The Upgrade Game


The upgrade game, how many times have we all played this?  Something new and shiny comes out, and we start feeling that urge that what we were happily using yesterday is no longer good enough.  No where does this seem to happen more than with Apple iOS devices, something I know all too well given how much music work I do on my iPad and iPhone.

More than a few people have asked me either why I tend to upgrade my devices every year, or more common, how I can afford it?  The truth is, upgrading every year to the latest and greatest iPad is the cheapest and easiest way to do it!  Let me explain the system I use, and how it’s something I think all iOS musicians should embrace.

For starters, if you’re one of those people constantly wondering if Apple is going to release a new iPad each week, then this likely doesn’t apply to you.  The rest of you who follow this stuff know that for the last few years iPads have come out on a fairly regular yearly schedule.  The first step then in getting on the upgrade train is to get a new iPad right when they are first released.

At no other time will your iPad have the longest useable life or be worth more, so it pays to get in early. I know some people will caution that new devices mean possibly more buggy daily use, but the opposite has been true in my experience.  Both Apple and developers seem to favor the newer and faster devices when designing their software.  Ever notice how right after a new iPad is released, new app updates start appearing that make your older iPad suddenly feel slower?  We’re still in the early days of tablet computing, so every little increase in CPU power is desired for most musicians.

The first step is obviously the easiest then, buy your iPad.  The first one will never be cheap, but I encourage you to avoid going the refurb or used route if you can, because it makes a huge difference for the next step.

You see, if you sell your current iPad while it’s still the current generation, you get more money for it.  In fact, current iPads have the best resale value, so the trick is to time your sale right.   Usually I will post my current iPad for sale on eBay the same day the new ones are announced.  In fact, if like me you know an Apple press conference is coming, and that it’s likely for new iPads, you can even get a jump and do it a day early if you want.  Otherwise waiting until you see the new one announced and know it will work for you (why wouldn’t it?) is fine too.

So then, new iPads announced, time to get yours on eBay FAST.  The longer you wait to sell your’s from thsi point forward, the more money you’re going to lose.  Make sure you select global shipping, especially with eBay’s new consolidated shipping service meaning you only need to send it to the east coast US and eBay deals with the international portion.  International buyers will always pay more than US buyers, it’s not even close.  Make sure you skip the buy it now option, and start with a really low auction price to get people interested too.

On average I’ve been able to sell my 16GB iPads for around $400, which I can then use to put towards the cost of the newest iPad.  Since new 16GB iPads tend to cost about $500, this means it really only costs me around $100 to get the newest iPad.  Different storage sizes will cost more obviously, but they sell for more too so the same principle applies.

Long story short, by buying new and selling ASAP when new iPads are announced, you can stay on the latest and greatest hardware for around $100 year.

Sure you could keep that $100 a year instead and hang on to your iPad for a few years.  But consider that keeping your iPad for 3 years means that when you go to sell you’ll only likely get around $100 for it.  That means every three years you need to pay $400 to upgrade to a new iPad, where as it only cost me $300 in that same time.  And I was able to use the latest iPad each year so it’s likely I’ll have less CPU issues (software seems to get more CPU hungry each year as I said).

I’ve come to look at my iPads almost like a leasing arrangement.  As a musician, I’m always wishing for faster CPUs (lets not talk about iPad RAM at this point!) so this is well worth it for me.  This used to work the same for iPhones, though lately the carriers have gotten more strict about enforcing the 2 year upgrade path, so the savings aren’t quite as big.  Still the best way to deal with upgrades on the iPhone too though.

It might not be for everyone, but I’ve found that this is the cheapest way to upgrade my iPad over time.  And of course, it also means I can make sure I’m always using the latest hardware too.  Not a bad deal!

4 Replies to “The Upgrade Game”

  1. I wish I could upgrade my Macbook Pro, but I have the last 17inch they made. I can’t get my head around going to a smaller screen. So I will have to stretch this purchase out as long as this machine stays alive.

    Having said that, I use d to have upgrade fever, until I realized that the latest greatest isn’t going to help me make any better or more music. So for now, I’ve gone back to Lion, and I keep my toolset to just Live 9 with a few trusted plugins like Zebra and Synplant.

  2. @Nebulae I know what you mean about the larger screen, I’d love a retina MacBook Pro with 17inch screen. But I highly recommend test driving the 15″ retina Pro for some length of time before completely making up your mind. Now that I have one, I’d never step down to a non-retina screen. Keep in mind that you can run the 15″ laptop at 1920×1200, which is the same resolution as the 17″ model, just sharper.

  3. Agreed, with the new retina displays you can mimic the resolution of the 17″ and it will look even better. There’s actually a very tiny difference between the screen sizes when you look side by side.

  4. Also the new models are much, much faster. That CPU power really comes in handy when you have a bunch of synths and effects and don’t want to bounce down tracks.

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