Apple and planned obsolescence or lack thereof

“There’s a slightly strange piece in the NYT by Catherine Rampell arguing that maybe, just maybe, Apple is using planned obsolescence in order to get people to upgrade their iPhones,” Tim Worstall reports for Forbes.

“The thing is, it is actually true that there’s planned obsolescence in Apple’s iKit, as there is in all other modern day consumer electronics,” Worstall reports. “It’s just not that it is being planned by Apple or any of the other manufacturers.”

“With Apple’s iOS there have been advances of course: the new animations in iOS 7 can make a fair old call on chip processing. But it’s also possible to turn them off. There’s really very little software bloat in this OS,” Worstall reports. “But I do say that there is indeed planned obsolescence even if it’s not Apple doing it and that’s true. It all comes down to something called ‘tin whiskers,'”

Much more in the full article here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “JES42” for the heads up.]


  1. I’m still choked that my 386 clocked at 33MHz won’t run Windows 8. Stupid corporations are trying to force me to buy new so that I can run there advanced stuff. Give me 1 good reason why I can’t enjoy 64 bit goodness on the machine that I have?

      1. So don’t try to run Mavericks. What is your downside? Very little.

        I won’t update my 4 year old laptop until at least 10.9.2, just to stay away from bugs anyway. But I will keep the old HD (& its clones) ready to boot the minute if I have a serious problem in Mavericks.

        1. There is a downside in terms of value of my machine and apps that I cannot run. I’ve got high-end not-too-old hardware that can’t run Apple’s latest software. If I want to run the latest Logic Pro (and probably many other apps), I need an OS newer than Snow Leopard.

          If you take a Mac to the Apple Store for service, they won’t touch it if it is more than three years old.

          Apple is quick to drop support for its products. There is no denying this fact.

          1. So update your machine to lion! Apple just started selling it again on there online store. And get on with life. All of apples pro apps will run on lion 10.7.5. I have current versions of aperture, and final cut pro x and they run fine on my 6 year old mac pro 1,1.

          2. George, take solace in the fact that OWC upgrades will keep your computer running well for a few more years (at least, if you don’t need the highest horsepower machine).

            The sad fact is, practically all Apple software for the Mac since Snow Leopard has been bloated or crippled.

            Moreover, Apple has done a poor job attracting new developers to the Mac platform. On the contrary, outfits like Quicken sell stale, de-contented Mac ports of Windows programs. Microsoft dominates the Office software on the Mac, and for good reason. Apple has alienated Adobe, so don’t expect them to ever play nice again with the Mac. Many professional audio and video firms still run Mac computers, but increasingly they are booting Windows 7 for the latest and best professional software. And as it always has been, practically any CRM, business, database, or technical software on the planet is Windows native, not offered for the Mac at all. The only hugely optimistic news on the Mac software front in 5 years was that AutoCAD finally came back to the Mac.

            You are not missing out on much critical software releases, and Snow Leopard remains the very best version of OS X for anyone with a machine more than a few years old.

            We can only hope that Cook comes to his senses and redoubles his efforts in expanding the Mac platform. Frankly, his accomplishments thus far have been EXTREMELY disappointing to professional Mac users.

        2. … have a group that meets weekly. Recently “old age” (she’s younger than I am) struck down one of our members and it will be a while before she can join us F2F again. So … we tried conferencing. Well, we started with trying video conferencing. THAT wasn’t going to work. Her PowerMac was just too old! We did manage to get voice conferencing going – with Skype. Yeah … I know … MSFT. None of the other options seemed to work. WTF!
          Still … a computer’s age can matter.

      2. I thought you were kidding but I see you are certainly correct. It seems ridiculous but I guess there is more to it than pure processing power. I guess peripheral hardware specs are too low or non-existent to make it worthwhile. Still, your Mac Pro isn’t actually obsolete because Snow Leopard is pretty decent as an OS for you to use with it. You have to realize Apple doesn’t really have legacy hardware to protect. You want Mavericks, then it’s time for you to upgrade your hardware.

