One of my favourite things about the tech industry is just how brazenly it is contemptuous of consumers. And the best case in point is the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas - which is the time of year when many of the biggest manufacturers will announce and show off their latest inventions. Why is this such an affront? Because of the scheduling - each year the show takes place at the very start of January, basically as soon as is practically possible after Christmas.
So that means that perhaps even before you’ve even had a chance to plug in and try out your brand new gadget, they’re already out of date and last year’s news.
Anyway, this made us wonder - what is the sell-by date on your new stuff? How long do you have before the phone or games console you got for Christmas is being thrown into the bargain bin?
iPhone XS / XS Max
Congratulations if you got an iPhone XS this Christmas, as you have officially got The Best Phone. According to a some lines of thinking anyway. Helpfully, because of how Apple tends to do these things, you’ve got a good nine months to be smug about it.
Since 2011, Apple has held its annual iPhone launch event around September or October, with launch following a few weeks later. So we’d say it is the closest thing to a nailed on certainty that Apple will do the same thing in 2019, unless hell freezes over. The only real questions is what the hell are they going to call it since “X” and then “XS” broke their numbering scheme.
Estimate: 9 months.
Apple Watch 4
If you had an Apple Watch waiting for you under the tree then welcome to a world of being paranoid about things that you didn’t know you needed to be paranoid about is. Is it weird your heart rate is doing that? Is that ECG normal? We’ve no idea, but what what we can predict is that though there is less historical evidence to go on, it appears that Apple has also steadily got into a rhythm of releasing a new watch on an annual schedule, at the same time as the new iPhone.
Estimate: 9 months.
Samsung Galaxy S9 / S9+
Bad news is you’ve got a Samsung Galaxy S9: It doesn’t have long left as arguably the best Android phone on the market. Samsung’s release schedule has entered almost a counter-rhythm to Apple: The company has tended to announce its new flagship devices in the spring - usually on the Sunday immediately prior to the Mobile World Congress trade show in Barcelona. In 2019, this is set to be the 24th February - so we’d anticipate a newer, better phone than the S9 you just got for Christmas being announced then.
Estimate: Two months.
Samsung Galaxy Note 9
If you like your Samsung phones slightly larger, then perhaps you were brave enough to get a Note 9 for Christmas this year? Once again, this tends to get annual updates, having been refreshed in August or September each year, sometimes with explosive results. In 2019, we expect much the same.
Estimate: 7 or 8 months.
iPad / iPad Pro
The new iPad Pro is one hell of a machine. It looks great, it’s more powerful than lots of laptops on the market, and it is almost a fully-fledged computer in its own right. But like all of us, it too must eventually become out of date and irrelevant.
Predicting when, exactly, is much trickier: Over the years, Apple has updated the iPad family around once a year, but much more inconsistently than the iPhone. For example, the first iPad Pro - the big 12.9” version - was released in November 2015, with a 10.5” version following in March 2016. The second generation of both devices was then not released June 2017 - and now the third generation 2018 version came only landed a few months ago in November 2018.
The normal, cheaper non-Pro iPads are also confusing, though the two most recent versions were released in March 2016 and 2017. Whether Apple will bother to update to update this line again is probably an open question at this point too, given the iPad’s gradual repositioning as a productivity device.
So when can we expect any new iPads? Your guess is as good as ours.
Google Pixel 3
If you got Google’s own-brand Android device, then you’ve inadvertently locked yourself into a similar upgrade cycle to that faced by iPhone and Samsung owners. For the past three years, Google has consistently launched a new Pixel each October. So - assuming Google remains committed to making its own hardware, which isn’t necessarily a given - you’ve probably got ten months at best.
Estimate: 10 months.
PS4 Pro / Xbox One X
If you’ve got a PS4 or Xbox One for Christmas then hey, you’re late to the party but great news - both consoles have enormous back catalogues to get stuck into. So welcome aboard.
The bad news then is that your new console could soon be out of date and unsupported with new games. Since both platforms launched at the end of 2013, despite both receiving mid-cycle upgrades in the form of the Xbox One X and PS4 Pro, it definitely feels like both are approaching the end of their life.
There’s increasingly regularly rumours about what we might expect from the PS5 and “Xbox Two”. There’s rumours that the next Xbox might be a streaming-only affair. All we know for sure is that Sony has confirmed that it is skipping the games industry’s biggest event, E3, next year - presumably because it doesn’t have anything new to show off PS4-wise, as it is hard at work on the PS5.
But this is just a long way of saying… we know nothing. All of the rumours/speculation point to 2020 launches for both company’s next consoles (presumably autumn, but other rumours suggest a spring launch from Microsoft to get an edge on Sony). So many you still have a year or two left in your new machine yet.
Estimate: A couple of years, if you’re lucky.
Lucky you for getting a Switch. Even luckier for you, the console is still relatively in its lifespan so there’s still plenty of years of gaming left with it.
The only thing we don’t know is how Nintendo will update the console during its lifetime. Switches produces in 2018, for example, have a better screen and some slightly different hardware under the hood compared to the original model. And Nintendo has a long history of redesigning its devices mid-cycle (looking at you, Game Boy Advance SP). So while you’ll definitely have compatible games for a while yet, it isn’t inconceivable that Nintendo might sneak out new hardware revisions.
Estimate: Several years. Like… let’s say… three years? Four years?
And what if you got socks? Then the good news is that socks never go out of date. But we probably wouldn’t recommend wearing the same pair forever.