The dilemma of hardware upgrading

Those who know me know that I’m a gearhead. No, not a motorhead; I’ve always had a deep interest in the latest digital technology, backpacking gear, tools, and other stuff. It’s the main reason I’ve covered computing for 25 years. But I’ve also relatively immune to the upgrade syndrome — I don’t feel comfortable tossing away perfectly good products just to have the latest and greatest. I usually upgrade when I have a plausible (notice I didn’t say “good”) reason to do so.

The proof of that is my cellphone. About five years ago, I purchased an iPhone 4. Miraculously, it’s still working fine. (Everyone else I know have had their battery go south by now.) Anyone have a good use for a working, pre-Intel Mac Mini? I have one of those, too, that’s still running. (Unfortunately, I can’t even use it for a Netflix player.)

Recently, however, I ran into an issue with Bluetooth. A new GPS watch I purchased won’t communicate with my iPhone via Bluetooth. However, a pair of wireless headphones I also picked up does connect. To be honest, I have not paid much attention to changes in Bluetooth technology, because until now I haven’t had to. But the issues with my iPhone 4 required some online research.

The quick upshot is that I just missed a significant upgrade to the iPhone. Version 4 uses Bluetooth 2.1 technology; but the iPhone 4S has Bluetooth 4, also known as Bluetooth Smart or Bluetooth Low Energy.

The difference is significant. Some devices will only work under Bluetooth Smart, and both ends of the connection need to support the technology. According to the Bluetooth site, the latest version, 4.2, is far more secure, uses less power, and has improved pairing options, compared to Version 2.

The difference can also be important when you’re purchasing wireless devices. For example, a year or so ago, I decided to buy a digital meat thermometer and was enticed to buy one that connected to my phone. Winter was coming on, and the idea of not having to stand out in the cold to check the outdoor gas grill was compelling. Unfortunately, I didn’t read the fine (very fine) print on the thermometer’s packaging — the part that stated I needed Bluetooth 4. Of course, at that point, I didn’t even know there was a difference.

So if you’re looking a Bluetooth device, be sure both ends of the connection will talk to each other.

Obviously, better Bluetooth is not the sole reason to upgrade to a new phone. If only the battery would finally die.

10 thoughts on “The dilemma of hardware upgrading

    1. Barry! Barry! Barry! I couldn’t have said it better. I love it “plausible”!! Heh, heh, heh.

      I don’t need the most modern update either, but I am so insecure that I either (i) fear that something will no longer work if I don’t, or (2) sometimes Apple for instance will force itself on me, or trick me into accepting an update even if I don’t want to.
      This often becomes a snafu (particularly iPhone 5c) that takes me forever to sort out.

  1. Some Commodore Amiga users are using PowerPC Macs, like the mini, for faster systems. You can run emulators of course but there are builds of MorphOS that go a little deeper.
    At some point, I will get around to setting up MorphOS on one of my PowerBooks.

    From the Mac side, you can still go pretty far with PowerPC apps. Some developers still support PPC. TenFourFox is routinely updated. Maybe you can Netflix through TenFourFox with HTML5?

    Pop one of OWC’s SSDs in the mini and enjoy a huge performance boost.

    “Excuse me, but I’ve been hearing that word “obsolete” for most of my life and you know what, we still dig holes with shovels.” – Dominic Santini

  2. I’ve been an iPhone user since being convinced to check out the 3GS (the latest at the time). Found a pretty good deal on one from Craigslist. I was hooked. At the time it was running iOS 3.x.x, and was running great. Then iOS 4 came out. With all the new features it advertised, I was sold. I upgraded my 3GS to iOS 4.0, was the worse thing I could have ever done. It totally messed up my phone. Luckily, the guy I bought it from still had 6 months of Apple Care on it. So I took it to the Apple Store, and they replaced it with a new 3GS with iOS 4.x.x pre-installed. The same issues that was happening on my old 3GS was happening with the new one. I went through one more 3GS, with the same issue. So Apple decided to just upgrade me to the new iPhone 4, still under the Apple Care coverage. Voila! No more issues. Mental note.

