The media is full of the latest phone craze, the iPhone 5.
Yes, I agree that it is a good looking phone (that’s it on the left). Yes, I agree that it is a very useful device, as are iPads, Kindles, Android phones and other tablets. To have all the functions of a larger computing device in one small object is just simply amazing, and I am being very sincere.
Think about holding many hundreds of books in the palm of your hand without the need to cut down any trees for paper. It is an amazing environmental benefit. I realise that mining some of the rare earth metals that are required for the phone/devices has an environmental impact, such as the coltan mining which is driving mountain gorillas out of their habitat, but otherwise this benefit is impressive.
Whilst I have resisted many times to purchase a tablet type device, and still do, I have however succumbed to a smartphone, in the form of the iPhone 4S, simply out of necessity. After all, there are not many options for just a plain old phone any more. It may sound hypocritical, especially when I abhor consumerism so much, so let me share with you what I have learnt from first hand experience.
Smartphones and Tablets are some of the best marketing devices ever! Yes, that is what they are primarily designed for. As content consuming machines.
After you have played with all the free stuff, and there is not much of it, what is the next thing that you do? You go and buy some content. Apps, or newspapers, or even eBooks like the ones I publish, then maybe some music or a movie, or even a TV series. There literally are millions of content items to choose from. The range is endless.
So, the main goal is to entice you to buy content, and lots of it. Why do you think the iTunes store or Google Play looks so cool and helpful. To entice you! In the end the content could cost you many more times the price of the original device.
The secondary goal is to create a desire in the buyer to consume more devices. My last phone, a Nokia died after 7 long years of faithful service. It became unrepairable. I did not want for a new phone during its lifetime. However, I must be a rare breed indeed, especially since I work in the IT industry. Many people upgrade their phones as soon as the next model is available.
All computer manufacturers design electronic devices with a specific lifespan in mind. However, Apple is one of the supreme masters of designed obsolescence due to their non-user replaceable battery in all iPod, iPhone, and iPad devices. The battery has a limited lifespan and soon degrades in as little as 18 months. You can replace it yourself, but not without some considerable heartache because you have to buy a special screwdriver to dismantle it and it voids the warranty.
The designed hardware capability is no better. I recently found that when I upgraded to iOS 6, my phone’s operating system is now double the size of the old one, and the phone is slightly slower in its operation. Each version of the operating system is designed to add new features that the older devices just cannot handle, which forces or convinces the user to upgrade to the new hardware, hence making more profit for the said company.
All companies try and manufacture demand for their products. Apple seams to have a knack at doing it better than all the others, and I am not sure why. Is it because they market simplicity and sexiness in their products. Can a phone be sexy? I am not sure, but I have noticed that at the launch of each of their new products, there is a mass marketing campaign like no other, and an associated consumer craziness that goes along with it. Release little additional features like a slightly larger display, or thinner body, or better camera at each model release is one way, but there is an even more subtle way.
Why, I ask you, that upon release of a new Apple product does there always seam to be a sudden shortage? Is this created on purpose to stimulate an artificial demand? Surely Apple would know how high a demand the last product release had when they release a new one? Learning from past releases would be in a companies best interest, would it not? Or would it. A limited supply creates an artificial demand in the minds of the consumer, some who would sell their first born child to get their hands on one! Yes readers, this is simply a marketing technique from the marketing masters.
Paul - The Kind Little Blogger says
“… It is to separate you from your hard earned cash, create desire, and boost profits and shareholder value.”
As is the case with all commercial products. 🙂
L from 500m2 in Sydney says
Totally agree Gav! I’m actually so mad about the battery thing that I’m considering switching to a samsung when my iphone dies (soon, I’m sure – thanks to that sticky home button that always seems to break in every model after 2 years or so). No conspiracy there, I’m sure…
Those simple little Nokias were the best, they just went on forever those things. I had a yellow one (easy to locate in the bottom of a cavernous mothers handbag) but some utter lowlife stole it and then they didn’t seem to exist anymore. I also had an iPod shuffle but someone stole that too.
Now I too have succumbed to the iPhone – it is a truly amazing machine! It communicates, it calculates, it times, it reminds, it drowns out a snoring husband, it keeps you up to date, it records etc etc etc. I haven’t had that battery problem, my daughter has my original one which is about 3 years old and still fine. I think you’re supposed to let it run right down and then charge it fully to keep the battery going.
Not sure how I would cope without it now.
Kathy P. says
I just can’t get interested in any iThing. The hype just irritates me (people sleeping on the sidewalk just to be the first to shove their way into the store and buy one. I mean, grow up already!) and so does the planned obsolescence. Reading your post hasn’t changed my mind! 😉
I have just about the dumbest phone Verizon offers. Once in awhile they call me up and inform me that I’m eligible for a free upgrade. I always ask the guy why I should I want a new phone when the one I have is working fine. They never seem to know what to say to that.
