By now you’re using a SmartPhone. Or not, you big hold-out, but everyone around you is clutching either an  iPhone, a Blackberry, or an Android SmartPhone.

The sales figures say that these devices are being adapted at unprecedented rates. Everybody has decided to Tweet on the go, babble about where they are via Foursquare, and buy stuff on eBay while driving to Aunt Sadie’s house.

Unexpected side effect: we’re actually buying new phones less frequently. This from a study by J.D. Power.

Since, like most things based on statistics this study can be interpreted many ways, let’s try to uncover the real-world reason for the change.

Before SmartPhones it was rare that the new phones actually added very much functionally, and I’ll bet you never heard someone say “I just love the software interface of LG’s phones on Verizon“. Nevertheless, when new phones hit the scene, people wanted them. Why? phones got smaller and lighter, prettier, or something else style-based that people would be attracted to. We upgraded as fast as our budgets or contracts allowed. It was all about sexy.

SmartPhones aren’t like that. Once you jump, you’re done.

Oh sure, every new generation of the iPhone adds something and lots of people upgrade, but that’s an example of the sexiness factor. I’ve been using my Droid for almost a year now, and I’ve yet to see anything new in Android land that’s made me think “WOW! I NEED THAT!” Same thing on Blackberry. You might see what’s “better” about version 6 of the Blackberry operating system, but I’ll bet it’s not enough to make you upgrade your SmartPhone.

So why is it that when we have actual reasons to upgrade, those upgrades are happening less frequently?

Because now that our phones are computers, doing upgrades is too hard.

I have about seventy apps in my Droid. I use maybe a third of them on a regular basis, a third sporadically, and a third almost never—or not at all. Forgetting for a moment that this means I really ought to take an hour and weed out the stuff I don’t need (that one’s on you, Mr. Yablon!) there are some apps I can’t actually clean out of my SmartPhone. For example, I don’t use Twitter’s App for accessing their service, because it just isn’t as good as the third-party app I use instead. But it’s built into the phone and I can’t delete it. Further, whenever Twitter updates their app I get a notice that I should update it, too.

I don’t want to.

Eventually, having all those apps, wanted/used or not, creates a kind of paralysis. It’s exactly what makes replacing your old computer with a new one so painful. Computers are cheap, and faster is better, but you keep nursing that old one along until it just won’t run because the move factor is so difficult.

This isn’t what the hardware companies had in mind, is it? Call it unwanted business change. When you plan your next business change, part of what determines its success is your ability to foresee the impact your change will have down the road. Engage The Answer Guy. Do a better job than SmartPhone manufacturers have done.

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