Thursday, February 06, 2014

The Update Itch - The Psychological Urge to be Upto Date

When I bought the iphone4S I think the phone had iOS4 but with the numerous updates my phone now runs on iOS7.

Anyone with a smartphone would have downloaded numerous apps. All apps have their regular updates. Updates which bring in changes in their functionality and form. Anyone with a laptop would have to update their OS regularly.

Till a few years, when our world was restricted to laptops/PCs, the reason best attributed to updating the software was increased security and ofcourse correcting some bugs. These updates were few and more a hindrance. However what was arguably a choice earlier has now taken a different turn.

The other day, I overheard a conversation between a couple of 20 year olds who were discussing functionalities of their smartphones and apps.  The focus of the discussion on the recency of the apps and the updates done. To my surprise, the discussion meandered to the fact that of one of them did not have a particular update, without being derogatory, it was told that he was missing something and was 'inferior' in a sense. His reaction was incredulous and more "how could I miss it?".

Coming to think of it, I actively wait for updates across all my gadgets and get a child like satisfaction when I do so. While I do understand that there is technical reason to update there also psychological reasons.

It is as if I am with the 'with it' crowd. I like to believe that I am technologically savvy and are regularly updated with the happenings in the tech world. A kind of a one upmanship! When a couple of my colleagues happened to convey the same feelings I sensed that humans seemed to get a psychological pleasure from updation and it was not restricted to me alone!

The new paradigm seems to be one of constant improvement from a temporary status quo. With every updation comes a certain upgrade both technologically and psychologically.

A comparable example is the craze amongst smartphone and tablet users to buy another model every few months. Every change in the gadget is a moving up in the aspirational space. However there is a dissonance here - the updation of the physical aspects of any product like a phone or camera are limited in scope and when it is possible the upgradation is minimal. Customers are thereby in a sense, cheated of the total updating experience.

Updation is a cheaper way of upgrading. There are minimal costs infact none in most cases. And since updation is practically free there is actually lesser guilt or none at all. Compare this with high costs incurred in buying a new product and selling or discarding the older one.  There is a huge cost implication along with the negative psychological  implications.
Given this new behavior there are implications which manufacturers need to focus on:

  • Quicker updates - Customers are now expecting even more quicker updates (atleast in the software space) - There have been instances where the apps have been updated every week. As a customer I expect each update to be significantly better than the earlier one. 
  • Higher expectations - Since I expect each update to be better than the preceding one the expectations are far higher. Manufacturers cannot afford to provide an update which only updates a few cursory changes and worse if the update creates problems.  
  • Faster response times - manufacturers need to respond faster to customer preferences. The new normal is immediate and hence the manufacturers have to be on guard not only to customer choice but also to changes in the every changing dynamic environment.
  • Faster 'new' products - since the response times will be faster the products will evolve faster. Every update will add a new dimension and it will not be surprising that the product will undergo a complete metamorphosis after a couple of updates.
  • New functionalities - if the product needs to look & feel new, the manufacturers will need to create newer capabilities and functionalities. The more it is perceptible the better it will be for the manufacturers. 

The New Product Paradigm
Constantly Evolved Product - The old normal of a product which once bought cannot be updated is changing. A product which evolves with time will be the accepted standard. In the connected world, all physical products with even a little amount of connectivity will have to evolve with times.
It is easier for these products as the user experience can be changed over a period of time. Would not be surprised if the washing machine, microwave or even the car started behaving like my Kinect does.


Ganesh Jayaraman said...

Excellent point, infact even in the android space, you have the nexus family from Google which gets the latest updates, although functionally you would not see a perceptible difference from a Sony Xperia on 4.2.2 or Samsung 4.3 to a Nexus 4.4

It is a psychological fix, plus using software obsolescence, firms like Samsung and Apple use the tool to encourage users to upgrade.

Recently had a colleague complain most apps on the iPAD 1 have gone kaput.

alike hardware updates, people are not keen to pay for a software update on mobile phones.

people pay for a laptop / desktop paradigm.

its interesting how customer behaviour will impact product rollouts in the tech space

S Vejay Anand said...

Thanks Ganesh

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