When Should I Upgrade?

In the world of rapid and ruthless innovation, the practical question, when should one upgrade and one should one not upgrade?

Some thing which is on my mind: when should I upgrade? This comes to computers, phones, tablet, cameras, cars, clothes, etc.

The Peter Thiel or silicon valley-inspired way of thinking about it is this: only upgrade when you see the benefits being 10 times greater in the prior generation. That is, almost never. Any new thing that comes out must be an insane or extreme game changer. Otherwise it is not worth upgrading.

For example, if the new iPhone comes out and it only seems 10% better than the prior generation, it isn’t worth upgrading. However, if there is a brand new innovation or hardware breakthrough which is totally unprecedented, then perhaps it is worth upgrading. For example, my mom needed a new laptop and I gave her my old iPad Pro instead. And I love the new iPad Pro with M 1 processor, because the LiDAR is a total game changer for me.

Similarly speaking, perhaps the reason why everyone went gaga over Tesla cars, is that electric cars are probably 100x more new and interesting than gasoline cars.

For a simple thought: upgrade or buy the new thing once old thing breaks. Then the decision is quite obvious. for example, when my Ricoh GR 2 literally stopped turning on, that was the best time to upgrade to the Ricoh GR three. Or when I upgraded my entire wardrobe to all merino wool everything, I perceive the merino wool fabric to be at least 10 times more superior than cotton, dry fit, or any other synthetic alternatives.

Don’t think about the moralized money question

I think the worst is when people think that buying something new or “wasting money“ is a bad moralized thing. for example, in America while we still have puritanical values, to use money on anything is considered evil /bad. And in today’s world, where we don’t even have a chance to go out or do anything, it seems that money has less value nowadays. That is, people are hungry to burn their cash.

Buy the best, then hold onto it for as long as humanly possible.

Another lesson I learned from my old boss John Talbert, who worked in UCLA at administrations and the IT tech department is this: buy the best and the most high-end devices at the time, then hold onto it as long as humanly possible. In his decades plus of IT he said that this was the best bang for the buck, even though at the time when you buy all the most expensive devices, it seems like a waste of money.

For example, better to buy the most expensive high-end devices and hold onto it for five years, rather than to buy the economical option to have to upgrade every two years. And also note that there is an extreme cost of the labor associated with upgrading devices, and the headaches which ensue.

The joy of refurbished or used

Another thing I learned is that no matter how rich or poor you are, everyone likes getting a good deal. For example when I was in Providence, I saw a guy with a brand new Porsche GT2, and I asked him how he became so rich and how he how much he paid for it. He then told me that he got a great deal on it, that he only “spent $200,000 on it instead of the sticker price of $300,000. Whenever you anchor a lower price to a higher price, you feel better about yourself.

For example, I bought a refurbished iPhone 11 Pro when the iPhone 12 was out, and only spent $750 on it instead of $1000. And there’s a certain joy of buying refurbished, because not only do I get a better deal on it, but I know that the design is fixed, and it won’t be outdated. For example the iPhone 11 Pro is a superior designed the iPhone 12 and now the 13 Pro because I don’t like the flat edges. I think that curved edges are superior.

For another example, I bought the most expensive high-end 13 inch MacBook Pro Touch Bar refurbished from the Apple store, and got a better deal and value out of it then buying the newest laptop. I was able to get the expensive one terabyte option, and I still haven’t run out of space yet.

The joy of buying used

Even with all of my Leica cameras, I’ve always bought them used or secondhand. This is great because most people baby there cameras in when I bought my like I am nine and then my film like MP, they were in pristine shape for only 80% of the price. The same goes for all of the Leica lenses I bought.

I’ve never bought a brand new car

Ever since I was 15 years old, I’ve never purchased a brand new car. All of my cars were used, and totally fine. I’ve never spent more than $2500 on a car.

When should one buy new?

With really obscure stuff. Or when it comes to hygiene.

Or perhaps it is good to buy brand you when it comes to more affordable or cheap stuff. For example I never have any qualms buying brand new clothes at Uniqlo. But I would never buy any brand new designer clothes.

Or when you have very specific design preferences. For example, I love the minimalist barefoot like walking experience, so I shelled out $100 on brand new Nike free shoes. I also have a strong preference for all black clothing, and so when I saw the Nike free shoes in black on black, I bought it without any regrets.

No matter how much you love it, you will bore of it sooner or later.

Another life lesson: even if you buy the things of your dreams, sooner or later you will bore of it. for example it was my dream to buy a digital Leica M9 camera and quickly after a few months, I bored of it. Or I dreamed and fantasized about the perfect iPhone, and after I got the iPhone Pro, I got bored of it after about a week or two. And out of all the Apple devices I’ve ever purchased, it seems that the iPad Pro is the only device I really love. Perhaps this is my head nod to Steve Jobs.

Even timeless things, like the film Leica MP black paint camera I have, it’s it’s more now like a family heirloom and a design object.

What doesn’t get boring?

Attempting new PR‘s in your dead lift. Or creating art. Or thinking imagining and creating.

To be actively creating never gets boring. Perhaps this should be our aim in life.