We’re about to enter a new era of smartphones. This year promises to be huge for the cellular industry, for a number of reasons. We’re already starting to see next-generation, 4G LTE networks crop up across the U.S., and across the world. That means faster, more efficient data for more people. Handset manufacturers are upping the stakes as well, introducing super-high-resolution screens and quad-core processors. That means significantly more powerful pocket computing than any point in history. There’s good reason to be excited about 2012.
Reasons This Time Might be the bad time for you to Buy a Smartphone
At the same time, this might not be the best year to purchase a quad-core smartphone that runs on a 4G LTE network. Early adopters won’t be able to help themselves, but geeky consumers might do better to hold off until the technology becomes more stable. It won’t be a long wait, thankfully, but 2013 might be the better time to buy.
A lesson from Apple
Consumers who use Apple products have learned a valuable lesson over the years. Essentially, to get the most out of your Apple product you should avoid the first generation of anything. Let’s look at a few examples.
When Apple ditched the iBook in favor of the more powerful MacBook, they were clearly onto something. But the first generation MacBooks were full of bugs — mostly of the hardware type, which can be the most difficult to deal with. Apple did fix those bugs in later releases, making MacBook one of the most popular laptop lines worldwide.
The original iPhone generated plenty of hype, and rightly so. It completely changed how people defined a smartphone. Since then so many manufacturers and developers have tried to replicated the success of the iPhone, but to no avail. But early adopters got stuck with slow EDGE connections. Since U.S. cell phone users sign two-year contracts, they had to wait until 2009 for an upgrade, at which point they got the 3GS. Users who waited for the iPhone 3G in 2008, however, lined up with the iPhone 4 in 2010, which was a huge step forward. They’ll also be in line for the iPhone 5 this year, which promises to again present a huge improvement from the 4 and 4S.
The original iPad defined the tablet market for sure. Before that, manufacturers were reluctant to create such a device. Tablets were historically viewed as luxury items, and with a U.S. economy in recession creating an expensive luxury item didn’t seem like a good idea. Yet the iPad did exceedingly well. Apple returned with the iPad 2 in 2011, and it blew the doors off the original. Those who wait were rewarded with a superior product.
The moral: while early adopters get many advantages, the second generation is often significantly better. Sometimes patience pays off, especially with emerging technologies.
4G LTE and quad-core issues
To be sure, 4G LTE networks and quad-core phones do have issues. Consumers who purchase 4G LTE phones with quad-core processors will likely be happy enough with their purchases. They’ll have some of the most powerful smartphones on the market, running on the fastest cellular networks. But there will certainly be bugs to go along with these experiences.
Verizon has already experienced a number of LTE network outages. That’s not to say that these will continue to persist well into the future. But there is a chance that we’ll see more of them this year as Verizon works out the kinks in its network. Verizon’s outages could also portend outages for other new LTE networks, such as the ones from Sprint and AT&T.
Quad-core processors are more powerful, sure, but that means they also draw more power from the battery. 4G LTE networks are also notorious for draining battery far faster than 3G networks. Battery efficiency is something that needs to improve before quad-core smartphones on 4G LTE networks reach their potentials. They’ll still be good, of course — as long as you have an extra battery or an extended battery, that is.
LTE still young
In addition to the technical issues with 4G LTE networks, there’s the mere fact that they are relatively new. There are bound to be little bugs in addition to the outages. These might be little things, but they can be annoying for new users. Again, these bugs will likely work themselves out as carriers get more experience operating them. But in the near-term, chances are there will be little quirks.
There is also the issue of not every carrier actually having a 4G network. T-Mobile boasts a 4G network, but if you look at the list of T-Mobile 4G phones, you’ll see that they’re all HPSA+. Yes, T-Mobile calls them 4G, but they’re not quite on the same level. T-Mobile does understand this, and they do plan to build out a 4G network by 2013. But where does that leave their current customers? It seems like a poor time to buy a T-Mobile 4G phone, since they’re changing 4G technologies soon enough.
In time, we’ll all be using highly powerful smartphones on 4G networks. The technologies are developing rapidly, and we’ll see some of it emerge this year. But that doesn’t mean that everyone should flock to buy them right away. There are inevitable bugs and kinks to work out. Early adopters might be satisfied, but regular geeks should probably hold off until everything gets worked out. Then we can all have a fast and powerful mobile computing experience.