Planned obsolescence: a story of my iPhone

The picture above is of my iPhone after a one-foot fall, and it comes with a story attached. The moral of that story? Apple and those who work for Apple are evil. Maybe they’re not the most evil people on the planet, but they’re certainly up there, existing as the kind of evil that would likely explode into flames upon walking into a church (and no, Apple stores don’t count as churches despite the eerie number of similarities between die-hard Apple fans and cult members).

I used to be naive and innocent

Once upon a time, I had an iPod Touch, also known as an iTouch. It was a second generation model, and it worked flawlessly: all apps loaded quickly, and everything simply worked as it should. I loved the hell out of the thing and made love to it every night (that last bit might not be entirely accurate). That’s when iOS 4 happened. When my device was listed as compatible and I was prompted to update, I said yes, believing in my innocent naivete that the update would be a good thing. Fairies fluttered around me and I danced in meadows of roses as I watched the screen update my beloved iTouch. Oh, this new iOS version was destined to be such fun!

Apple brokeded it

It wasn’t fun, though. The update slowed down my iTouch to a crawl, causing all of my apps to slow down and crash (before and after updating the apps themselves). I could barely listen to a single song in Pandora before it crashed on me, and this always had a way of happening in the middle of good songs. My beloved iTouch had been iBadTouched and rendered worthless overnight.

Mine isn’t the first story like this, either; hundreds, probably even thousands of people have had their devices slow down and become less useful thanks to Apple’s irreversible updates. In my mind, there are only two things that have an excuse for being irreversible: murder and sex changes. I don’t know if that last one is truly irreversible, but it seems like it would be.

There’s really no reason why they would disallow reverting to previously-working versions other than to force their customers to buy a new device. They basically strip your purchased iThing’s value away from you when you update, forcing you to either get a new device or give up all of your purchased apps; the apps you’ve purchased are tied to your account and only work on iDevices, so they’re basically held ransom. Leaving Apple means losing all of them.

Then just don’t update, right?

That was the plan when I got my iPhone 4. The problem I’ve discovered is that many apps and app updates require iOS 5 or higher, which I of course refuse to download. This obviously leaves me with a conundrum: updating the phone means risking having it slowed down to a crawl, while not updating the phone means that a number of apps that I’m interested in (and would like to review for this site) aren’t available for my device. This is called planned obsolescence—companies conspiring to make their products useless after a certain amount of time in order to force you to buy more.

iOS 5 is required for some apps

Apple is the worst offender

Planned obsolescence isn’t exactly uncommon, but Apple takes it so far beyond other companies that it’s ridiculous. Again, I’ll refer you to the whole “apps being held hostage until you buy a new iShiny that’s actually capable of functioning with the new irreversible update” thing.

Beyond that, it’s worth remembering that iPhones weren’t always made of glass; they used to be made out of plastic, but the glass design makes them more breakable. I have zero doubt in my mind that this was a conscious choice that had many reasons behind it, just as I have zero doubt that the fragility of the phones was considered a perk of the glass design rather than a flaw. I’m less certain that they had a party complete with champagne and a bunch of fancy chandeliers to celebrate the douchebag who came up with the idea, but it adds enough drama that I’m tempted to believe it despite having absolutely no evidence.

In the long run, I got lucky—not only does my iPhone 4 still function after the back shattered (from a fall that could barely be called a fall), but the front is in pristine condition. Even better, if you’ll notice the shatter lines, none of the damage affected the phone camera or flash. It was probably the luckiest unlucky thing that could happen to an iPhone. I now have a protective case to cover up the damage to the back and hopefully prevent further damage, but that doesn’t change the fact that I’m locked out from certain apps because of my refusal to update.

Summary: Apple sucks

All they had to do was make sure that their updates worked with the devices they claimed were compatible with that update, but instead, you can find message boards around the internet littered with people whose iDevices (of all stripes) are suddenly slowed down to a crawl. This isn’t an accident, because this has been happening with Apple products for a long time.

Planned obsolescence is an ugly thing.

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