A (NOT SO) TINY TECH RANT

There have been some reports recently raising hysteria over the possibility that Apple build planned obsolescence (the idea that the product will fail after a certain period of time, thus forcing you to purchase a new one) into its offerings. I find this a little irritating, because quite honestly: all manufacturers do this, otherwise they would not be able to keep releasing products and staying in business. Here’s why I think we should ease up on the complaints about this:

The cost of R&D for these devices (phones, tablets, laptops, etc.) is colossal, so it’s simply unfeasible to expect any company to put out one or two devices –the absolute best they can come up with– and then shut up shop to let some newer, more innovative company take the spotlight for a while. The cost of research and development of next year’s iPhone isn’t coming from this year’s phone: it’s coming from two or three versions ago.

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Planned obsolescence in its basest form is simply not releasing the most cutting edge available tech to their users. Every single tech company does this. Every one. Not just Apple. It’s how they stay in business. They need new products in the pipeline to stay alive. So we accept that as a natural function of a business, right? Okay. That’s one complaint dealt with.

Beyond that, though, is the concern that older phones and tablets are “slowing down” as newer models are released. Well, if Apple were doing that, it would be a little shitty, yes. Some of the reports seem to be implying that Apple are sneaking into people’s phones in the dead of night and making them work badly. The thing is, Apple aren’t doing that. The users are doing that.

Every time Apple release a new OS, people will quickly download it to their devices if possible– even if their devices are several generations old. There are usually vitriolic complaints that the new software only supports the most recent three or four generations of hardware. People are putting 2014 software on devices from 2010, and complaining that they can’t get an update for their 2008 devices. This right here is the problem.

New software is optimised for new hardware. Of course it is; why wouldn’t it be? The software developers are eager to take advantage of hardware leaps which allow them to do things they weren’t able to achieve before now because the hardware held them back. When a new product is released, you don’t want it to be “just as good” as the old product, you want it to be better, right? (Unless, like me, you are resistant to change, which is fair enough. I personally would prefer speed over bells and whistles– if it were up to me, I’d keep improving the hardware without improving the software, so my device would do less, but do it faster and better. I find that’s something of an unpopular opinion, though.) When products aren’t considered better than their predecessors, they don’t sell, and the public generally complains.

In order to be “better”, the software is generally more demanding of its hardware. (Probably this shouldn’t be a thing, but in reality, it is.) On newer hardware, that’s fine. On older hardware? Not so much. The problems lies not in Apple attacking your devices, but in consumers demanding the availability for new software for old hardware. If it wouldn’t be the end of them, I’m pretty sure Apple would be delighted to no longer offer upgrades to new software for old devices– and you know what? If they did, that would be fine with me. I’m still running iOS5 on my iPhone 4S (I skipped both 5 models as there was nothing in the hardware to entice me to upgrade), and it works just fine.

homework

Think of it this way: imagine a six-year-old. The six-year-old takes thirty minutes to do a six-year-old’s homework, and everybody’s fine with that. Then suddenly you compare your six-year-old with an eight-year-old, and see that what the eight-year-old can do is much cooler. But you don’t have an eight-year-old. You have a six-year-old. So you bump your six-year-old up two grades, and give him the eight-year-old’s homework. Sure, the six-year-old can do it– but it’s going to take him an hour, where it used to take him thirty minutes. This is, effectively, what users are doing with their devices: forcing them to work at a level which they’re not designed for, and then complaining when their performance decreases.

Yes, there’s a certain expectation of update capacity given the high prices of these devices, but you can’t expect the old model to run as well as the new model, or there would be no point to the new model, the company wouldn’t release anything, it would go out of business, and then there’d be no iPhones for anyone in the future. (Which, if you’re an Android fan might be considered a good thing, but chances are if your only complaint about your Apple devices is that they don’t perform as well as the new models, this probably isn’t what you want.)

Basically what I’m saying here, I suppose, is give the tech companies a break. Don’t expect old devices to be able to do new things. Accept that when you buy a thing, it probably won’t be able to do much more in the future than what it can do on the day you buy it.

One of my all-time favourite expressions is, “Take what you want, said God, take it– and pay for it.” Apparently that’s an old Spanish proverb. I’m not a religious person, but that’s a concept I’ve always lived by, and it applies here as much as anywhere else. If you want the newest features and the coolest concepts, you can have them… But it’ll cost you, either in terms of speed (using older hardware), or in cash (upgrading to the newest model). That’s just the way life goes.

How do you feel about software upgrades for devices? Do you race to download them as soon as they appear, or do you cleave to your current version? Are you excited about the impending new iPhone, or could you just not care less? Drop me a line and let me know!
-A-

 

 

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