Name a technology gadget maker on planet earth that has done more to create a culture of planned obsolescence than Apple. What? They all do that? Agreed. But they call it new and improved instead of planned obsolescence, right?
Here’s the thing about planned obsolescence that technology critics don’t seem to understand. The products most mentioned– And Apple certainly has more than its fair share– are not really obsolete at all, and Apple doesn’t plan to make something obsolete as much as it works to improve a product. That’s a big difference.
Last week I read an article in The Washington Post that caught my hair on fire. Literally. Well, OK, not literally, but figuratively in a way that products become obsolete. It’s figurative. The article’s writer, whom I’m sure is a very nice person though I have absolutely nothing to base that on other than everyone in politics loves The Washington Post, writes about technology but doesn’t seem to understand the technology let alone the industry.
Here we go:
When it comes to the next iPhone, it seems like, in many ways, iPhone users will have to do without.
Yep. That’s how it goes. Whatever you once used will be gone, so you’ll do without it, you know? Like hardware keyboards on smartphones. Wait. What are we about to be without?
Apple is changing things up and continuing its long war on that most humble gadget component: the button.
Also known as the single most easy to break iPhone component that isn’t the screen, a relic from the 19th century. A button. You know, like the physical buttons found on ancient smartphones. Apple has this tendency to get rid of ancient components and replace them with better components and that, as we all know is planned obsolescence. Except that it isn’t planned and nothing that once was becomes actually obsolete thanks to a new model.
Unless you’ve been living under Donald Trump’s shadow the past few months then you know one of Apple’s upcoming iPhone models has a few notable changes on the way. No headphone jack. No physical Home button. See? Planned obsolescence.
In other words, it will look like a button and feel like a button but it won’t actually, you know, be a button.
Which, I have to admit, troubles me a little bit.
Because change. The writer didn’t bother to dredge up similar feelings when Apple did away with the hardware keyboard, and then every other smartphone maker copied Apple and hardware keyboards pretty much disappeared from the smartphone landscape, but whatever.
On a broader level, the revamped home button could make Apple devices harder to repair. Several Apple consumers already complain about “planned obsolescence” — the idea that the firm makes things hard to repair so that it can make money off new hardware.
Well, duh. Imagine that. A technology gadget maker that wants you to buy a new product so it can make money, and the company very cleverly provides new and better functionality so your old product will look and feel, well, old. Even though it does what it did but probably even better than the original.
But with no button at all and no easy way to get into a phone, we’re likely to see even fewer ways for third-party businesses to be able to replace parts.
And not being able to replace parts could, in effect, shorten a gadget’s life span.
Uh huh. What exactly would a third-party business be able to repair? And, since the Home button is the worst offender at being broken, how would a button that can’t break need repair? OK, there’s the cracked screen. That seems to be a big business. Shame on those glass companies like Corning and their worthless Gorilla Glass 4 which breaks constantly so we have to upgrade our phones to use Gorilla Glass 5.
And, what is a product’s life span? Only until the next new model comes out? Or, until the cows come home? Is there a problem anywhere in technology with finding parts to repair a product that’s a year old? Of course there is. Such products are only designed to last until the new one hits the market then it’s all obsolete for you. Yet, iPhones, iPads, and Macs last years beyond their competitive counterparts.
From there the writer drifted off into Insignificant Facts Canyon and circled all the way back to why Apple plans to make their products better. Are there advantages to new and improved?
One is that it gives you fewer places where outside debris such as sand, dirt, dust or water, could get in and wreak havoc with your devices. There has been, for example, a lot of pressure on Apple to make the iPhone more water-resistant. Fewer outside seams theoretically helps with that.
But, you want to be able to take it apart and replace components whenever and because, right? I don’t think you can afford an iPhone that would do both.
We all seemed to get used to losing the physical “call” and “end” buttons, or the physical snap of hanging up a flip phone. Given what’s rumored from Apple, this will be a far smaller compromise of physical sensation than that. But we may miss the button in other ways.
What other ways? Hasn’t the vast majority of smartphone users made the adjustment from physical keyboard buttons to glass buttons with few problems? Hayley, Hayley, Hayley. Please, please, please before hitting the Publish button, have one of your techie friends or an 8th grader check it for meaning and substance because we all know that editors of The Washington Post don’t have that capability. They’re obsolete.
Here’s the deal on planned obsolescence. It’s not a thing. Apple doesn’t engage in it. You can tell, because an iPhone 5s bought a few years ago still works, but actually works better than it did when new thanks to improvements to iOS 7, iOS 8 and iOS 9 and soon iOS 10. See? Not obsolete. It still works. Only better. That doesn’t sound like obsolete, does it?
Yet, when talks about a missing headphone jack or a disappearing physical Home button makes it to the misinformation superhighway, suddenly Apple is only doing what they do to make us feel bad about what we bought last year, consider what we bought a year ago to now to be obsolete; all so we’ll buy a new whatever because Apple needs the money. Sure. That’s why I buy a new iPhone, a new Mac, a new iPad, and plan to get a new Watch this year.
Because Apple needs the money.