The BBC reported on a survey conducted by insurance and finacial services company DirectLine that says half of all British people aged 16 to 34 expect to replace their mobile phones and DVD players every three years. More interestingly, over half say that fashion plays a large role in the gadgets they choose.
This is interesting to me because I like to think that I personally choose gadgets based on things like features, usability, and cost savings. For instance, I bought my Treo because it let me do away with a Nokia 8860 and a Research in Motion 850 and consolidate on-line services. That transaction was done just about two years ago.
The two year ownership mark has figured in my decision about whether to upgrade to a Treo 600. I could have saved some money by taking advantage of palmOne's upgrade program that allowed Treo 180, 270, and 300 users to upgrade to the 600 for $399. But, I decided that I just made back my investment in the Treo 180 when I figure the total mobile phone savings over two years. I feel that I need a better reason to spend that amount of money than simply wanting a faster CPU, SD card slot, color display, and what have you.
I will probably spring for the upgrade eventually, but the driver will probably be the consolidation of all of my company's web sites on to Linux and the need for a better, faster handheld SSH client, as opposed to fashion or planned obsolescence.
Of course, the considerations about gear that does not require an on-line service are somewhat different. I think you can justify upgrading from a flash memory-based MP3 player to an iPod mini
more easily. But, I'm not sure that moving from the first or second generation iPod to the current iPod would be a good investment, unless you wanted the extra capacity available in the 20-Gigabyte or 40-Gigabyte models. But given recent changes in iTunes functionality designed to support the iPod mini, it isn't as necessary to carry your entire music collection on the iPod at the same time as it used to be.