    Then iOS 5 came out, and I decided to update the iOS again. Then bam, my phone starts acting up (when it wasn’t before the update). Had to go through the hassle of resetting my phone, and putting everything back on from scratch. Not a restore from backup, but actually looking for my apps and downloading them all over again, and re-entering my contacts (don’t even get me started on that). Didn’t bother to try and put the pictures and videos I backed up. Needless to say, it was one of the worse experiences for me. So from there on in, I didn’t bother to update the iOS unless I absolutely needed to. Then the 4S came out with iOS 5. When the iPhone 5 came out, I decided to skip it. And only updated the iOS on my 4S when iOS 6 came out. Ran into issues with that as well. Mental note again. When the 5S came out with iOS 7, I decided that the leap from the 4S was much greater than the 5. I use my iPhone for taking pics and video, so the camera was very important to me. And imo, the iPhone camera has always been at the top of the heap. So since the 5S, I’ve always kept in mind that the “non S” models, were the test phones for new technology. And the “S” models, were the better versions of the previous one. A few new features, and significant hardware upgrades. Along with ironing out all the problems from the “non S” previous model. So basically, the S models are the better version of the previous model. Until the next latest and greatest comes. Which would be the iPhone 7. Which I will opt out of, and wait for the 7S. And in between phones (2 years) will only update the iOS when I absolutely need to. eg. I can’t download or use newer apps that I want or need without the latest version of iOS.

    I still believe that Apple goes into older phones and tinkers in there to modify it’s functionality just a little. Not enough to notice something fishy going on (to most people), but enough to be frustrating to deal with. You keep updating to the latest iOS, because they recommend it when troubleshooting, only either it doesn’t fix it, or it makes things worse. At least in my experience all these years. And I know they can go into our phones and do things without our permission, because whenever there is a new update for the iPhone, I wake up the next morning with it already downloaded to my phone, and ready for install. Without me ever agreeing to anything being downloaded to my phone. I just need to plug it to the charger, and have wifi turned on. And Apple will automatically just push the update to my phone without asking me first. If they can do that, they can tinker with our phones without us knowing they do.

    So imagine…mess up your current iPhone just a little to “force” you to upgrade to the latest iPhone.

  3. I’m an early aviation historian. I still use my Mac G4 and one of the last Motorola Minis. Of course I also have a new MacBook. Newere versions of Office and some other apps screw up 15 years of research if I convert, so I use my old systems as libraries. Thumb drives for transfer work really well.

  4. I’m still using an iPhone 3GS. I’ve run into problems with a few apps that no longer work, though none of them are essential (WatchESPN, NFL, NBA, a couple of navigation apps, etc.)….just a little frustrating. First and foremost, it is, after all, a phone. Email, text/SMS messages and basic browsing are still fine.

    I like the 6S (the 6S Plus is too big), but, it’s already February. Maybe I’ll wait until September and see what the next iPhone offers.

  5. Since I don’t even know what Bluetooth is and my phone is one that is used only for making phone calls and my watch only for telling time, all of this is of little importance to me.

  6. Great article. I feel the way you do and it just isn’t the phones. when my computer was 3 years old (the one I still use) it was already ‘OLD” by Apple standards. Now it is about 7 years old- past its prime! I replaced my keyboard and optical drive and battery but got no help from Apple because it was too old and would have cost me more thatn the computer to get them to fix it. I feel like the paid geeks have nothing better to do than to take away features in the hardware and software that I like and am used to. I’m always afraid to upgrade systems for fear my favorite apps won’t work any more (which has been the case in the past.) I have a lot of backup drives from my older apple laptop which I can’t get to show up on my macbookpro with the latest systems. I don’t know if I can find an older mac to see if I can save some of my older pictures and documents. I am just getting to old to deal with all these changes, especially the ones where the “baby gets thrown out with the bathwater.” The new macs have no optical drive. The screens are smaller. I don’t want to buy external devises when I can play or make a cd in my computer. I don’t care if it is a little heavier, it was convenient. I feel (just like with what medical insurance companies do) that decisions are made for me but not necessarily with what I really need. The language is one I don’t speak. I try to follow instructions online when I need to find something or repair something and it is not as easy to understand even though supposedly the language is in English. I’m afraid to get a new computer. My husband is thinking of leaving Apple and getting a PC (oy vey!) but sometimes I feel the same way. I’d like a touch screen on my computer so I don’t keep trying to move things like I do on my iPhone, but no, Apple doesn’t do that. I have the newer 6+ which I got before my husband went part time at work. It was expensive. He hates his iphone 5 and wants something that works for him like an “old fogy” phone with less bells and whistles. Anyway, I appreciate what you wrote.

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