Kids today think having a phone that doesn't run the latest OS is like living in the dark ages, but engineers like to keep "old" technology running.
Friends of ours with children ages 15 and 11 came to Boston for a weekend visit. At one point, the mother pulled out her iPhone 6 to show me the Night Shift feature, which lets you set a timer to automatically adjust the display lighting to reduce eye strain. Having not seen this feature on my personal iPhone 4S, I pulled it out to look. That's when I heard her say "Look Kids, It's an iPhone 4S. Have you ever seen one?"
"Ooooh, look at that," said the 11-year-old as she held her iPhone 5S. I doubt she could have comprehended that my iPhone 4S has a measly 8 Gbytes of memory.
The iPhone 6 has a new Night Shift features that adjusts the screen lighting.
Why do I use such old technology? Because it still works. I do have an iPhone 6, but it belongs to my employer. When I was eligible for an upgrade, the IT folks at EE Times' previous owner told me they didn't want me to return the iPhone 4S. As it turned out, that saved me a good amount of time and/or money.
On July 26, I was at Fenway Park and had my work iPhone 6 and personal iPhone 4S with me, both were in the leg pockets of my cargo shorts. My 16 Gbyte iPhone 4S was in my left leg pocket. The person to my left put down her seat and unknown to me at the time, cracked the phone's screen.
My poor iPhone 4S suffered a broken screen, but still works.
The good news was that the phone still worked and I saw see David Ortiz hit one of his last homes runs.
David Ortiz touches home plate following a home run on July 26, 2016.
After the game, I returned home, backed up the broken phone. I then restored all the apps, settings, and data to my former work iPhone iPhone 4S, which I still use. If I didn't have the spare phone, I'd either have to by another phone (probably a used iPhone 5S) or try to replace the cracked screen. I still might try replacing the screen now that I have nothing to lose except the cost of the parts.
This episode is just another case of how people of different generations see the world. To these kids, the thought of anyone using an iPhone 4S, now three generations behind, is unthinkable. But, I'm not one to get the latest technology, though I do have a Windows 10 personal laptop (upgraded from Windows 7). Still, I tend to keep technology going past it's expected lifetime. I think that's true of many engineers: We get enjoyment out of upgrading and fixing things rather than replacing them.
There's an advantage to fixing things. Not only does it save money, but it's better for the environment that throwing out a working phone every two years. I managed to fix a 20-year-old HP LaserJet 4P printer a few months ago.
I suspect that I'll have to replace the iPhone 4S and my iPad 2 within a year, but not because the hardware will fail nor because the batteries will overheat and explode. Neither device will run iOS 10 and I know what will happen. Apps that we use will stop working and insist on an upgrade, but the new versions of the apps will require iOS 10, which won't install on my devices. When that happens, perfectly good hardware will end up in the recycle bin. The iPad will become a lighted serving tray.
Soon, my iPad 2 might be nothing more than a lighted serving tray. Did you know that the screen is sensitive to to touch of the plastic bottle?
On the other hand, maybe I can give my soon-to-be obsolete iPhone 4S to my father-in-law and replace his flip phone. Imagine if those kids had seen that museum piece. Actually, I'll soon be going with my father-in-law to get a new computer. He's finally ready to give up his 12-year-old Dell running Windows XP. He's not someone to fix things, usually calling me with computer problems, but he's had his PC longer than I would have.
How long do you keep your electronics?
—Martin Rowe, Senior Technical Editor