Apple and planned obsolescence

Apple was shown (and lat­er admit­ted) to have used recent iOS updates to reduce the per­for­mance of the old­er iPhones (iPhone 6, 6s and SE, and iPhone 7 in lat­est release). This is only kicks in when the bat­tery is get­ting old in terms of lifes­pan, and can be brought back up to speed with a replace­ment battery.

Apples response to reduced per­for­mance, pub­lished Decem­ber 28th

First and fore­most, we 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. Our goal has always been to cre­ate prod­ucts that our cus­tomers love, and mak­ing iPhones last as long as pos­si­ble is an impor­tant part of that.

Its good that they have made this state­ment, but reduc­ing per­fo­mance unan­nouced seems to have been an odd thing to have done, that was bound to have caused a backlash.

The tech­ni­cal part of the prob­lem is that old­er iPhones with old bat­ter­ies can shut down dur­ing high per­for­mance tasks, before bat­tery replace­ment is warned about. It looks like Apple, see­ing this as a mere bug fix, silent­ly altered iOS to address the shut­ting down problem,

As an own­er of a (fair­ly new) iPhone SE, I’m actu­al­ly glad this is a fea­ture, and the new vis­i­bil­i­ty planned for iOS on bat­tery health should aid in know­ing how this is effect­ing my device. I’d rather have a phone that at least worked at rea­son­able per­for­mance all day than hav­ing to recharge halfway through. Com­ing from a Nexus 5 which start­ed out quite well but then in the last year slowed to a crawl and often need­ed a boost charge to keep going, and that was with fair­ly light usage.

This again has reignit­ed the debates around planned obso­lesce. That tech man­u­fac­tures lim­it the lifes­pan and use­ful­ness of hard­ware to encour­age peo­ple to always buy the lat­est mod­el. Apple seems to bear the brunt of this, espe­cial­ly with the image of peo­ple queu­ing up to always get the lat­est Apple gad­get, and that their hard­ware has gone in a more and more towards sealed con­tained units (even the bat­ter­ies can’t offi­cial­ly be replaced your­self) and less expand­abil­i­ty and less abil­i­ty to fix it your­self com­pared to oth­er hard­ware manufactures.

The delib­er­ate reduc­tion of per­for­mance for old­er devices with­out noti­fy­ing and explain­ing the rea­son before­hand is an own goal on Apples part that looks like it will land them in quite a bit of hard water.

In France, Apple is now being sued (with poten­tial Jail time for execs) because of Frances anti planned obso­lesce laws.

HOP believes that the US firm can be sued over the sale of all iPhones in France since the intro­duc­tion of a law in August 2015 that made it a crime to “delib­er­ate­ly reduce the lifes­pan of a prod­uct to increase the rate of replacement.”

I don’t know how far this legal action will go, and many oth­er sim­i­lar suits because of this action. I do think the con­cept of anti planned obso­lesce laws are a good thing though. Hard­ware should be built to last to help reduce elec­tron­ic waste amongst oth­er issues.

From per­son­al expe­ri­ence though, Apple hard­ware does out­last any oth­er hard­ware I’ve owned. My old iBook G4 last­ed 5 years as a main com­put­er (its reoc­cur­ring mem­o­ry prob­lems the result of a bad third par­ty RAM). My 2008 Mac­book is still work­ing, my cur­rent Mac­book Pro dates from 2014 and is still run­ning fair­ly smooth­ly, no mat­ter what I throw at it soft­ware wise. My iPad 2 still per­forms well enough for watch­ing video, though admit­ted­ly many apps now crash on launch, I think many app devel­op­ers would rather ditch old hard­ware sup­port which is a bit of a shame. By con­trast many of the oth­er com­put­ers and phones I have had pre­vi­ous­ly, and there where all fair­ly decent devices, became unus­able after a cou­ple of years main usage.

I’m cer­tain­ly not one who queues up to get the lat­est new Apple shiny. I tend to at least try to use any Hard­ware for 2 — 3 years as a main device, and want to get many more years use out of it. Oth­ers expe­ri­ence will vary, and opin­ions of how to look after hard­ware through its lifes­pan, whether thats self repair or just being able to drop it off to the Apple shop for repair and ser­vice. If self ser­vice and longevi­ty are your thing then Fair­phone seems a much bet­ter device to invest in. I know a few peo­ple with them that have upgrad­ed the cam­era mod­ule and done some self repair. For me I just need­ed a device that worked, but its good to know there are oth­er options, which can then encour­age more main stream man­u­fac­tures, includ­ing Apple to do bet­ter in this regard.

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