iPhones have been applauded as the most reliable smartphone according to recent studies, and your experience may back up those stats (or not), but, again, other than anecdotal evidence and our own experiences, how would we know for sure just how reliable our Apple devices really are?
One of the most prominent online backup systems is Backblaze which has a Mac app that lets us back up our critical files online. What kind of hard disk drive and storage system does Backblaze use? How often do their disk drives die? What’s the failure rate of the various brand names they use?
As strange as it seems that a company would divulge such information, that’s exactly what Backblaze does. Every three months. They list the disk driver manufacturer, the drive size, the number of such drives in use on their backup system, the annualized failure rate over a few years.
Wouldn’t you like to have similar data about the Mac or iPhone?
Every now and again someone does a bit of research or some survey of hundreds or thousands of Apple’s customers and they reach a basic conclusion. Apple is better than the competition. That means Macs last longer, fail less frequently, have better resale value, and lower total cost of ownership. But again, there’s not much data to reach such conclusions, and Apple does not provide similar information.
What Price Reliability?
In the Backblaze statistics certain Seagate and Western Digital disk drives had far higher failure rates than average, while certain disk drive models were far lower than average. Apple relies on third party manufacturers for many internal components but what we seldom hear or read about is a particular Mac or iPhone failure rate. With tens to hundreds of millions of Macs and iPhones sold each year it is likely that Apple has such information but does not want to make it public.
What’s the benefit? Would such divulgence provide incentive for customer purchases? Or, incentive to buy specific models over other models? Of course. But wouldn’t such information also force competitors to manufacture more durable and reliable products?
After all, there’s a reason no one expects an iPhone to last beyond five years. Two words: planned obsolescence. Apple, as much as any other technology company, needs customers who buy products frequently, and even if such products are durable and reliable over a long period of time, the company would soon go out of business if every product it manufactured functioned like new for 10 years.
One should applaud Backblaze for publicizing device failure rates but those individual devices are not tied to the Backblaze brand. If anything, the information should tell us that if we need a disk drive for external storage which brands and models to consider and which to avoid.
He Said, She Said, We Said
For Apple’s customers, we would do well to check the company’s support pages to see the trends. Every year there’s a Mac or iPhone model afflicted with more physical problems than normal, far more than expected, and affected more customers than would be average for Apple’s large and growing customer base. AppleCare and the employees manning the Genius Bar can help mitigate such problems, but when it comes to durability and reliability, about all we have to go on are our own experiences, experiences of others, and combined they make up anecdotal evidence and very little finite statistics which would benefit the purchase selection. Apple wants it to stay that way.