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19 Dec

The Family Smartphone: A Look at Planned Obsolescence and Durapoly

Just Because You’re Paranoid... Buddy: “I know for a fact that [device company] is going to destroy my [device] with this new update. This always happens two years after I buy one of these [expletive deleted]ing things!” Friendo #1:  I know, right! So it’s not just me? That’s why I never do the updates. That’s my way of stickin’ it to the man.” Friendo #2 (mutters): That’s probably why your [device] stops working after two years.” Buddy, Friendo #1 (in unison):  “[expletive deleted], man! What do you know?” End scene. Pure Shakespeare, I know. But they bring up a good point. What do we know? The Shadowy Puppeteers of Minor Inconveniences Let’s take a look at a couple of important definitions: “Planned obsolescence, or built-in obsolescence, in industrial design and economics is a policy of planning or designing a product with an artificially limited useful life, so it will become obsolete (that is, unfashionable or no longer functional) after a certain period of time. The rationale behind the strategy is to generate long-term sales volume by reducing the time between repeat purchases (referred to as "shortening the replacement cycle").” “In industrial organization and in particular monopoly theory, a durapolist or durable-good monopolist is a producer that manipulates the durability of its product.” Basically, we’re going to quickly examine the paranoia you experience when you think that Apple put a gremlin in your smartphone that will awaken and wreak havoc the second the next generation is released. Nobody Is To Blame There is a spectrum of reasons why durable products fail and must be replaced, and a spectrum of spectrums within that spectrum, so try to take everything into consideration before you freak out and go Luddite. On one end, technology has moved on and the product is just plain antiquated. It happens. The other end is the dark side; someone or a group of someones hit a wall, did the research (see Coase Conjecture and Pacman Conjecture), and made the decision to implement some sort of timed fault in an otherwise perfectly functioning product. As malicious as this may seem, it is a logical solution to a very real problem. The bicycle industry was one of the earliest culprits, and the automobile industry integrated and perfected the practice of artificially manipulating the durability of their products. Look up Edward Bernays. He thinks that we are cattle. I think that we are smart, if not misguided at times. At certain moments in history, the ugly end of the planned obsolescence spectrum has been proposed as an altruistic implementation; in 1932, Bernard London suggested that regulatory forced obsolescence could end the Great Depression. It’s also important to consider the product itself, specifically its value. We expect both the Toyota and the wingnut to work for 20 years, but we don’t have a mental breakdown when we lose a wingnut in the garage, we buy a new one and move on with our lives. Again, see those two conjectures above. Apples to Apples to Apples to... These days, planned obsolescence complaints are almost always related to electronics, and more specifically, computers and smartphones, and even more specifically, Apple products.   Why Apple? • They are incredibly expensive • They are incredibly trendy • They are incredibly reliable (when they work) • They are incredibly user-friendly (when they work) • They are incredibly impossible to fix yourself (especially newer models) • They are incredibly self-contained (I’m not 100% sure what I mean by that, but I think you know what I’m talking about) • They brand themselves as incredibly humanistic, but being a massive corporation, rarely live up to it...incredibly Easy target. Apple spends a lot of money on out-upgrading the competition, so the consumer reaps the technological benefits of having the latest/greatest, and is in turn reaped by the profit-locomotive hand that feeds them. Technology moves fast, so if you want to hold the future in your hand, you have to pay to keep up. Admit It, You Wanted a New Phone Anyways So, what do we do about it? In the end, it’s just a machine and it’s up to you to purchase machines that you can keep running. As far as computers and phones go, stay on top of updates and try to keep around 25% of your memory free for processing. Get rid of most of your apps and take advantage of cloud storage for music and photos. Computers are for processing, not storage. Keep your desktop tidy and keep opened documents and tabs to a minimum. I’ll include some helpful blog links. If you really want to protest something, protest our throw-away culture. Don’t buy things that you can’t fix yourself and most importantly, don’t buy into the trend!   And if you do happen to lose your Corolla in the garage, check under the wingnut.   --------------------------------------------------------------- 
 Coding bootcamps are a great place to learn about everything technology and get into the profitable, steadily expanding, and incredibly interesting field of software development (Friendo #2 went to one, I can tell)! My favorite coding bootcamp is, of course, the Tech Academy. The Tech Academy offers a paced, but relaxed, learning experience online or locally in Portland, OR and Seattle, WA. Log into the future at   Some helpful links: IPhone: Mac: Android: PC:,2817,2364937,00.asp


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