The Two-Year Upgrade Cycle
On the 5th, I did something that I have never done before: I bought a new phone for full price, without using an upgrade or extending my contract. HTC One Dev Edition.
I used to be pretty okay with the "new every two" upgrade cycle, since I'm not one to switch carriers and, up until recently, there weren't many phones out there that I wanted to buy. Apple's incremental upgrades made waiting somewhat bearable.
But in recent years, things have gotten a little weird. There are several companies making interesting phones every year. As I've grown up, I am becoming less comfortable two-year commitments with companies that seem to never make changes to my benefit. Unlimited plans were discontinued, shared data plans, etc. I noticed that no-contract options for buying phones are often hard to find on ATT/Verizon's sites. I also have started to notice how people say "I can't get a new phone, I don't have an upgrade." When I tried an Android phone last summer, there was ATT software that could not be uninstalled. Every carrier has a different version of a given Android phone, and that version is almost always not as desirable as the International version (HTC One X, for example).
So ATT/Verizon have done a good job of making people feel like the only way to buy a phone is with a contract, and one may only have a new phone if they "have an upgrade."
Then things got really weird. Manufacturers have started to release phones on a "tick tock", two-year cycle. Apple with their "3G / 3GS, 4 / 4S" and Samsung, now, with the S3/S4. If people wait for flagship releases, you can imagine how almost everyone could get on the same 2-year cycle. This is not good for innovation.
Just now, I read a story about Verizon: they have decided to extend the upgrade cycle to a full 24-months, which "aligns the upgrade date with the contract end date and is consistent with how the majority of customers purchase new phones today."
I think it's time to opt out of this system.