It’s probably happened to you. On the eve of yet another Apple announcement — or possibly weeks later, or anytime in between — you find yourself fumbling around apps and features trying to navigate away from phone glitches. ‘Low storage’ errors, locked clocks, inability to take any more photos or just a complete meltdown of the entire system run rampant. Congratulations, your likely expensive iPhone is once again going in the shitter.
But fear not, because you can soon buy the new one for hundreds of dollars you probably don’t have! Yay capitalism!
It’s called planned obsolescence (or the ability to program an expiration date into a product), and while Apple won’t ever admit to using such a tactic in its production, it’s clear to many users and electronics experts it, in fact, does.
Kyle Wiens, company director and founder of iFixit, a web-based outlet that teaches people how to fix things themselves, is one of the many online that have never looked very highly on Apple’s business practices.
“The battery in a conventional iPod lasts for 200 to 300 cycles normally," he explains to Independent. "That might be less than a year, so of course Apple just want you to buy a new iPod rather than replace the battery yourself. Of course Apple has its own manuals of how to replace components, but they are not publicly available. We don't think that's right. We want everyone to have that information.”
iFixit banks on new products coming out so that the team can rip them apart to show consumers how to fix issues if something is ever broken. The problem Wiens and his partners find, however, is that many electronics aren’t ever built with a DIY mindset.
And consumers feel trapped by it:
“It was literally the day Apple announced the new iPhone, the 7 or whatever they’re on now. I read an article (actually, just the headline) about it and then picked up my phone to text a friend and sure as shit, the clock was stopped on 11:11 a.m. (it was really 1 in the afternoon). Since then the GPS has been wigging out and I get that stupid ‘storage’ error all the time. I think I’d rather have one of those exploding ones at this point.” – Jenna, 32
“I didn’t go after the new update for at least a few weeks, but couldn’t really get around it because everytime I went to my home screen, I was forcibly ‘reminded’ that I needed to update. Then came the storage issues everyone talks about, I couldn’t take photos even after deleting 4 or 5 longer videos. It doesn’t really make much sense, and Apple experts don’t really have answers.” – Lara, 26
“Man, fuck them. The first iPhones were great, no issues. The past few I’ve had though they’re just full of problems. I get locked screens all the time now, and even had Sprint text me that I could buy a new phone — like fifteen times in a week. Like, ‘oh, hey, we know your phone is shit right now here’s an offer to spend $700 you don’t have.’” – Ross, 28
"When my phone gets down to 5 percent now, it shuts off automatically. I used to be able to run it down to 1 percent and push the limits but that's not the case. I feel like the entire software of the phone is malfunctioning with apps shutting down or stalling.The phone overall doesn't function as smoothly as it used to: glitches with the touchpad, random app closures." – Simon, 30
“Storage issues. Locking issues. Slow response. Camera issues. The worst.” – Bryan, 34
It’s a problem that has no real solutions in sight. As it stands, planned obsolescence is completely legal, so long as a company isn’t forcibly planting self-destruct modules in it to lead consumers into purchasing completely new items. Apple walks that fine line, with continual updates boasting of “new advancements” and “bug fixes” — but any user knows that an inescapable update usually spells disaster.
France, on the other hand, enacted into law last year that any manufacturer of goods must put somewhere on the product the date at which they can expect it no longer to work as new.
As Digital Trends reports: “It’s pretty smart legislation, too. Rather than issuing broad laws mandating that certain products last for X years, the newly issued decree simply requires that manufacturers and vendors be more up-front about product lifespans. Moving forward, all French appliance manufacturers are required to inform vendors how long spare parts for a given product will be produced. Vendors are then required to inform buyers in writing, and failure to do so can result in up to 15,000 euros ($16,800) in fines.”
The country is also in the process of requiring it mandatory for manufacturers to replace parts or an entire system if it breaks down within a few years — essentially a federally required warranty.
Building things to purposefully break happens, whether consumers like it or not. But some feel like it's necessary to push technology forward. Computer programmer and video game hobbyist Jake Mueller suggests that if mega-companies didn't have this tactic in place, there would be some people enjoying the fruits of iPhone 7's labor, while others would still be stuck with a brick phone wondering what the hell a Facebook is.
"It makes sense if you want to keep one another on par with everyone else," he says. "Like, my grandma knows how to text and check her email finally. That's not something she would have figured out if landlines were still relevant.
I mean, it's essentially a private business within the confines of the law as I understand it. It's shady, but people still buy into it. Unless it becomes real bad or other companies catch-up to their technology, it's a trend we're going to see."
As the majority of users pass it off as another inconvenience in a world of opportunity, others have lodged lawsuits against tech giants to try and get them to pay. One such suit seeking $5 million has yet to be worked out — though it's a long-shot anything will ever happen with it.
Really, what can anyone do at this point? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Apple has yet to respond with comment.