Planned Obsolescence: How Long Does Your Tech Truly Last?


Has your device ever stopped working out of the blue? You’ve done all the maintenance, made necessary updates, and kept it in good physical condition. You try everything to resurrect your device, but it won’t come back to life. It seems more apparent every day that tech and other manufactured goods aren’t as long-lasting as they used to be. Some say it’s due to a lack of resources, but what if the eventual decay of your device happens by design?  

Planned obsolescence is a business strategy of purposely creating a product that becomes difficult to repair, irrelevant, or replaceable with a newer model within a certain period. By shortening the replacement cycle, manufacturers can capitalize on the consumers’ desire for newer, more functional products. So how long should your tech truly last?   

3 Types of Planned Obsolescence  

There are three main ways in which manufacturers can achieve planned obsolescence:  

  • contrived durability  
  • software updates  
  • prevention of repair  

The goal is to make you buy the same products repeatedly, expecting the newer product to last longer than its predecessor.   

  1. Contrived Durability 

Contrived durability is the most common form of planned obsolescence. It happens when parts within the device break or slow down intentionally. Manufacturers make their products with features they know will fail and products they know you will buy again.   

For instance, smartphone manufacturers know their products have become such staple necessities in people’s lives that they will immediately be replaced when they break. There are many other examples where a product will break down, and a consumer will buy a replacement, often a slightly newer model. Unreliable parts are almost always to blame.  

  1. Software Updates 

Your printer stopped working, and you’ve tried to update your drivers to get it to do something. Still, it will not print. You do some digging and find that your printer is no longer compatible with your updated operating system. There’s nothing to do except buy a new printer. In addition to having unreliable parts, a lack of software update capabilities can drive consumers to throw out an old product and buy a new one.  

Many otherwise good products can fall victim to software updates. Think about your smartphone. It works fine; you can call, text, and use a bunch of apps, but after numerous updates, you find that your smartphone can’t handle it anymore. You may also find that the most recent software updates are no longer compatible with your phone. There is nothing to do other than buy a new phone.  

  1. Prevention of Repair 

If you own a modern smart device, you know how hard it can be to repair or replace a part. While this is done mainly for security purposes and warranty protection, it falls under the prevention of repair. For example, if you want to replace a battery on a newer device, you may need special tools to unscrew screws, making it more challenging to repair your device.  

Lowered battery performance and prevention of repair often go hand in hand. And with smaller, thinner phones trending in the market, you may not even be able to access the battery to replace it at all. While this can improve the performance and look of a phone, you will eventually find your device stuck with an aging battery that cannot keep up. Because obtaining a new battery is rarely a choice, replacing an entire device is often the solution.  

Keeping Your Devices Healthy  

While planned obsolescence exists, your device's lifespan also depends on how you treat it. Taking proper safety precautions and preventative measures like using safety cases, performing regular cleanings, and scheduling timely updates can extend the life of your favorite electronics. 

Our team at SeedSpark is equipped with tools and resources that can help our clients prepare for the inevitable time when their devices bite the dust. Contact us below to schedule a free 30-minute technology assessment. Our team will spend time learning more about your technology, your business, and opportunities for improvement. 

Written by Kevin Kuhlman

As SeedSpark's Social Media & Content Specialist, Kevin takes pride in managing the online social presence of SeedSpark and their clients.

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