Planned Obsolescence

“Beauty lies in things that last for a long time”

An ironic quote, if I do say so myself. Most of the things manufactured nowadays are considered as things of beauty, however the manufacturer intentionally include the biggest flaw ever in their product. Introducing Planned Obsolescence. For those who didn’t know the coined term, planned obsolescence is a term to describe things that only last for limited time and will be rendered useless after its lifetime (Bulow, 1986).

Let me give you a simple case: watches are designed that it will last forever (well, not literally, but for a very long time). LED TVs are designed to last for 10k hours, it is an industry limitation. Li-ion batteries are designed to have around 6000 battery cycles, it is an technology limitation. Smartphones, on the other hand, are somehow designed that it will obselete for 2 years at most, not because of hardware deterioration, but because of software update.

Let’s take a look on iPhone/iPad for example. Apple did release newer iOS for older generation devices, but at the great price: sluggish performance. If you upgrade the iOS, you get sluggish performance, but still can enjoy newer version of 3rd party apps that have been enhanced to suit the newer OS. Or, decide not to upgrade the iOS, and sooner or later, the support for that older apps will be removed at all. The solution: buy newer device.

Let’s take a look on LG/Samsung/Motorola/HTC non-Nexus devices. When newer Android version released, they won’t bother to support 2 years behind devices to include newer OS. They would just released newer devices included with newer OS. The impact: your device apps are obsolete and unable to communicate with the service because the service needed your apps to be updated. But, to update the apps, you need to update the OS. The solution: buy newer device, root your phone (not recommended).

The manufacturers do this on purpose, so that newer hardwares will replace the older ones then consumers are forced to buy the newer ones. Silly? Not really. It’s business, it’s their own business, and we are the victim of their business model. But really, we always have the urge wanting new things, and those companies play their hands right.

No smartphone is built to last forever. Not even Project Ara.
P.S.: I still love my watch, it’s still working even after 7 years.


  1. MacWorld: Why old iPhones become sluggish over time,
  2. Oxford Journal: An Economic Theory of Planned Obsolescence by Jeremy Bulow

Company Visit: Evening at Nightspade

Nightspade, a quite major game company founded by several of my seniors, is one of the emerging game studio in Indonesia. Yesterday, several representatives of Inkubator IT (including me of course) got a chance to visit the studio and had a sharing session with them.


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