The Chore of Buying A Smartphone

My OnePlus 6 smartphone is overheating and automatically turning itself off.  And it’s annoying. 

I bought my OnePlus 6 phone in mid-2018 at quite a high price.  Reviews then touted the OnePlus 6 as the best Android phone in the market.  I liked its features and its chipset, a Qualcomm SnapDragon 845.  Because OnePIus promised continuous updates to the Android software, I believed the phone would last for at least five (5) years.  I was wrong. 

Three and a half years later and the phone dies on me two or three times a day.  It takes about an hour or so before I could turn it on again as I have to wait for the phone to cool off.  Having my own phone unavailable for me to use has become a major inconvenience.

I decided therefore to buy a new smartphone.  And as much as I wanted to think it would be simple, it wasn’t.

There are many smartphone models in the market.  And from what I’ve read and observed, there are three (3) categories:  high-end, mid-range, and budget.

High-end phones like Apple’s iPhone 13 and Samsung’s S22 are loaded with features from network capabilities (e.g. 5G) to multi-faceted high-performing cameras.  High-end phones are supposedly built well but they’re expensive.  Many customers buy high-end phones for the status symbol as much as for what they offer.    

Mid-range phones sell for about 30% lower than the high-end models.  I notice reviewers from North America and Europe put Samsung and OnePlus models as the best mid-range phone brands to buy.  Other Chinese models like Oppo and Vivo do get some good comments but not much, which I think is a bit unfair as the phones look good and many people buy them.  Mid-range phones look quite as good as the high-end ones.  They may not have the same network capabilities but their features are similar or not at par with high-end models. 

Budget phones offer themselves as cheap but still capable of providing the basic features if not more.  When I held some budget phones, they were light but they had the same responsiveness, if not better, than my OnePlus 6.  Reviewers, however, seem to shun them, especially the Chinese models.  Some reviewers even lambast some models as junk.   

I decided to set criteria for the phone I would buy.  It has to have network capabilities such as 5G (preferably not 5G with limited bandwidths).  It has to have decent memory storage (e.g. 128 gB) and a good CPU (e.g. octa-core at about 2.0 GHz).  And it has to last for at least five (5) years; the phone shouldn’t die on me like my OnePlus 6 is doing to me now. 

Most high-end, mid-range, and even budget phones met my criteria.  Except one:  the five (5) year life-time.  No smartphone brand would guarantee a five (5) year life cycle for their models.  No reviewer could argue for any model that would last for five (5) years.  I’d be lucky if a phone I buy will last up to four (4) years. 

Reading between the lines:  smartphone manufacturers build their models for a life cycle of up to three (3) years.  They count on users to switch phones every two (2) years as they tempt consumers with newer models with new features every six (6) months. 

The marketing focuses on the features rather than on the life of the product.  Hence, smartphones may look good with nice cameras, fast responsiveness, and a good-looking body but they’re not meant to last for the long-term. 

No smartphone model therefore met my criterion for a five (5) year lifetime.  I would have to choose a phone then based on how much I’d be paying year on year for the price I’d be paying for.  An iPhone 13 at $999, for example, would come out to USD $250 annually if it would last four (4) years.  A Vivo budget phone priced at USD $200 would cost me $USD100 a year if it lasts two (2) years.  Mid-range phones priced at $USD 499 would come out costing me USD $167 per year for a three (3) year estimated lifetime. 

Choosing a smartphone is a chore that requires one to set criteria but at the same time one has to be flexible to the realities of what are available in the market. 

I find it annoying that I have to buy a new phone because my OnePlus 6 is a perfectly good phone if it weren’t for the overheating and shutdowns. 

For the money we invest into our smartphones, we don’t get the value we want from what we pay for.  Instead, we gamble that the smartphones would last and perform longer than expected.

About Overtimers Anonymous

When Increasing Capacity Becomes a Priority

One Sunday morning, a homeless woman at a traffic intersection was approaching cars and begging for alms.  Some drivers give but most don’t.  But the woman persists anyway; she shows a sign saying she’s homeless and asks for money for food. 

I thought as I observed the homeless woman:  if the government could spend so much setting up facilities to quarantine patients infected with the CoVID-19 virus, couldn’t it also spend a little more to house the homeless who roam the streets?  At least the government could provide a place to sleep and some food and water to homeless people even for a brief time so they’d be able to find work or resolve whatever issue that brought them there in the first place? 

The frequent answer to such a suggestion is a lack of resources.  The government would say they don’t have the budget to provide such for homeless people. 

How then were they able to provide for CoVID-19 infected people?  That’s different, a government person may say.  It was a national emergency and the virus is dangerous and life-threatening. 

But isn’t being homeless and without food dangerous and life-threatening too? And at this point, the government would not pursue the argument.  With a wave of a hand, they’d just say there is no justification to provide the resources. 

Not only governments but also enterprises hesitate to provide resources even when the demand would be there.  Executives would cite limitations in budgets or capital.  They would prefer that the operations spearheading supply reach their points of maximum capacities before asking for any investment in additional capacities. 

And even if they are at that point of maximum utilisation, executives would require proof that operations are also at their highest efficiencies.  Executives by common practice, will want an organisation to exhaust all of its means before considering any investment in additional capacities. 

If executives can avoid investing in new capacities, they will.     

This is why factories run flat-out to supply products before companies realise they need to build new production lines.  This is why airlines wait until flights are overbooked or ticket counters turn away passengers before they add new planes to their fleets.  This is why some restaurants don’t expand their dining areas or hire new staff until they see patrons waiting for tables or walking away because they couldn’t get a waiter to serve them.    And this is why internet companies don’t install new equipment until they see slowdowns in downloading speed or backlogs of subscribers. 

It doesn’t occur to many enterprises that investments in additional resources should ideally happen before operating limits are reached. 

At the height of the CoVID-19 pandemic in New York City, USA, in late March of 2020, the US Navy dispatched the USNS hospital ship, Comfort, to assist the city’s medical services. 

New York was low on available beds and staff to treat a surge of CoVID-19 patients.  New York City welcomed the Comfort, with its 1,000 beds and trained medical staff.   

But instead of helping, the Comfort would only take non-CoVID-19 patients.  The US Navy thought that by taking in patients not infected by the virus, New York could free up space in their hospitals for the CoVID-19 patients.  The Comfort’s beds were also spaced closely side by side so in the first place, the ship could not enforce social distancing for CoVID-19 patients.

The Comfort ended up treating 20 patients at its first week as New York’s hospitals continued to struggle with crowded wards and weary staff.  After so many weeks of sitting idly by hardly utilised, the Comfort departed New York City. 

The story of the Comfort was a lesson for leaders, if not an eye-opener for executives.  One should not wait till an issue becomes extremely urgent before acting.  

But nobody did learn.  Nobody did realise.  Many executives of governments and enterprises have forgotten the story of the Comfort. It has been relegated as one more passing tale of the pandemic era.  Meanwhile, wave after wave of virus infections months after the story of the Comfort have led to overcrowded hospitals and more deaths due to patients unable to be admitted for treatment.   

We shouldn’t wait till the last minute before deciding we need more capacity.  It isn’t complicated to calculate how much more we need if we can see the rate of  growing demand and anticipate when our resources will no longer be enough. 

I gave money to the homeless woman that day but I saw more homeless people begging on the street corners the weeks afterward. 

We still haven’t learned. 

About Overtimers Anonymous