Can I have a new laptop? Can I have a new phone? We're bombarded by these requests almost every day, or at least every time we set foot in a shopping mall. It's one of the hazards that modern people faces. Chances are your family is obsessed about the latest and greatest technology, perhaps even you yourself are hooked. The truth is that technology has become a necessity in our lives today. After water and electricity, the Internet has become the "third utility." Today we need mobile phones and computers to stay in touch with each other. We Google simple, everyday questions. We take it for granted that information, music, videos, and recipes are all just a mouse click away. We need computers and networks for work, almost regardless of the industry. Our children need them for school. Another truth: At other times, technology is merely an overpriced toy and we don't always need the hot new gadget of the moment, no matter how happy it makes our kids. Telling the two truths apart can be tricky, but it's the key to spending our hard-earned money wisely. Gadgets and appliances It's a new world we live in, which has been transformed by consumer electronics. Today, appliances that consume less electricity, like induction cookers or front-loading washing machine gives convenience to our daily lives. Newer: Always Better Here's the problem: Technology is always getting better. Every new product is better than the last. Every two years or so, computers become two times better for the same price. This observation, called Moore's Law. describes exactly what you see in electronics every year: Computer speed gets faster and faster, cameras have more and more megapixels, and so on. So how can you tell when it's a good idea to upgrade? Below are five things to consider: 1. Need Versus Want It pays to think like an IT manager when dealing with technology. Instead of buying things that everyone has deemed a hot purchase. buy those that are a solution to your problems. Need to monitor how much video games your kids play but don't want to deprive them of the fun? Buy a modest 20-inch TV and place the game console in your bedroom together with the TV. Want to give your child an Internet-capable phone but have control over costs? Get him a plan with a free phone and put a credit limit on his account. Want to lower your electricity bill? Switch to green appliances; the savings can pay for your purchase in a few years. You have to know what your needs really are, If you keep a lot of pictures of your family, then you probable need a lot of disks space. If you're the type who picks up the kids and needs to run errands, then choose something that can be easily carried around. And if in the past two months you've found yourself frantically looking for a power source to plus into, try looking for a laptop with long battery life. 2. The Next Big Thing Look out for technologies that change everything. For example, a few years ago, televisions were big fat boxes, and it made little sense to upgrade from a 27-inch to a 30-inch TV. Almost overnight, TVs became flat, thin and sleek in 32 or 42 inches. In cases of a major shift like this, ride the wave. 3. Big numbers When you're shopping, specs will assault you from every direction. Don't get bogged down by them. Instead focus on what the gadget can d for you. The most common misconception of laptops is that specs should be the only thing you need to look at when you make a purchase. A laptop is not just a commodity but a partner. You need a laptop that you are compatible with inside and out. 4. Waiting Game When in doubt, wait. If Moore's Law holds true, in two years, the gadget you're drooling over will be half the price, or there will be one that's twice as good. At the same time, don't wait forever. There will always be something better. 5. Timing your Buy Electronics companies usually release new model toward the year-end. If you buy then, or after they announce a new model, you can feel confident that a better model won't come along in the next few months. Ready to take the big leap? Go for it, but remember to keep a few things in mind: Mobile phones Expect new models: Every six months to one year What's hot now: iPhone5, Android phones What to look for: A phone that suits your needs Consider this: Almost every phone lets you call, SMS, take photos, and listen to music, so it's all about the additional features. What new thing does it allow you to do? And is it worth the extra cash? Smart phone versus ordinary phone: Today's smart phones allow you to connect to the Internet. Don't forget that there are network charges involved. You may have to upgrade your plan. When to upgrade: You can hold on your mobile phone for longer than you thing. Most phones have basic fun ctions covered plus a few nice extras. When to buy secondhand: Rarely, mobile phones are subject to wear and tear. Laptops Expect new models: Every six months to one year What's hot now: Intel's new processors: the Core i5 and the core i3 What to look for: The processor and the video card. An Intel Core 2 Duo processor and a discrete video card by Nvidia or ATI are good. Integrated graphics such as Intel's GMA are basic. Consider this: Fast laptops are a joy to use, but most people don't need all that power. Unless you'll be doing photo editing, video editing, gaming or high definition video, skip the speed. Laptop vs netbook: If all you plan is Facebook, E-mail, or surf, a netbook (a smaller, lower-power notebook computer) will do. When to upgrade: Every two or three years if you can When to buy secondhand: Never. Two-year-old models are obsolete, their batteries are past their two year lifespan, and their screens are dimmer. Appliances Expect new models: Every year What to look for: Energy efficiency, durability, warranty period Consider this: Appliances are basically the same. Look out for the big changes though Old vs new: Older appliances consume more electricity. Newer ones adhere to stricter energy standards, many have new green features, such as being CFC-free or having no mercury. When to upgrade: When your old ones breaks down or when you like a new feature in a new appliance. When to buy secondhand: Many appliances, like air-conditioners and refigerators, have a very long lifespan. If the price is right, it can be a good idea.