Planned obsolescence or Built-in Obsolescence is a concept in economics and design whereby products are deliberately created with a limited life span or fault, making the product obsolete after a certain amount of time.

For years, many iPhone users were suspicious that Apple Inc may purposely cause their products to slow down, in order to boost sales of their newest product. The world’s biggest mobile phone supplier had never commented on the issue though.

On 21st December these speculations became fact, when Apple released a statement on their website admitting to slowing down some iPhones. The company said they “have never — and would never — do anything to intentionally shorten the life of any Apple product, or degrade the user experience to drive customer upgrades.” They explained that older phones are slowed down to prolong the battery life of the devices.

Whilst slowing down processing times to prevent an aging battery from dying does seem like a reasonable explanation, and Apple have said they will lower the price of battery replacements from £79 to £25, it is undeniable that companies like Apple do take actions to ensure consumers will need to replace gadgets and appliances sooner rather than later.

For example, the iPhone is not only slowed down within two years of purchase, it is also made deliberately difficult to tamper with. This goes for all Apple products; and when users experience issues with their device, they are encouraged to send them to an Apple support team, often resulting in more revenue for the company if repairs are needed.

Surely, given the bleak predictions for the future of our planet, these companies should be legally bound to make their products more long-lasting. It cannot continue to be acceptable for consumers to upgrade their mobiles every 1-2 years, doing so creates too much waste, which includes polluting metals and plastics.

The issue of planned obsolescence is not only prevalent in the technology industry. Fashion brands also create products which soon lose their perceived desirability, when the next line of products are released. Toys are often produced using cheap, brittle materials too, even though it is known children will play with them roughly.

Whilst businesses will likely end up making less money if they are pushed to make more sustainable products, the speed of innovation in technology won’t need to slow down. Tech lovers will still demand the most innovative products, people will just also have the choice to purchase a device which can serve them for a longer duration. Most computer-based technology released now have simply been refined from previous generations anyway, perhaps with a gimmick or two thrown in.

Despite the demands for companies to meet market trends, and the potential need for consumerism to fuel capitalist societies, planned obsolescence contributes to the heaps of waste we produce, which seriously harms the environment.

Planned obsolescence needs to be tackled legally across all areas, especially technology, given that we will soon be living in a world of augmented reality and cyborgs.

Surely it is only sensible to ensure our tech is more durable.


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