Everyone’s probably got a story about a product that performed over and above all reasonable expectations. The winter boots in the front closet that will not leak or wear out (however much you’d like to shed yourself of what is clearly a lost decade’s fashion in footwear).
Or your mother’s washer, still dancing its noisy solo dance in a corner of the basement, long after it should have suffered the spin-cycle equivalent of a broken hip.
Equally, we all have stories about planned obsolescence: the way a car glides to a stuttering and ungraceful halt in traffic, oil and engine lights aglow, mere weeks after the manufacturer’s warranty expires. Or the way computer viruses seem to be massing at the electronic gates if you ever have the temerity to forget to renew your antivirus subscription.
But there is, we submit, a difference between roof shingles failing, curled and cracked, as they approach their long-departed manufacturer’s guarantee of 25 years of lifespan, and having a roofer go onto your roof and rip out selected shingles so you might do repairs much earlier than you otherwise would have.
There have long been customer suspicions about Apple and older iPhones, because of the strange circumstance that older phones seem to slow down as new Apple products come on the market. One side benefit that would provide for Apple, if it was the case? Well, that it makes it all the more attractive for customers to move up to the latest and greatest.
Now, Apple has confirmed that its operating systems do actual slow down older phones — though the tech giant argues the change was made to benefit users, by helping to hold a charge longer in aging lithium ion batteries.
Apple may have a case: older lithium ion batteries do store less power as they age, and Apple did have issues with iPhones shutting down when peak power demands outstripped the ability of batteries to supply the necessary zap.
The problem, as with many things, is with transparency. Apple didn’t seem to feel it was necessary to start talking about how it was slowing its phones down (ostensibly for your own good) until others demonstrated publicly that the processer slowdowns were occurring.
Apple’s defence might be easier to believe if the slowdown had been sold that way up front, instead of being hidden from customers. It would have been better still if Apple had offered the slowdown to customers as a performance option.
It also might be easier to believe if it wasn’t for the way Twitter blossoms with comments about older phones magically using up their batteries at an ever-greater speed every time Apple upgrades iPhone operating systems.
We all know of products that deliver and products that fail.
But products that are de-tuned remotely and secretly?