      3. If you paid $5k for a system, it is still running, and still pretty zippy I bet.
        My guess is you made a lot of money off that system yes?
        How long do you expect to run a system?
        My windows based PC’s don’t really last much longer than 5 years – and i am sure the systems at that time probably won’t run windows 8.1? (especially 64bit!)

          1. What can’t you run? I have a 6 year old mac pro and I’m running lion 10.7.5 and have iCloud and all the advantages that come with it. The only thing I don’t have is airplay from my mac. I have the current version of aperture and final cut pro x and both run on my machine without moutain lion or mavericks. As do all of apples pro apps.

  2. This article at least confronts some of the issues of modern consumer electronics, and counters the ridiculousness of the original NYT article that it criticizes.

    Components, particularly batteries, have a limited lifespan. They don’t work as well over time. Batteries don’t hold a charge as long. That’s nothing new; I still remember shopping for StarTac replacement batteries at Circuit City!

    But neither notes that Apple actually does more to keep older iPhones working than any other phone manufacturer. Software updates keep old iPhones up with new features (no Android phone maker even provides incremental bug fix updates easily or regularly). My iPhone 3GS works great today, although I don’t have mobile service for it (I could if I needed to). It runs iOS 6, and is a bit slower than my 4S, but that’s expected. It’s not like I have to stop using it just because a new model comes out.

    This “planned obsolescence” has a sinister ring to it, when in reality what Apple is doing is creating new features and improving hardware for those new features so consumers can do more things with their iPhones. And Apple knows that people are hard on their iPhones: they drop them on the ground and in water, they scratch them, they don’t optimally charge them, they get left in hot cars or in the sun or cold, etc. etc.

    Stuff wears out. Just ask your couch.

    1. You seem to think you are defending Apple when, in fact, you are reinforcing the article. Of course, batteries have a limited lifetime. That is why anybody who builds something to last utilizes replaceable batteries. Only a manufacturer striving for planned obsolescence would utilize non-replaceable batteries.

      1. Good thing, then, that Apple’s devices contain replaceable batteries, isn’t it?

        Just because they’re a bit harder/more expensive to replace than a pack of AA’s from the corner drugstore doesn’t change that fact.

    2. >no Android phone maker even provides incremental bug fix updates easily or regularly

      Not even that, but many Android phones still SHIP NEW out of the box with a VERY old version of Android.. (with no way to update, as you note)

  3. There is no real progress if we hold on to product sacred cash cows stultifying forward motion. Microsoft has proven the folly of this. Windows needed a radical overhaul years ago but the Redmond coward is afraid. And rightfully so. But sooner or later the chickens will come home to roost.

  4. Planned obsolescence in tech is a redundant concept. No matter what you build today, it will be obsolete fairly soon. If you don’t plan for it, your company dies. Pretty simple.

    Meat grinders and mailboxes may last 150 functional years, but not electronic gadgets.

  5. Good thing there’s no shortages of rare earths used to make these fancy electronics (sarcasm). And us users are always happy to give Apple endless money to buy new machines to do more or less the same tasks we were doing with the older machines.

    It seems that Apple wants to force OSX users to dumb down their computing so it will be iOS in a big box.

    Interesting that Apple waited until Steve Jobs was gone to sign up for the No Such Agency’s PRISM program.

  6. Well I know my iPad1 was made obsolete WAY too soon. 18 months after it was EOL they stopped supporting it (iOS 6 was released). Each iOS update made it slower and more sluggish specially in Safari. They really can’t code a web browser to live well under 256 MB of RAM ?

  7. It seems odd that your Mac Pro from 2007 won’t run mavericks when my iMac from the same year runs it just fine if not super fast. It also runs windows 7 pretty well. Do I want a new iMac? Absolutely! Will the one I have do the job until next year? Totally. Also, my 3 year old uses my wife’s old iPhone 4 as an iPod touch and loves it.

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