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Beware the Law of Diminishing Digitals

Any digital device tends to get comparatively less smart and more cheap as days pass, and that happens faster than one can imagine, writes N Madhavan.

india Updated: Sep 07, 2008 21:57 IST
N Madhavan

Last year, my sister gifted me an iPod Nano, bought in Europe. Not being of the age when I would get excited and sleepless about the trendy digital music player from Apple Computers, I did not unpack it for months. My mood was not right either.

The upshot of the whole thing was that when I got to using the iPod a few months later, its price had crashed close to half the levels at which it was bought. If only we had bought it just in time for proper use, we would have saved enough money to buy another digital player! And certainly some fancy software and accessories I could do with.

My two-year-old Nokia 6260 had been put to restricted use as I did not quickly go in for a data plan that could help me connect to the Internet on my mobile phone. I also did not have much use for some of the corporate applications that came with the handset for which I paid about Rs. 12,000 – when that amount was a pretty packet for cellphones. Was that smart buying? Probably not.

Now, I have discovered new wisdom and I call it the Law of Diminishing Digitals: Any digital device tends to get comparatively less smart and more cheap as days pass, and that happens faster than you can imagine.

Computers, laptops, mobile handsets and what-have-you — Anything that has a microchip driving the thing is getting cheaper by the day, or fancier at the same price with new features. This has been happening for a decade now, and yet we are not sure of how to be a smart shopper in the Digital Age.

Are there any rules that one could follow?

If you are the cool-and-trendy type who must display the latest gizmo at once and rave about its look and feel, I have no arguments. If you are not, I suggest a small checklist. Asking family, friends or the neighbourhood geek can help—but only up to a point. The best is to keep yourself inoculated against the Law of Diminishing Digitals.

Here are a few questions that can help you decide better when you go out to buy a digital device (and that includes televisions and music systems these days):

n Do I need this right now?

n Do I really need all the features it has?

n Can I swap some features for some other features?

n Am I buying this because I want and like this or because I just like the sound and buzz of it all around?

n Can I get a better deal by postponing my purchase a little – or looking around a bit?

I do this checklist, and I know I am not a trendy fashion-geek. If you are consciously after the latest and the jazziest right away and can afford it, no quarrels. If not, please be aware of the Law of Diminishing Digitals.