Are iPhones built to die young?

How to fight companies and their product's planned obsolescence

Planned obsolescence is bad for our planet because it generates so much waste

I had first heard of planned obsolescence after the well-known Apple drama. Indeed, they apparently planned their iPhones’ death after a certain number of charges. Outrageous!

However, little did I know about planned obsolescence. Where does it come from? When did it start and why? How usual it is... ?

The Apple Scandals

In 2018, France and Italy sued Apple for planned obsolescence. They allege that the multinational deliberately slows down its mobile devices via software updates. Simply this: if you do the updates - your phone becomes very slow.

Guess what? At this exact time, there would be a new iPhone release.

The multinationals pretend that they never meant to reduce the lifetime of their products deliberately but that it was an unfortunate result. Eventually, they had to pay a fine and did public excuses.

What is planned obsolescence?

According to Tara Button, who wrote A Life Less Throwaway, planned obsolescence happens when a company makes a product lifetime shorter than it could be.

That habit appeared in the 30s in the US. It was the Great Depression which means that the country was facing big economical struggle and overproduction. Some economists came up with a miracle solution at the time: planned obsolescence! Industrialists just had to reduce the lifespan of the products, which would die earlier and people would have to replace them more frequently. This is how they turned the past generations into consumers and re-launched the economy.

Unfortunately, it still happens today. For instance, boilers used to last 23 years in 1980 and are expected to last only 12 years by 2020. Scandalous, isn’t it?

How did we get here?

It did not happen overnight, and nobody said out loud: plan this phone’s death within two years. No! The big bosses put pressure on engineers to reduce the production costs in order to increase their margins. Reducing costs clearly impacts the quality of the materials and the production itself. Do that every year and you end up with a much lower quality product that does not last as long as it could. Tadaaaaa double benefits for corporates: bigger margin and rise of the purchase frequency!

How to fight it?

It is not all gloom and doom. Even though it is corporations’ responsibilities to make their products better quality, we do not have to be powerless and wait.

Read external Reviews

Going through reviews on various marketplaces such as Amazon is a good start. Indeed, the brands have no control on those reviews, so they are not biased.

Believe it or not, in one of the companies I worked for in the past, we would only authorise the good reviews on our website. The others would be deleted in the website backend. I am sure some companies do not use that method for ethical reasons but be aware it is doable.

Read Blogs

Reading reviews on customers’ blog can be a good option too. Make sure they are authentic first and that the author shares his or her real opinion. If the post is sponsored, you can question it because the blogger received money to publish that content. Read a bit more about the blogger’s story and find out if you can trust his/her sponsored content. Some of them would never introduce their readers to brands they do not like, even if they are paid for it.

Read about the company

On companies’ website, you can always find an “about us” page. See if the values of the brand values match yours. If they claim they do long lasting products and designs made to last, maybe it is worth trying.

Share about your own experiences

If you are happy to read reviews online before making a purchase, consider the future buyers too. Your opinion is valuable and will help others choosing products.

Try to repair

Some products are easy to fix. I think about garments for instance. If it’s beyond your abilities, take your object to a specialist who will know how to fix it instead of buying a new one. If the fixing cost reaches less than half the price of your device, get it fixed. Do not encourage brands to keep lowering the quality of their products on purpose.

Don’t put price but quality as a priority

That sounds obvious but if you buy something for cheap, the chances are it won’t last. So, pay attention to details when you purchase something new and accept to pay a little more for that extra quality you want. Trust me, you save some money on the long run.

It can be hard with some products like new phones for instance. Do we want to risk repairing one component if a second one breaks just after? This is where our responsibility ends. It is brands’ job to let us trust them again by producing high quality objects. I also believe it is governments’ roles to make companies obey the rules. However, as consumers, we need to motivate the change we want to see. So how about we start with trying to repair small things and see how that goes?