The Planned Obsolescence of Consumer Technology

14/11/2013 16:57

Source: Glipho

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When a consumer purchases an iOS or Android handset, it seems as if the product life cycle is only about 12 months before they fall behind the technical curve and are suddenly unable to run the latest games and software. For desktop computers this is usually a longer period, perhaps 2 – 3 years in some cases. One has to wonder if this constant progress and rampant consumerisation is caused by the speed by which the mobile market is developing and how quickly manufacturers are innovating.

But perhaps this is all part of the plan. If you’ve upgraded your iPad 2 to iOS 7 recently, you’ll notice just how its performance has been negatively affected. It’s possible that Apple had intended the iPad 2 to slow down over time with each incremental iOS update, thus encouraging users to think “My iPad is a bit slow, I need to upgrade”. By contrast, my Macbook Pro from 2009 and my iMac from 2008, continue to run very well after all these years. I often worry that tech companies have managed to develop a new product category with mobile devices that now allows them to manipulate consumers into upgrading by making them feel like they are out of touch with the latest tech.

What makes this planned obsolescence a truly disingenuous activity is that tech companies predominantly target existing customers with this strategy, almost making them feel bad for investing in their initial purchase now that a newer, faster and shinier version is available. The advertising and marketing campaigns of these companies are very enticing and often manipulative whereby they literally make it seem as if the product they are promoting cannot get any better. All the while, however, they are already planning to release improved versions of said product as part of their long term product road map.

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