes out, and with its release, wish lists from coast to coast are updated to include this latest smartphone model. But iPhones aren’t alone:

  • Tablets
  • TV streaming devices
  • Videogame consoles
  • Smart Home applications

This persistent march of technology has made it nearly impossible for anyone to fall in love with one gadget before a new one hits the shelves. But as much as we all want the latest and greatest tech tools for our own, there comes a point when we can’t keep up. With each iPhone, for example, costing hundreds of dollars, how can consumers possibly afford to buy the latest model just a few months after investing in the last one?

A solution has arrived – in the form of subscriptions

A couple of years ago, Adobe utterly disrupted the tech space when they introduced their Creative Cloud monthly subscription model. The premise of the model is this:

Subscribers to the full membership (around $50 per month) would gain access to every Adobe application out there (which normally costs thousands of dollars). As part of the CC membership, Adobe would (and does) consistently update the applications to ensure their users have the most advanced solutions for their needs.

While many people have balked at this subscription model, there are clear benefits. Technology is, in fact, moving too fast. The Adobe Photoshop application of 6 months ago is already outdated. A new Photoshop version (if not several) has been created to keep up to date with technological advances. If Adobe had maintained its former purchase model (where users spend several hundred dollars to purchase ONE version of ONE application), then countless customers today would be left using an application that’s less advanced and intuitive than the latest version out there.

By investing in a subscription, Adobe customers now never have to worry about updates or bug fixes. They remain on the cutting edge of technology without having to spend hundreds of dollars every year for “the newest version.”

We’ve seen this type of subscription plan in other software solutions, such as Microsoft, which offers a subscription plan for its Microsoft Office suite of tools (Microsoft Office 365).

For folks who rely on these tools, and want to remain up-to-date on all technological advances, these subscription models seem to be the answer to their prayers.

Subscriptions in phone services

Adobe’s CC subscription model has now found its way into the world of smartphones. Realizing everyone wants the latest phone, but no one wants to keep spending hundreds of dollars each year, cell phone service providers have introduced such programs as Sprint’s iPhone Forever plan.

For an added fee to your cell phone bill (the amount ranges from $1 to more than $20 per month) Sprint users will be able to upgrade their iPhones the day a new model comes out, for no additional cost.

Imagine that! Rather than fork over hundreds of dollars each year for a new phone, you could get your hands on the iPhone 100 for free.

But wait a minute …

What happens when these subscriptions add up?

Let’s revisit that Sprint iPhone Forever plan again. In theory, it seems like customers can get a new iPhone every year for no out-of-pocket costs; however, technically they could be adding around $20 per month to their bill to cover this inevitable upgrade. Quick math tells us that $20 x 12 months = $240. Not bad, except, not everyone typically gets a new phone every year. Most of us are ok waiting every two years. Crunch a few more numbers and … you have $480 spent toward your new iPhone. Still not terrible … but certainly not free.

Not let’s say you’re an Adobe Creative Cloud member. Over those same two years, you’ve spent $1,199.76 on your Adobe plan. That’s not as much as it’d cost to purchase all the Adobe applications you have access to as a CC member, but, word to the wise: You likely won’t ever use a majority of those applications. Basically, you’re paying a lot – for a little (think of cable subscriptions and all those channels you pay for but never watch).

If you’re an avid Photoshop and Illustrator user, for example, you just shelled out $1200 for those two apps (plus the $480 for your iPhone) over two years.

Is it worth it?

Moral of the story – technology is expensive

As far back as the 1970s, you never had to pay for a cell phone bill (roughly $80/month), a cable bill (let’s say $100/month, with Internet), or streaming subscriptions like Netflix (we’ll go with $15/month).

That right there is close to $200 per month that our parents and grandparents never had to part ways with. Today, thanks to technology, it’s an accepted way of life. We’re okay with these added costs because technology makes our lives easier.

Sure, iPhones, Photoshop and Microsoft Word do make life easier, and fun. But they certainly don’t make life less expensive. Regardless of if we pay upfront for our technology each time we upgrade, or we spread out the cost in a cleverly packaged subscription plan like “iPhone Forever”, we can’t avoid the fact that technology is expensive.

Sooner or later customers will struggle to keep up, even as new subscription plans aim to soften the blow of the financial burden by spreading out the cost. Will we then fight through our desire for the latest and greatest, and hold onto our grossly outdated one-year-old phones (sense the sarcasm?), or will we give in and find a way to keep up with the technology designed to make our lives easier … even if doing so makes living a little bit harder?