Life cycle of smartphones and computers has been steadily increasing, so people are upgrading their personal devices less frequently than before. Although this may be good for your wallet and the environment, it’s not so positive for companies making these devices. How do they make up for lost money? It’s simple, apart from increasing prices, they are selling more accessories.
In the past there were huge leaps in technology year over year. I am not saying there are no leaps today, but they are much less visible. Let’s show you an example. If you are going to buy an average laptop today, there is a good chance it will have 8 GBs of RAM. If you bought a laptop 7 or 8 years ago, well, it may also come with 8 GBs of RAM. But if you bought a laptop 7 years before that, in 2005 or 2006, then it may only offer 1 or 2 GBs of RAM. See what I am talking about?
Computers were getting obsolete much quicker in the past. And the same goes with smartphones. People used to switch to the new phone every two years, someone maybe even after one year. Now the upgrade cycle of smartphones is about three years and increasing. What about computers? Their life cycle is much higher, about six years and more. Some people stick with their computers for an even longer period of time and buy a new one only if the old one breaks.
Year over year improvements are so small that it’s not worth it. Companies are often sticking with the same design for two or three years and all you get with a new phone is a slightly faster processor and slightly better camera. And there is a good chance you pay about 1000 USD/EUR/GBP for that phone, as prices are going up every year. Because of that people are buying their personal tech less frequently, which means that tech companies must have come with other revenue streams. And one of them is accessories.
True wireless earbuds
When Apple killed the widely popular headphone jack in 2016 with the release of iPhone 7 and called it “courage”, people and competitors were laughing. I guess nobody is laughing now. Apple also offered a simple solution – AirPods, a truly wireless earbuds, which can be paired with your smartphone, computer or tablet. Very convenient solution, because that meant no more cables. And even with a hefty price tag of $159, AirPods became a massive success. Now Apple offers an even more expensive, high quality option – AirPods Pro for $249.
Apple basically started a new segment of true wireless earbuds and competition quickly realized that. Today is 3,5mm jack a scarcity and you hardly find tech companies, which are not offering their own wireless earbuds. Google has Pixel Buds, Microsoft has Surface Earbuds, Amazon has Echo Buds, Samsung has Galaxy Buds and I could continue like that. True wireless earbuds are very popular among people, even when they often cost more than a hundred of dollars, some higher end options spanning to several hundreds of dollars.
And what if you are not inclined to wireless earbuds? Don’t worry, companies got you covered and you can also buy a Lightning to 3,5mm jack or USB Type-C to 3,5mm adapter. A small piece of plastic with a $10 price tag. So either way, you are going to pay for accessories. And dongles are not so convenient, you can lose them or forget at home when going outside and in fact, who wants to deal with cables? So you better end up with buying those wireless earbuds.
Future is wireless and true wireless earbuds are great. But that also means paying a lot of money for the product category, which basically didn’t exist a few years ago.
Various adapters for your computer
Another segment where I see an increase of accessories are laptops, especially in terms of various adapters. This mainly applies to productivity or business laptops, such as Macbook Air or Pro, Surface Laptop or Dell XPS 13. Apple is also a pioneer in this. In 2016 they introduced the new Macbook Pro with nothing but USB Type-C Thunderbolt ports. Four years later, people are still using regular USB Type-A accessories like flash discs or external HDDs. But if you have a new computer, you need a dongle for that.
And it’s not just Macbooks. Dell XPS 13 has two USB Type-C ports, MicroSD card slot and headphone jack. On Surface Laptop 3 you’ll find only one USB Type-C, one USB Type-A, headphone jack and proprietary Surface connector. Just a few years ago laptops standardly offered at least an HDMI port and SD card slot. I’ll understand that today’s laptops are thinner and have smaller footprints. But still, it’s a shame that you won’t see these other ports even on bigger 15” or 16” laptops.
If you need these ports, there is no other option, than buying various dongles or docking stations. But those accessories are not cheap. Just look at the Surface Dock, a piece of plastic with various ports for $199 or 234,95 €. Even single dongles like USB to Gigabit Ethernet can cost as much as 50 dollars or euros. And you can hardly avoid these costs, especially when you are a power user.
There is also a good chance you own a smartwatch or fitness tracker and a keyboard to your tablet. Smartwatches are basically useless without a smartphone, they are smartphone accessories and most things you can do with them, you can also do with your smartphone. I am not saying that there is no point to own a smartwatch, even I have one. They offer some useful functionalities for workouts, such as running etc. But they are not essential.
And that can be applied to many other accessories. Although they are not essential, in many situations they can make your life a little bit easier or satisfying. So people will continue to buy them.