The Update Itch – The Psychological Urge to be Upto Date

It is as if I am with the ‘with it’ crowd. I like to believe that I am technologically savvy and are regularly updated with the happenings in the tech world. A kind of one-upmanship!

When I bought the OnePlus I think the phone had a certain OS but with the numerous updates, my phone now runs on the latest

Anyone with a smartphone would have downloaded numerous apps. All apps have their regular updates. Updates bring in changes in their functionality and form. Anyone with a laptop would have to update their OS regularly.

Till a few years, when our world was restricted to laptops/PCs, the reason best attributed to updating the software was increased security and of course correcting some bugs. These updates were few and more a hindrance. However, what was arguably a choice earlier has now taken a different turn.

The other day, I overheard a conversation between a couple of 20-year-olds who were discussing the functionalities of their smartphones and apps. The focus of the discussion was on the recency of the apps and the updates are done. To my surprise, the discussion meandered to the fact that one of them did not have a particular update, without being derogatory, it was told that he was missing something and was ‘inferior’ in a sense. His reaction was incredulous and more “how could I miss it?”

Coming to think of it, I actively wait for updates across all my gadgets and get a child-like satisfaction when I do so. While I do understand that there is a technical reason to update there are also psychological reasons.

It is as if I am with the ‘with it’ crowd. I like to believe that I am technologically savvy and are regularly updated with the happenings in the tech world. A kind of one-upmanship! When a couple of my colleagues happened to convey the same feelings I sensed that humans seemed to get a psychological pleasure from updating and it was not restricted to me alone!

The new paradigm seems to be one of constant improvement from a temporary status quo. With every update comes a certain upgrade both technologically and psychologically.

A comparable example is a craze among smartphone and tablet users to buy another model every few months. Every change in the gadget is moving up in the aspirational space. However, there is a dissonance here – the update of the physical aspects of any product like a phone or camera is limited in scope and when the up-gradation may be minimal. Customers are thereby in a sense, cheated of the total updating experience.

Updating is a cheaper way of upgrading. There are minimal costs none in most cases. And since updates are practically free there is lesser guilt or none at all. Compare this with high costs incurred in buying a new product and selling or discarding the older one. There is a huge cost implication along with negative psychological implications.

Given this new behaviour there are implications that manufacturers need to focus on:

  • Quicker updates – Customers are now expecting even quicker updates (at least in the software space). There have been instances where the apps have been updated every week. As a customer I expect each update to be significantly better than the earlier one. 
  • Higher expectations – Since I expect each update to be better than the preceding one the expectations are far higher. Manufacturers cannot afford to provide an update that only updates a few cursory changes, and worse if the update creates problems. 
  • Faster response times – manufacturers need to respond faster to customer preferences. The new normal is immediate and hence the manufacturers have to be on guard not only to customer choice but also to changes in the ever-changing dynamic environment.
  • Faster ‘new’ products – since the response times will be faster the products will evolve faster. Every update will add a new dimension and it will not be surprising that the product will undergo a complete metamorphosis after a couple of updates.
  • New functionalities – if the product needs to look & feel new, the manufacturers will need to create newer capabilities and functionalities. The more it is perceptible the better it will be for the manufacturers. 

The New Product Paradigm

Constantly Evolved Product – The old normal of a product which once bought cannot be updated is changing. A product that evolves with time will be the accepted standard. In the connected world, all physical products with even a little amount of connectivity will have to evolve with times.

It is easier for these products as the user experience can be changed over some time. Would not be surprised if the washing machine, microwave or even the car started behaving as my Kinect does.

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