Planned obsolescence

But the idea is that companies design products with a short life, like the pretty computers I see these days, with the shiny logos, the biblical half-eaten fruit and so on, pretty objects that are built to self-destruct, so you buy another in a few years, and another and another, and in that way you feed the insect empire, the insects in their insect suits, thinking insect thoughts with their sexed-up insect brains.

– Jeet Thayil, Narcopolis

This excerpt came to mind recently when I read about O2’s Charger out of the Box initiative. O2 are going to offer a micro-USB to USB cable instead of the usual phone-specific charger, to take advantage of the general trend towards standardised connectors. But even the Wired article above caveats that with ‘with the exception of Apple’s proprietary jack.’

That’s one of the things that frustrates me about Apple. Even the iPhone 5’s cable is now different from the rest of the iFamily, and so Apple users are forced to collect chargers rather than get rid of this mess of wires that people want to leave behind them. The EU is forcing Apple to sell an adapter to mitigate this problem, because even they realise how ‘how dumb it is for every smartphone not to use the same cable to charge and sync.’

In the end, I think¬†planning for obsolescence is regressive rather than progressive thinking, and companies who insist on thinking that way aren’t going to win the long game.

Brands like Hiut Denim that plan for longevity have a much more compelling and relevant story for our age. It’s tougher to translate that to electronics I agree, but it’s not impossible.

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