Does Apple Plan Its Own Obsolescence?

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Have you noticed that your iPhone starts to slow down...right around the time a new iPhone roll-out is announced? Catherine Rampell of The New York Times discusses whether Apple is intentionally coordinating the obsolescence of its products, and if the strategy could ultimately backfire as it upsets customers.

Comments [28]

1. Apple's first mass market customers were those seeking relief from those $2-3K Dells & Gateways running MSFT 98/2000-- which needed to be replaced every year because the OS got entirely filled up and wouldn't work! Apple stepped in as the alternative to the big bad wolf...

2. Your guest really has a beef with Verizon, but she does not know it. Iphone 4s run on 3G, and Verizon has all but dismantled it (thereby rendering iPhone 4s useless). "Buy a new phone!" the Verizon PR guy laughed...

3. Lots of technologies hitting the market now were developed years ago, Best Buy is often presenting us with technology that is already several generations back. Warehouses must be emptied & profits collected...

Oct. 30 2013 07:42 PM

This discussion caused my wife and me to debate the difference between durable and non-durable goods. A telephone used to be a durable good - that is, built to last more than 3 years.

By Moore's Law - electronics costs will be cut in half or performance/capacity/etc. will double every eighteen months. Makes it tough for any electronic item to be considered a durable good, eh?

I'm just old fashioned.

Oct. 30 2013 07:24 PM
Jason from Colorado

I do believe Apple ushers this along. It is inevitable due to progress in technology, but each company decides how to approach it and I feel Apple (in terms of ios anyway) does a crummy job of keeping older devices in the loop. It all started with non-user-replaceable batteries and went from there (I HATE this about iproducts).

****** Oh and by the way, does everyone know that your ios 7 compatible device running ios 6 will AUTOMATICALLY download over 3 GB of data (over wifi) for the upgrade to ios 7 even if you don't want it? Yes, it's true. So for instance if you have 4 GB of storage left it will use almost all of that for an update you don't want and cannot delete and you have no space left for music, video, etc. Totally effing lame. They had better watch it. All it takes is one spectacularly designed product from Android and all this Nazi BS will look pretty bad compared to more open source platforms. But for now they simply make the best phones and tablets period (and I've tried both extensively) and it is allowing abuses like this to go on as the market will tolerate it (for now).

Oct. 30 2013 03:47 PM

More PhoneBloks:

Oct. 30 2013 12:43 PM


Oct. 30 2013 12:21 PM
John A

"Your browser is no longer supported. Some features of the site may not work properly. We recommend that you upgrade now."

Oct. 30 2013 12:17 PM
Zuwena from Manhattan

It's time all the Apple lovers got real. Of course this is deliberate. In it rather long history at this point, Apple has rarely offered an "upgrade" for its products. In general, one has to get a new machine to get the new operating system and do the "new" things--is there anyone out there who did not see that as "purposeful". I was suspicious from the beginning when I heard that there was an actual upgrade. I did not know the potential destructive nature of the upgrade. This is unconscionable to my mind; where are the ethics in the business model. But Apple will only get away with it and future similar actions if the non-thinking lemming-like Apple lovers accept such actions as "progress".

Oct. 30 2013 12:15 PM


Steve Jobs was NO saint!

Hooking us on the consumption paradigm like no other.

A widget by any other name is still a widget.

Oct. 30 2013 12:08 PM
John A

I keep every install I ever bought/downloaded for the purposes of never stranding a piece of equipment via obsolescence. If things get bad I can, and have, roll back to the prior version. Mac and PC. Have to confess I don't know if this can be done with iDevices.

Oct. 30 2013 12:07 PM


Oct. 30 2013 12:05 PM
jgarbuz from Queens

To Dboy

In Sovyet Union ve built cars like tanks! Strung! Never break down! But also felt like you riding in tanktoo! Nobody buys :) Bye buy Sovyet Soyuz.

Oct. 30 2013 12:04 PM

Then phone companies shouldn't’t be forcing 2-year contracts if phones are going to be obsolete well before that contract end date. I uploaded the new operating system without understanding I would lose so much control over how e-mail and apps would look and work. I won't do that again.

Oct. 30 2013 12:04 PM


Oct. 30 2013 12:03 PM

iOS7 totally f*k'd over my wife's iPhone 4s, at least as far as Wi-Fi is concerned. As soon as the upgrade was installed, Wi-Fi service was immediately compromised, losing the ability to maintain connection or even see close-by networks.

AppleCare and their in-store Genius counterparts laughably insist that this sudden Wi-Fi degradation is due to aging, out-of-warranty hardware, and that the only solution is to (surprise!) upgrade to an iPhone 5. This flies in the face of the many 4s users reporting the sudden onset of the same problem, all tied to their iOS7 upgrade.

If Apple truly believed this hogwash, they'd provide a rollback to iOS6 (then, if the phones still behaved badly, blaming the hardware might be credible). But they don't, and they won't, because they know the real problem is iOS7, and they're only interested in selling their latest hardware, the customer be damned.

Class-action suit, anyone?

Oct. 30 2013 12:03 PM

Motorola/Google just bought 'em.

Oct. 30 2013 12:00 PM
Amy from Manhattan

Is this not the case w/phones from other co's.? If not, what are they doing differently?

Oct. 30 2013 11:58 AM

Go, Konsumption Kapitalisim™!!

To hell with the environment!

Oct. 30 2013 11:57 AM
antonio from baySide

Also Apple gave away Maverick OS so..

