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Spartan Shield

The student news site of Pleasant Valley High School

Spartan Shield

The student news site of Pleasant Valley High School

Spartan Shield

Planned obsolescence in a world of remote technology

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Luke Eckman
An Apple Macbook and iPhone both capable of receiving remote updates.

Oftentimes companies will try to limit their products’ lifespan by making it obsolete over time. This strategy, called planned obsolescence, increases the sales of a business by forcing customers to repeatedly buy new products to replace their old, obsolete ones.

While planned obsolescence certainly helps businesses monetarily, it can be ethically questionable. 

Planned obsolescence used to mean selling a product with decreased durability, or making it obsolete by introducing a new, feature-packed product. However, in the 21st century, planned obsolescence has evolved to include updating devices after they have been sold to reduce their performance and functionality.

Nowadays, large corporations have more control over the functionality of our everyday devices than ever before. With the ability to remotely update software on purchased consumer products, companies like Apple can affect the performance of older devices without physically touching them. 

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Remote updates are often used for the benefit of the customer. They can help fix previous software bugs or add new features to devices all without the customer having to do anything. However, they can also be used for the benefit of the corporation at the expense of the customer. 

In 2020, Apple settled for $113 million over allegations that their software update caused reduced performance and battery life in their older model iPhones. Apple purposely did this to encourage customers to buy their newest smartphone models.

Many people were directly affected by Apple’s update. “I used to have an older iPhone that I noticed started moving slower and not loading as quickly. I just thought it was because the phone was old, but now that I realize it started happening right after I installed a new update,” said a PV student.

While this software update most likely boosted the sales of Apple’s latest model at the time, it certainly brought negative publicity towards Apple. 

Many consumers are now concerned about their other products with remote-updating capabilities, especially since plenty of these products are significantly more expensive than an iPhone. Electric cars like Tesla’s can also receive remote updates from the manufacturer. 

Theoretically, Tesla could render their millions of cars inoperable with one remote software update. While this practice would run into various legal and moral problems, it would be physically possible.

There are also many reasons why consumers might be able to trust companies like Tesla more than Apple. “I don’t believe that Tesla will do something purposefully to downgrade their cars. With a phone, like in Apple’s case, it is much different because there are no lives depending on the functionality of the device like there might be in certain scenarios with a car,” said a PV student.

The power technology companies have over their sold products is undeniable. With a single update, these corporations can completely transform their products for better or for worse.

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About the Contributor
Luke Eckman, Photo Manager
Luke Eckman is a Senior at PV and is the Photo Manager for the Spartan Shield. Luke hopes to continue his education by studying to be an aerospace engineer in college. He enjoys taking classes like Calculus 3, and AP Physics 2, due to his love of engineering. You might see Luke running around town with the Cross Country team, and he also participated in the Trap Shooting Club. He is also an Eagle Scout who loves the outdoors, and he enjoys skiing, hunting with his friends, and biking local trails. Luke continues his love of biking by working at Healthy Habits bike shop. He also can't wait to work with the journalism team on the Spartan Shield this year!
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