One Bad Apple: Planned Obsolescence in Business
“Do you have a five-point screwdriver in your home?” The chance of someone responding “yes” is slim to none. This is quite the predicament for those who own Apple products like the iPhone 6 or MacBook Pro, gadgets whose batteries are enclosed and protected with five-point screws. These consumers thus have no way to manually remove and replace batteries once they become defective, and they are forced to incur expensive costs for repairs and upgrades solely from Apple support. Is Apple’s history of planned obsolescence, the tactic of ensuring that a product becomes out-of-date or defective within a short time in order to guarantee that consumers will demand replacements or upgrades, an unethical overreach of power?
Opposing Apple from building may go against the idea of American capitalism. Companies like Apple are constantly making technological advancements in order to ensure the highest level of cybersecurity and performance. Inhibiting their growth seems counterintuitive when considering free enterprise: no one is being forced to purchase Apple products, and consequently they should not be forced to slow down. We should not only accept this innovation, but we should go so far as to demand this level of perfectionism. While true that most Apple products have a new and improved version every single year, this novelty allows consumers to truly savor the experience of possessing some of the highest quality technology in the world for one whole year. As long as people continue to buy their products in such a high demand, there seems to be no reason for a company to change their clearly successful tactics.
On the other hand, the seeming lack of transparency by Apple may be a breach of unspoken ethics that should be upheld between the consumers and producers. Apple had not publicly addressed this planned obsolescence until December of 2017, when they admitted to slowing down the battery and performance of iPhones as they became older. Though they offered discounts for replacement batteries to assuage customers, this information should not have been concealed in the first place. Some may disregard this statement and tell opponents to simply switch to another recognized brand such as Android. While this may seem like a simple solution, a certain social stigma is cast around people who carry any other brand than Apple in their pocket. Because Apple is such a market dominator, video chatting with friends is inconvenient without FaceTime. Android users are also left out of group chats because the lack of iMessage disables many features of group texting that are otherwise available for iPhone users. To go even further, this decomposition is a heavy burden for low-income families who cannot constantly afford new phones to replace their run-down phones, furthering an social-economic gap.
In conclusion, Apple should be able to innovate and design the products in any way they please, but the alarming lack of past transparency must change. They must elucidate their planned obsolescence; for example, they could state how long the expected battery life and usage speed of each model is as well as the extent to which these factors change over time. This way, consumers then have all the necessary information to weigh their options and come to a well-thought out decision.