Did you notice your old iPhone changing recently? The battery might drain just a bit faster. Everything chugs along at a sluggish pace making your phone, this extension of your social and professional life, barely operational. You aren't alone, and it could be Apple's new strategy.
Apple just recently released iOS 7 and OS X Mavericks, their latest mobile and desktop operating systems filled with fancy new features. Especially with iOS 7, some users have noticed a significant difference in their iPhone's performance since upgrading. Apps randomly shut down, the battery dies quickly, and it's generally made using old iPhones a headache. Maybe you had to use one of the many guides to maximizing your iPhone's battery life after upgrading, like the "11 Tips to Keep iOS 7 From Destroying Your Battery Life," from Gizmodo's Eric Limer. The New York Times Magazine's Catherine Rampell thinks this adds up to some evidence Apple is practicing "planned obsolescence." It's an old business strategy that dates back to at least the Great Depression. A company wants to make its old products obsolete by a certain period so you'll upgrade to their latest offerings.
The theory is easy to see in Apple's release schedule: iPhones are on a bi-yearly cycle now, so every two years Apple wants the market to turn over as much as possible. Apple wants you to abandon your old iPhone 4, or iPhone 4S, or even the iPhone 5 and choose to buy the iPhone 5S or 5C instead. The iPad's release schedule is even worse, with new upgrades coming out every year. The new iPads are nearly identical to the new iPhones, and the new iPhones lack many features found in rival smartphones. Apple used to avoid accusations of planned obsolescence like this with innovation. Now they can't, says Rampell:
In the past, consumers were so excited about the cool new features, like Siri, the voice-activated interface, that they may not have minded (or even noticed) if their old phones started to deteriorate; they planned on upgrading anyway. This time around, that’s less true. The iPhone 5S and 5C offer fewer quantum improvements. Consumers are more likely to want their old phones to continue working at peak condition in perpetuity, and to feel cheated when they don’t.
Old Apple products used to have a reputation for lasting longer than PC products, outliving their durability without sacrificing technical strength. But as the company grew, as more people drank the kool-aid, and product launches became more frequent, the overall quality of phones, computers and other Apple products noticeably slipped.
So what's missing, what's different, what's causing the company to change so drastically? Well, there's the loss of Steve Jobs, for one, the old CEO who thrived on making new products people would voraciously consume. It's hard to argue his absence isn't felt every time new CEO Tim Cook comes on stage to introduce a moderately upgraded new product. Arguably the biggest innovation Cook has given us is a pretty trash can. But some, like The New Yorker's Nicholas Thompson, who also noticed Apple's recent lack of luster, think Cook deserves more time to grow. "Cook surely deserves more than a year to show that he can make something spectacular," he wrote recently. "It is noteworthy, however, that he hasn’t done so yet."
Others think Rampell is just frustrated and, most importantly, kinda wrong. Everything sucks, argues Gizmodo's Brian Barrett:
I don't doubt that Rampell is coming from a place of genuine frustration. But it's misinformed, and worse, misleading. Technology becomes obsolete. Batteries don't last forever. That's not exclusively Apple's problem, nor is it exclusively Apple's fault. And the only thing busting your phone is the steady march of progress.
So there's that, too.
Still, Apple hasn't been behind the eight-ball in years. Not since the dark ages, when Microsoft reigned as the biggest tech company in the world. There are cracks in the armor, sure, but that happens when you're the king. Whether this is the end of an era, a sign of an empire about to crumble, well, it's too early to say. My old iPhone sucks, though; that's the real issue.