For many, Apple is one of the most notorious obsolete technology offenders in the tech space today. Critics like tech influencer Geoffrey Fowler believe this is intentional, citing a mountain of evidence with the AirPods as proof.
In the following article, we’re going to be looking at some of the reasons Apple is (probably) doing this to us on purpose. First, however, it’s important to understand why technologies are made to become obsolete intentionally. There are three primary reasons.
To Create More Demand
Believe it or not, some find the incredibly disappearing lifespan of a product to be a point of attraction. Companies like Apple that have done amazing things in the tech space get mileage out of the idea that their products are so powerful there has to be a trade-off.
In other words, these products are miraculous, but miracles take power. While the technology is there to create this wonderful, amazing experience, it still has its limitations. (By the way, we’ll work out more of those limitations with the next more expensive model!)
To Generate More Revenue
Sadly true but companies also intentionally make their products obsolete to create more revenue. They can do this in a variety of ways.
They do it by selling warranties (in Apple’s case). They do it by offering replacement models in a year or two. They do it by accessorizing the accessory, as in Apple’s “standard” and “wireless” charging cases available for the AirPods.
Last but not least, they can do it by licensing. Every time a third-party product supports an Apple product, there is a kickback of some kind to the company.
To Work Out Kinks
So far, the reasons are pretty sneaky but don’t get too discouraged by these companies. Not all their reasons lack altruism.
There are times when the technology really does need work, but the idea is so good and “ready enough” to push out to the public. As LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman is so often quoted as saying, “If you’re not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.”
Launching a ready-for-market product that isn’t perfect allows a company to collect consumer feedback and come back stronger with 2.0. They also might be able to make free updates to the existing product that makes consumers feel better about their purchases.
Now that we’ve covered the primary motivations behind creating obsolete technology, let’s look at the reasons AirPods are, in all likelihood, intentionally this way. There are six reasons altogether.
1.Apple Has No Battery Replacement Strategy
There are many planned obsolescence examples out there, but AirPods are among the most obvious because Apple really doesn’t have a clear battery replacement strategy. As Fowler pointed out in his takedown (linked above), consumers can’t replace the lithium-ion batteries on their own without tearing up the product.
The company claims they’ve made them long-lasting. However, you don’t have to search far for unhappy customers talking about their AirPods going out in 12-18 months. A $159 price tag can come across as pretty insulting when you don’t even get a full two years out of the product.
2. Apple Warranties Do Not Benefit Consumers
The product design of Apple products is great, but longevity not so much. Looking at Apple’s extended warranties, which don’t go beyond two years and cost extra, lend credence to this.
It’s usually around this time that moderately used AirPods start to give out. When that happens, it can be difficult or close to impossible getting the needed support from Apple for a full replacement.
3. Other Apple Accessories Offer Pretty Convincing Circumstantial Evidence
Dying batteries on AirPods are not the only issue with native Apple accessories. The Guardian has a full list here. The point is that many cheaper third-party products that support Apple sell better, last longer, and offer a greater customer experience.
AirPods dying after just two years of use? It wouldn’t be the first tale of woe from Apple consumers, and it probably won’t be the last!
4. Apple Is Not The Only Repeat Offender But Is Among The Worst
Apple has received much praise for the noise-canceling aspects of their AirPods, but the cheap plastic used to make the bodies of these products is less durable. Add to that the fact that it’s not at all what we’re used to from the company’s phones and other products, and it doesn’t inspire much confidence.
Now it looks like we’re picking on Apple here, and maybe we are. They are not the only company that builds in a limited product life to their products. Still, they’re one of the worst and all you have to do is read customer reviews on online retailers or their own platform to figure that out.
5. Apple Has Been Vague
When Fowler took the question to Apple directly, the company was very vague in its response and did not confirm or deny when posed with the question of whether two years was the product lifespan. “Long-lasting” was the only response.
Unfortunately, long-lasting is relative to how often you use the product. Is it heavy usage, moderate use, what is it? Apple side-steps these questions and instead promotes the next product.
6. Apple Designs AirPods for Their Ecosystem
Look up something simple like how to connect AirPods to MacBook compared to Android, and you’ll see that everything is more difficult when you take Apple products out of their ecosystem. The company wants you to use nothing but Apple from the hardware to the cloud storage.
While it can seem counterintuitive to take it out on their customers, there is an adage in business that you can treat your customers poorly if your product is good enough and have them coming back for more. (Soup Nazi, anyone?)
Obsolete Technology Frustrates Consumers
Yes, obsolete technology frustrates the consumers forced to deal with it. However, it hasn’t stopped Apple or others from becoming billion-dollar companies, so why would they change now?
Keep this in mind if you plan on picking up a pair. For more technology info, tips, and advice, check out some of our additional posts!