The iPad Air went on sale Friday and consumers with the old, heavier iPad may be wondering if they should spend the $499 to “upgrade.” One thing they are certainly hoping would never factor into their decision -- if their old device stopped working as a result of some contrived strategy by Apple (AAPL).
Such a tactic is called planned obsolescence and The New York Times economics reporter Catherine Rampell explores the theory as it could apply to Apple’s iPhone in this article appearing in the Times magazine.
She points out, for example, that the iPhone 5S and 5C models were released around the same time as iOS7, which happens to make the iPhone 4 and 4S “unbearably” slow – according to her experience and then corroborated by tech analysts she spoke with during her reporting.
To conspiracy-theory-hungry observers (and some of the rest of us), it might make sense that Apple would employ this business strategy. The tech giant, after all, has reached near-saturation levels in the U.S. smartphone market. If iPhones work forever, people who already own the devices won’t buy new ones. Furthermore, selling products with finite life spans can be good for consumers, depending on their tastes and how informed they are.
Already the column has attracted much attention, including critics dismissing her argument as solely "conspiracy theory" and "completely without hard evidence.”
In the accompanying video, Rampell talks to The Daily Ticker about the economic theories behind planned obsolescence as they might apply to Apple, and the reaction so far to her story.
Does Rampell think Apple does in fact plan for obsolescence? "I think it's a very open question," she tells us. "It's very ambiguous about whether Apple would be incentivized to actually cause your technology to break down, so you would have to buy new stuff."
She did call Apple about this story and they declined to comment. That leaves the open questions unanswered as to why exactly phone batteries are not easily replaced and products slow down as new hardware is released.
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