While you’re impressed with the 12MP rear camera and 8MP front camera on Samsung’s Galaxy S9, other technological advances make that look like a drop of water in the ocean.

Every advance in technology is valuable. If someone hadn’t created a crude, wooden wheel shaped as an awkward square, we wouldn’t have seen a progression into the round wheels we use today on just about everything.

If Steve Jobs hadn’t invented the iPhone in 2007, we probably wouldn’t have any smartphones. A smartphone was a gigantic leap from basic cellphones. People were attempting to browse the internet on a tiny, colorless screen using a device that was not designed to work as a browser. Webmasters started making their websites basic enough to be seen on a flip phone, but Steve Jobs created a pocket-sized computer that doubled as a phone. That’s a true technological advancement.

Improved features aren’t technological advancements

Today, each new smartphone model is marketed as the release of advanced technology. However, improved features and technological advances aren’t necessarily the same thing. For example, when smartphones came out with a front-facing camera, that was an innovative application of old technology. When the military uses crystals to shift the wavelength and frequency of laser light for use in optical systems like infrared countermeasures, threat detection, and directed-energy lasers, that’s a technological advancement. The difference should be obvious.

Improved features are just as necessary as technological advancements, but it’s important to keep a realistic perspective to distinguish between the two. Otherwise, you could find yourself on a never-ending journey of buying a new device each time there’s a press release from Apple or Samsung.

Confusing improved features with advancement hurts your wallet

Each new digital IoT gadget is perceived to be an advancement in technology, but that’s not exactly what’s going on. It’s not new technology being introduced. New features built on existing technology are being introduced. When a manufacturer can’t compete with the top players, they introduce features that aren’t necessary but sound cool to get sales. Like when Huawei introduced a smartphone with three cameras to take one picture. Surely if three cameras are better than one, photographers all over the world would have figured that out by now.

When manufacturers release a new smartphone with a better camera, you might think they’ve improved the technology in the last year, but that’s not usually true. New features are often intentionally released in a drip-feed over time. Next year’s model will have a better camera by a few megapixels, a faster processor people probably won’t notice, and more storage space most people don’t need. Even so, those ‘improvements’ make consumers want to buy a new device, so manufacturers hold back with each new release. How can a company upgrade their product every year if they don’t hold back features? Giving away all features at once isn’t a profitable business model.

Cellphone plans used to be designed to promote a yearly device upgrade, too. You’d get a free phone for signing a contract, and after a year, you were eligible for an upgrade at a reasonable price if you signed another contract. You could usually get the latest smartphone for a couple hundred dollars.

The discounted upgrade model has since disappeared, and consumers must pay full price for all phone upgrades. Still, people find ways to afford $500-$1,000+ smartphone upgrades every couple of years. Ten years ago, three hundred dollars was an expensive smartphone upgrade. Today, it’s no big deal to drop $1,400 on a new iPhone XS.

You don’t need the latest technology all the time

Technology is amazing, fun, and necessary to some degree. However, you don’t need to have the latest technology all the time. For example, if you have to spend two pay checks to get the latest iPhone, you probably don’t need it. Especially if you owe anyone money, or have a hard time paying rent.

New technology is great, but the habit of buying every new piece of technology will drain your wallet. Don’t be misled by claims to new technology. Do your research. If you’re going to upgrade a device, make sure the new features justify the price.