Why Your Favorite ‘Smart’ Device Won’t Last Forever


Retire or fix? You’ll find the answer in these 7 questions

Ask yourself these questions before sending an old product off to pasture or spending money on a shiny new thing.

1. Is it obsolete? Unless you’re bent on nostalgia or it has sentimental value, you’re not going to realistically repair a reel-to-reel tape recorder that dates back to the LBJ administration or even a more recent VCR or cassette player. Even if you could find an outfit that does specialized repairs — and that’s hardly a given — remember that the media you use with these products has almost certainly long since deteriorated, and parts may be impossible to come by.

2. Do you have a choice? Sadly, not always. Once the phone carriers complete the sunsetting of 3G networks, for example, your old cellphone, alarm system or other device may be rendered near useless or completely kaput.

3. Is the product worth fixing? The answer may come down to cost and, again, the availability of parts, which you should be able to research over the internet. But also consider which component or components are broken. A cracked screen on a phone or tablet typically can be replaced, as can a battery that has petered out. Weigh the cost against where you are in the lifecycle of the product and any trade-in value available for a more recent model.

4. Do you have a warranty? Even if a manufacturer’s or other warranty has expired, if you bought the product with certain credit cards, that warranty may have been extended.

5. Is something better available? The answer is in the eyes of the beholder. Put another way, the more apt question is, is it better for you? A fresher product may come with more features, sure. But are they features you want or need, or that will make your life easier?

6. Can you afford the replacement? Always take finances into consideration.

7. Are there software updates? Manufacturers of phones and other tech gear periodically issue free software updates to add features, squash bugs and patch security holes. With rare exceptions, you should install such updates when they become available. These may not only help tune up or modernize a product, at least to some degree, but the updates may help the devices live a little longer. If available updates are no longer compatible with your device, that is a sign that it may be time for something new.

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