Oct. 30 2013 11:56 AM
JMD from Westchester

Apple is evil!

Oct. 30 2013 11:55 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

To Truth & Beauty

Steve Jobs and Bill Gates went in two different directions. Gates was a software guy and Jobs and Woz had a hardware business. For Gates, his plan was to get his OS into every machine coming out. For Jobs, he wanted to produce products that people fell in love with but that others could not duplicate. Gates developed Windows taking some of the wind out of the sales of the Mac in those days. As Apple sales declined, Jobs refused to let Apple lower its standards or profit margins until he was kicked out. But Apple could not compete with the cheaper PCs running Windoze. Jobs was called back, and developed new product lines - Ipod, Iphone, Ipad, and Apple skyrocketed past Microsoft.
But times are changing again, and what it will do without Steve Jobs, I do not know.

Oct. 30 2013 11:55 AM
Clif from Manhattan

YES!!! I believe Apple does engineer product obsolescence. I had a MacBook Pro from 2008. Last year it magically died. Was working on it one night and powered down as usual. Tried to turn it on the next day to work and it was completely dead. Nothing! Nada! Battery or plugin-in power didn't matter. Nothing! Got on another computer and started searching and found out that many other people had the same problem. Apparently, it is a motherboard problem but wasn't able to find out much more. Took it to the Apple store. They were impressed with how I kept it in such good condition. They said that (not coincidentally) that the extended warranty had just expired earlier in the year and that I could send it in to Apple and if they determined that it didn't break due to my error or abuse they would refurbish it for $300.

Since my whole life was on that hard drive, I wasn't about to just send it in before making a final back up. I had to take the whole thing apart to get the hard drive out and back it up. All while still trying to work on the projects I had in progress.

I still have not around to sending it in, so at this point I've basically written it off.

Since all of this, and taking a harder look at Apple's business & environmental practices I have fallen out of love with Apple and I'm considering building my own Windows machine for @ 1/3 of the price of a new Apple desktop. It will be just as powerful, if not more.

Oct. 30 2013 11:52 AM
Truth & Beauty from Brooklyn

I don't know if they plan their obsolescence so much as that the technology changes so fast and their customer base has so many comments/complaints that they have no choice but to upgrade. They do have some great products out there, but there is nothing like learning from experience to improve one's products.

Apple's biggest problem is that they missed kindergarten on the day they taught "how to play well with others," so they don't. They are proprietary to a fault - literally. Just because I have a use for my iPad doesn't mean I'm going to give up my PC laptop, and I want them to play well together, but they simply do not and it is a source of infinite frustration for me.

Oct. 30 2013 11:47 AM
pliny from soho

older macs only go up to itunes 10
IOS7 for ipad is incompatible with itunes 10
so no "synching" is possible for now

Oct. 30 2013 11:47 AM
Paul Furbacher from New Jersey

Have you producers feed you (in your earbud) a sensible rebuttal from Gizmodo re Ms. Rampell's off-base accusations of some conspiracy by Apple:

Jon Gruber:

By the way, my iPhone 4 works quite well; the battery is fine. I'm pretty sure Ms. Rampell's has gone through many more recharge cycles than mine (the more the weaker any battery becomes); she most likely uses it much more as a reporter than I do as an ordinary, non-talkative retiree.

On top of that, my wife's iPhone 1 probably needs a new battery pretty soon, but for her, it works very well as a phone.

And lastly, the old flip phones we had (and which I hated for their dumbness and clumsiness) needed new batteries after 3 - 4 years too. So what's Ms. Rampell on about except jumping on the "Apple is evil bandwagon."

Oct. 30 2013 11:39 AM
Away Away from nyc

My 2009 iMac i3 is still up and running so is the Mac Pro I use at my job.
Also -
In Tech, those of us who llive in that fast paced world - things CHANGE and get updated constantly.
How many times have you had to update your browser?
We are all using a versin of jQuery of 2.0 and above...
The New York Times needs - desperately - to come up with "content" to sell newspapers.

TECH MOVES FAST- get used to it or don't purchase it to begin with.

Oct. 30 2013 11:32 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

"Built-in obsolescence" is hardly a new concept, and very much contributed to the fall of Detroit to the Japanese, Germans and Koreans. The question is if Apple wants to be the Rolls-Royce of computer gadgets, or just the leader of the pack? I don't think it will be able to sustain the lead if it tarnishes the luster of the brand it so laboriously built up.

Oct. 30 2013 11:30 AM
antonio from baySide

Um my 4S still works fine for the most part, unless the guest is a developer (actually programs) I find this segment dubious...

Also doesn't the perceived bump in performance fade as all the devs start updating their apps to leverage the new hardware?

Oct. 30 2013 11:22 AM

Obsolescence or faddism? In a resource constrained world where these items are 1) produced in factories with oppressive working conditions, 2) add to the total amount of toxic waste, 3) are too easy to steal - bricking by the registered owner should be universal and 4) add to the amount of e-waste, replacing your smart device before it is broken is obscene.

What it does do is pump up Apple earnings. Your phone should NOT be a fashion item. TCO matters. Total Cost of Ownership from manufacture to responsible disposal.

(I am old enough to remember when Coach bags were warranted for life. Send back a worn item and they would repair it FOR FREE. That policy is gone. Now, Coach bags are fashion items. Destined for the trash heap once styles change.)

Oct. 30 2013 11:14 AM

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