I have an iphone for the simple reason it was the only one where I could see the keys without needing my glasses or holding it arms length to type on it… ; – ( I don’t bother upgrading it with the new hardware and from what I have heard don’t both from now on as the new upgrades for the latest iphone are pretty darn average. As for the apps – I don’t bother. The phone is just to keep in touch with children (especially with one at uni) and for hubby to ring me if he needs something delivered to a job site. The companies can try and sell me all they like in the way of apps but they don’t get anywhere.
I bought a mobile phone so many years ago that Telstra is amazed it still works. But it is only switched on when I leave the house to drive to the city. It is for emergency use if I break down etc. I also use it as an alternative contact number for some businesses. It costs me $15 per month which could be quite expensive but it does give me peace of mind whilst driving over the muontain! I am sometimes lured towards smart phones when I see friends “playing” with their phones but no – I’m not a regular phone user and it is purely a “want” and not a “need”. My partner has one for business and refuses to download any “app” as he just wants a phone with good coverage (and secretly I don’t think he knows how to download – and I’m not going to tell him!).
Keep up the great work,
Gav you make some excellent points especially about the planned obsolescence. I spent 20 years teaching computing back in the days pre-I anything. Actually I think Apple has lost all sense of what it intended to be and has simply become a money whore.
I’m still using my faithful Nokia.
I have the iPhone 3GS and I love it but I have no desire to upgrade to the 4 or the 5 (6,7,8 or anything else). I’ve also got an iPad2. We have a few accessories to go with the phone – speaker/charger and a clock/charger/radio and neither are compatible with the iPhone 4 (or I doubt the 5 or any other model) and I’ve heard that none of the current or older accessories are compatible with the new model either. Just another way they can make revenue.
I don’t regret my purchases but I am in no hurry to upgrade either the operating system (last upgrade has caused issues including as you mention with the slower operation) or the hardware.
And on a side note, they are so power hungry! So need to get myself a solar charger.
Hi Gavin, I have a little black samsung – no idea of the model. I use it to text my kids and partner. It has one game and the space button is a bit iffy but I refuse to part with my hard earned cash for some super dooper upgraded smart phone or anything else for that matter. My kids think I’m mad and keep trying to lure me with “but look what you can do mum”. They fail to realise if I didn’t need it for work (originally) I would never have bought one! I hate being attainable when ever anyone wants me.
Designed obsolescence huh what a money wasting con job. Makes me blinking cross!! Thanks for reminding me and keep up the good work.
Jo in NZ
Fiona from Arbordale Farm says
I loved this post. I had a bit of a rant on my blog the other day about a new app for phones teaching kids how to brush their teeth. But you are right this cycle of upgrading all the time creates so much waste for so little positive return.
I see heaps of friends buying a new phone every 6 months or so and downloading this app or that! My phone was $29 and lets me text and call. Thats it. Sure it doesnt look as snazzy but if I lose it I am not going to be that upset (I lost my last phone which was a Noika that I had for 4 years). That said we have a iPad that we use for browsing the web – only at home though and a laptop.
I was watching The Project on channel 10 the other night and it had some ridiculous sum that we all spend on apps per year – crazy!
Nallerang Creek Farm says
I bought my first, very basic, mobile phone many years ago when I became a single mum and was driving the kids around and up and down the freeways to Sydney visiting family, etc. It didn’t work at home in the semi-rural area I live in but was used for emergencies only. That eventually went the way of most mobiles in that I could not buy a replacement battery.
I have used a chunky flip top Telstra rural phone for years but at least that works near home if I need to send a text, however that just died, permanently, last week and I’m wondering what to do. I have a borrowed touch screen phone (not an I-anything!) and that is quite frustrating to use. The smart phone we use at work is nothing close to smart; I think the technology IS a lot of hype and the planned short life of a phone or battery is extremely bad management.
In this day and age I would be more impressed with a company which stated their phones had a very long life and that replacement batteries were a cinch to obtain.
Good to hear your daughter is beginning to “twig”!
once again thanks for an informative piece of blogging. I’ve never been able to understand the lure of the bright and shiny consumerables be they IT, shoes, cars or ‘bling’ – although I admit to an addiction for books and material. My own phone is an old nokia, in actual fact it’s second hand as I cracked the screen in my original one and a friend who had been upgraded as a birthday present gave me his old phone which was indistinguishable from mine – at least now we don’t have to check who is going home with which phone after a night down the pub :-). I’m very fond of my nokia, it phones, texts, acts as my alarm, has a very useful flashlight, doesn’t act up on me and more importantly, I don’t have to spend half an hour searching amongst a whole haystack of trivia to find where the designers have hidden the ‘app’ I want to use. it’s official – I am a grumpy old woman! 🙂