Apple’s IPHONE 5 – Obsolete Out of The Box.
Apple made the iPhone 4S available for pre-order on June 15th, 2010 and within the first 24 hours the company had received over 600,000 orders. When the phone was officially released on June 24th it topped 1.7 million purchases within three days.
As of 2011, according to an Apple press release, there were over 73 million iPhones sold throughout the world, with slightly less than 7 million of them active in the United States alone. Combined with the highly successful iPad, iPod and computer sales, its no wonder apple’s stock opened on June 22nd 2012, at 579.04. While the date is unconfirmed, rumors state that the iPhone 4S’ successor, the iPhone 5, will be released later this year.
Nine days ago, June 20th 2012, TechCrunch announced that Apple was in the process of changing their standard dock-connector from a 30-pin port to a 19-pin port, effectively nullifying every single iPhone accessory currently on the market. The announcement was made after analyzing stills from a leaked video comparing the older iPhone 4S and a prototype of the iPhone 5 side by side. The picture that everyone is buzzing about shows the phones held back to back with their bottoms pointed towards the camera. It is clear from the stills that the dock-connector has indeed changed.
The iPhone 5 is reportedly undergoing a massive design over-haul to be more compatible with a larger screen and more powerful hardware. In addition to the phone’s utilitarian values (lets face it, the iPhone, no matter which version, is head, shoulders and chest above any phone that came out before it) Apple products have long been touted as the best designed instruments currently on the market place. Yet, while Apple’s design is constantly evolving and the company continually makes their products faster, more powerful, and more battery-efficient, the shift from the standard 30-pin dock to the 19-pin dock doesn’t fall into the category of mere “design change”. So lets talk about another term: planned obsolescence.
I got my first MacBook when I began college. Actually, it’s the same computer I’m currently writing on. It has served me well for the past five years, but only because I have taken good care of it. But about two years ago, a funny thing started to happen: the track pad wasn’t working. I had owned the computer for about three years at that point, just long enough for the MacBook’s limited warranty to run out, and the track pad began missing where my fingers were directing the mouse. I consulted friends and the Internet to try and fix the problem. Turns out that after a period of time (about three years), the battery in the bottom of the MacBook begins to swell. It doesn’t lose its charge; it doesn’t keep the computer from working or over-heat. Instead, the swelling of the battery, when locked into the bottom of the computer, puts pressure on the device that tracks the motion of your fingers. The only way to fix it was to buy a new battery at over $150 or remove the battery and keep the computer constantly plugged in, effectively destroying the convenience of owning a laptop. As I began to search more, I found that this problem wasn’t uncommon, nor were other problems people experienced with their Apple products. It became clear, very quickly, that Apple’s products had a recurring theme: once the limited warranty ran out, the product stopped working and you were forced to either purchase an expensive replacement part or to replace the product at an even higher cost. Because they constantly introduce new merchandise with slightly better upgrades, most people choose to purchase a new product. Apple is banking on that.
Is this annoying? Of course it is, but the average consumer just rolls over and takes it. Why? Because planned obsolescence is nothing new.
A good friend of mine recently began doing work on genetically modified crops for a company that will go unnamed. Turns out the work being done on those crops is to ensure that over time (about one growing season) they actually become unable to produce more yield, and on top of that, don’t produce their own seeds. This means farmers have to keep purchasing their crops from the unnamed company, at an increasingly rising cost. Computers at this point are as ubiquitous as rice, and phones are even more so. Doesn’t it make sense, then, for Apple to be creating with the same principles in mind?
If this were limited to Apple, despite their sleek and suave design sense, the average consumer would purchase one piece, maybe two, catch on to their wily ways and then change brands. Isn’t that what proper capitalism is about? The power is in the consumer’s hands and if the company from which they are purchasing from, which gives them a brand guarantee, doesn’t live up to their standards then they switch companies and change brands. Unfortunately, as this country’s economy has grown, there is no longer any sort of brand guarantee. Instead, we have life-style marketing, and for that, Apple is king.
So the iPhone 5 is coming out with a smaller dock-connector, and it will force the consumer to purchase a whole new slew of peripherals, thus driving the add-on market, which is just as large, if not larger than the current market for Apple products. A capitalist would exclaim, “How wonderful it is that one product produces a hundred more and drives the free market like a man angry at his horse”, but a more sensible person would realize that something is just not right. Those peripherals that are being produced last far longer than the product they are purchased to amend. If you’re worried about the environment you worry about the amount of junk it winds up creating, which, while worrisome, is still not the real issue at hand.
The problem here is the realization that we have moved away from a product economy, and even from a service economy. We have crossed the threshold like unsuspecting newlyweds and found ourselves in the land of “lifestyle branding” and everyone reading should be worried. It literally means the destruction of the capitalist economy as we have been brought up to believe. Liberal or Conservative, you, dear consumer, must realize that the products you purchase now will wind up influencing where you are placed amongst our society for years to come. We are being led to believe that our iPhone makes us elite, when we’re only one of a hundred million others too blind to see that Apple is making a killing.
While we have entered that doorway locked in our lover’s embrace we still have a chance to say no. Do we need a revolution, or a boycott? Maybe, maybe not, but consumers should let Apple know that we are tired of this, and prove to them that consumers could do better, if we just took the time.
So if the rumors are true about the dock-connector, and on the day the iPhone is released we all find ourselves scrambling to buy new chargers and camera additions and speakers and, I think I even saw an iPhone megaphone, then we had all better do it with the knowledge that we let Apple do this to us. And unless Apple can give me a reason other than “new design advantages”, I might just buy a Droid. At least they still have Google Maps, and any company whose motto is “Don’t be Evil” is good by me.
The Bottom Line
Speaker amplifier: $20
Car Charger+ input cord: $35
Tripod Mount: $20
Speakers (iHome): $40-$100
(Optional) SLR Mount: $250
Total: Between $150 and $460