• Does waiting make the new grow shinier?

    That's not me, but if I grew my hair, went ginger and got a job at an Apple store, it very well could be.

    Like a number of you, I enjoy nothing more than a shiny new gadget...especially if that gadget is a phone. I'm a phone nerd from way back before the iPhone turned everything into a black gorilla glassed slab. I tried an endless procession of "smart" phone form factors from Nokia, I even considered but never bought some of their more outlandish Zoolander-esque designs. At my worst, I went through four phones in eighteen months (a 3GS, an Android phone, an iPhone 4, another Android phone and back to the iPhone 4). By the end of all of that I was depressed about phones...which, seeing as I install Voice over IP phone systems for a living, wasn't a great place to be in.

    That's when I decided to wait. As tempting as Siri was, I skipped the iPhone 4S. As much as I liked the look of Jelly Bean and project butter, I skipped the Galaxy Nexus. When the iPhone 5 rolled around, I did something I hadn't done for ages, I sat down and did a list of reasons for and against upgrading to the iPhone 5. This actually led to me cancelling my pre-order and waiting until it'd been out for a week and the reviews came in. I knew I was probably going to get it, but I spent a long time convincing myself that I didn't need to get it on day one.

    The upshot of doing that is that the iPhone 5 is hands down the happiest I've been with a gadget purchase in a very long time. It actually feels faster than the iPhone 4 and its crazy just how much of a difference the drop in weight makes. It's also the first time in years that I haven't had instant buyers remorse after picking up a phone. In fact I don't think I've had any buyers remorse when it comes to the 5.

    It was at this point that it started to dawn on me that actually waiting, rather than jumping on the newest shiniest gadget bandwagon every six months, made getting something new way more enjoyable for me.

    The other area where I have a tendency to buy first and think later is with video games. My Steam list can attest to that. For 2012 I decided to make a conscious effort to finish the games in my backlog rather than just buying the new games everyone was raving about and not play them. I mostly succeeded at that.

    I've still got a stupidly huge backlog, but my two favourite gaming experiences of the year were Red Dead Redemption (released in early 2010 and still hands down one of the most gorgeous looking games on the 360) and the Mass Effect Trilogy (released in 2007, 2010 and early 2012). The upshot of playing games that "old" is that a lot of the bugs have been fixed and you're not waiting for story essential DLC to come out.

    This was most pronounced with the Mass Effect series, especially with 2 and 3. I started the original Mass Effect a couple of months after 3 was released, I'd always thought that it wasn't my sort of game and couldn't live up to the hype. Instead, I absolutely loved it and before I finished I'd already grabbed a copy of 2 along with all its DLC so I could continue the story straight away. The best part of doing it that way is because of the way Bioware handled Mass Effect DLC it just plugged seamlessly into my game and I experienced a far more fleshed out story than I would've otherwise. This was even more pronounced with the From Ashes and Leviathan DLC packs for Mass Effect 3 which fundamentally changed the story experience for the better. I also got the benefit of the new, more comprehensible ending the was released due to a Mass Effect fan revolt.

    Contrast that against buying Batman: Arkham City on day one, I absolutely loved the game and bought the Harley Quinn DLC pack as soon as it was released back in May 2012, but I've yet to go back and play through it.

    All in all, I sank about 120 hours into the Mass Effect Trilogy over 3 months and loved every second of it...well, almost every second, but I'll gone into that at a later date. There's no way I would've had the same experience if I'd bought each game day one. For one thing my interest would've waned at some point, as its done with the Assassin's Creed series, and I wouldn't have gotten to enjoy a fully fleshed out story, especially with 3.

    I don't think I'm alone in all of this. The For Sale section of this very forum usually has one or two of the newest phones or tablets up for sale a month or so after launch and I know plenty of people who go nuts during the Steam sales and never end up playing half the games they buy.

    So I got to thinking...why do I feel such a strong need to buy the new shiny as soon as its out when waiting clearly increases my enjoyment of said new shiny?

    Part of it is definitely being one of the first, especially when there's an expectation from my family, friends and co-workers that I'll be able to tell them if they should get whatever it is too. In both cases, though, I think there's more to it than that.

    As I mentioned earlier, I'm a phone nerd. At my last job, I was responsible for managing the fleet of corporate mobile phones as well as the legacy PABX and VoIP networks...a phone nerds wet dream. That allowed me to request review units from our mobile carriers under the guise of evaluating each as a potential new standard corporate handset. Nokia's seemingly constant need to phase out handsets made this even easier. There was always something new to play with, and that got addictive. In fact my four phone marathon happened almost immediately after leaving that job.

    Part of what fed into that is the fact that, at the time, I consumed for too many tech podcasts hosted by professional reviewers who often had at least two handsets, sometimes three, on the go at any one time. I felt like I could and should be part of that conversation...even though I was listening and not actually taking part in it.

    Similarly, I listened to far too many video game podcasts and would get caught up in having to be part of the conversation of whatever game they happened to be waxing poetic about this week. Again, I wasn't actually taking part in the conversation, but I'm an opinionated guy (as you may have noticed) and even though I wasn't actively talking about them, I still wanted to be in the know and have formed an opinion on what was current. Much like being first, the forming of the opinion ended up mattering far more than the device or gaming experience.

    Ultimately what I've learned from all of this is that, for me at least, waiting makes the new grow shinier and focuses the enjoyment not on being the first with, or to have an opinion of, the new but on the new itself...which is why I got sucked into this mess in the first place!

    Alec is a Cisco certified network engineer who spends his days deploying IP Telephony infrastructure from his trusty 2010 unibody MacBook Pro. You can normally find him lurking on the forums (formerly thatfilthyspringbok, currently alfrsr) or follow him on Twitter, Google+ or on his blog, Inane Geekery.

    His opinions are all his own and do not reflect those of MacTalk or his employer.
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