Product Updates: Is Latest Really the Greatest?

By: T. Himaja Reddy

Suppose you visit a departmental store to buy a refrigerator and find yourself in a store surrounded by various models. During your process of selection, you see that there are two models which you like, with no apparent differences in features. But, one of the models has a tag on it – ‘Newer Version.’ Now what would you do in this situation? If we consider an average consumer, they would prefer the newer version of the refrigerator on the basic assumption that the newer model must be better than the older one. This brings us to the question of the moment, does the latest automatically mean greatest?

Why do Product Updates cause such a Frenzy?

Every business knows that to survive in this dynamic world where product revisions are a basic necessity, they have to periodically release updates in their products to maintain their consumer base. Revisions in products are generally necessary since they have the potential to lead to better products. That being said, every product update does not essentially mean a better product, a fact that most consumers are not aware of, especially if it is for a product that they’ve consumed for a long time. 

A simple label ‘Revised Edition’ can make even the most rational of consumers lose their critical judgement when it comes to purchasing the product. In a study conducted by Harvard Business School, it was revealed that a significant proportion of participants shifted to the ‘revised’ product when in reality it was the same product, just labelled differently. 

What makes consumers abandon their objective judgement? It is because consumers use imperfect methods to make a decision in which due to the time constraint, they tend to assume that a revised edition should in all fairness mean a better product. This is even more prevalent for a product category that consumers are unfamiliar with. Let’s consider the illustration of Amazon, the E-commerce giant. The website has this feature which provides information regarding the updates of a specific product listed on the website. A consumer who wants to purchase a selfie stick comes across the fact that an updated version is also available on Amazon. He would, keeping all other factors constant, want to purchase the newer version, even if it meant that he had to pay extra for no significant improvement. This is what is called a consumer blindfold. Consumers blindly believe that the newer version must be an improved one and lower their efforts to scrutinise the product.

Product Revisions or Product Marketing?

There is a popular trend where businesses use product updates as a tactic to get renewed consumer attention. Sometimes, a company may just improve their packaging, colour scheme and aesthetics rather than make any significant change in the product or plan the launch of a product in such a way that obsolescence is frequent i.e., introduce products with short useful lives so that consumers are mandated to get updated versions frequently. 

Consider Apple, the Tech Giant. It recently launched its new string of ‘updated’ products which include the iPhone 15, and new Apple watch models and rebuilt its AirPods. Consumers were overcome with excitement for this event due to the belief that the new versions were going to give them better features and as a result, when the actual products were launched, there was widespread disappointment among the Apple users. Though there were a few unique features about the model, like the conversion of the charging port from the Lightning charger to USB-C, the overall sentiment of the audience was that the product in itself was underwhelming and did not live up to their expectations. 

Surprisingly enough, this did not in fact decrease the customer base of Apple. In fact, more people are attracted towards the product every time a new version is launched regardless of whether it is actually better or not. This is one of the best examples to explain the fact that consumers tend to lose their objective analytical skills when it comes to products like these. Even Though the iPhone 15 underperformed, consumers are going to come back for more when the next version of the product is launched, with hopes that it would be better than the previous ones. This brings us back to the basic assumption in consumer psychology, namely “something that is claimed to be better is assumed to be better.”

Consumer Welfare Implications

This practice of revisions and updates is necessary for both producers and consumers alike, to maximise their efficiency as well as satisfaction. But they can have their implications on consumer welfare when the product revisions are nothing but a hoax.

Due to these misleading product updates, consumers feel the need to purchase the latest version of the product even when the existing product is working perfectly well. This can lead to a dangerous trend of overconsumption. Secondly, if consumers are not able to trust their process of selecting a product based on their critical judgement, they can be influenced by companies to purchase inferior versions of a product under a different label. When it comes to the trade-off between product quality and product updates, there is a general trend which shows that consumers prefer the product update even if it means incurring additional costs. 


Although it may seem that all product updates are misleading, it is imperative to understand that consumers need to make informed choices when it comes to choosing between products. Not every product update is a simple marketing tactic, and this can only be understood if consumers take off their blindfolds and perform sufficient analysis before commodity selection. Marketing communications can influence consumer perception but the ultimate choice needs to be with the consumers. For this, consumers need to bridge the gap between expectations and experiences, by taking necessary steps to ensure that their expectations don’t change or hinder their experience while choosing between the original and the revisions. 


  1. Garcia-Rada, Ximena, Leslie K. John, Ed O’Brien, and Michael I. Norton (2019, February). A Preference for Revision Absent Objective Improvement. Harvard Business School. (n.d.)
  1. Carter, T. (2023, September 14). Apple’s new iPhone 15 is an underwhelming “slap in the face,” say disappointed fans. Business Insider