Ever wonder why your iPhone suddenly needs replacing after a couple of years? It’s a problem that people have been talking about as far back as 2007, when Apple’s first iPhone was released.
Suspicion over the iPhone’s longevity was initially brought up over its battery. Unlike the flip phones of yore, the iPhone’s internal battery was not user-replaceable. Early on, critics suggested that the battery would last for 400 charges, or 2 years of use, before customers would have to go in and pay for a battery replacement (costing $79 today).
Well, this isn’t exactly what happens. Per Macworld, “if you completely drained your iPhone’s battery every day — which would be a whole lot of use, since Apple estimates the iPhone can offer up to 8 hours of talk time per charge — in about 13 months your battery would only hold 80 percent of its current charge.” So iPhone batteries don’t just die after 2 years, but they do have a lower (and continuously diminishing) charge capacity.
Of course, the 2016 iPhone bug that plummeted battery life after it dropped under 30% charged and affected the iPhone 5 and 6 makes this statement a little less reassuring.
More recently, iPhone users started noticing that their devices were slowing down after new iOS software updates, particularly around the time of the release of the next generation of iPhones. In some cases it was so bad that the owner had no choice but to replace it. So does Apple deliberately clog its older model’s arteries in order to drive its loyal customers into buying a new smartphone?
Once again, there isn’t exactly a smoking gun here, just some frustrating business realities in the tech sector.
The biggest news in Apple’s yearly releases is the operating system. The newer iOS systems have more features and Apple pushes app developers to take advantage of them while using the app store to push the most up-to-date apps. Unfortunately, the new operating systems also take up more space on your phone, and if you update your iPhone’s operating system every time it asks you to (which many iPhone users in the Reddit-sphere and the Twitterverse advise against), the added information will weigh down your smartphones’s operating speed.
Apple is far from the only company that pushes its newest products to the point of damaging its older ones, also known as “planned obsolescence”, nor is it the first.
It was Alfred P. Sloan of General Motors who came along in the 1920’s and proved that manufacturers outside of the fashion industry could make more money by adding the year to each year’s model. It didn’t matter if this year’s Corvette was faster or more reliable than last year’s, all that mattered is that it was new. And consumers would buy the new Corvette because it was new, because who can bear the shame of driving an “outdated” model? Planned obsolescence has been a part of American manufacturing ever since. It remains most useful when a manufacturer is trying to prevent its product from reaching “market saturation”, or the moment when suddenly everyone has a car or smartphone, and so there is no demand for the product left.
It seems that nobody in the 21st century has mastered this grift as well as Apple, which releases a new iPhone every year.
To say that Apple intentionally degrades older iPhone’s speed, or the smartphone version of a Corvette’s break lights exploding from a sudden volt increase, is not quite fair (at least not yet). Sure, it is frustrating that Apple has adopted a business model that favors new software over making a product that lasts. But, hey, how else are you going to compete with superior products in a saturated market?
(full disclosure: every one of my devices is from Apple).