What is Planned Obsolescence and Why it Affects You?

Perhaps not everyone is aware of this strategy now adopted by almost all companies producing goods and services, despite the fact that it concerns us so closely when we buy a product to be introduced into our homes or used in daily life.

Planned Obsolescence

This is why I decided to tackle this thorny topic above all from a technological point of view because it is essential to understand how this strategy is profoundly changing our habits and in the long run it is compromising life on this planet.

The incandescent lamp

It all started with her di lei, or rather, the incandescent light bulb was the first victim of planned obsolescence. In 1924, the representatives of the main light bulb companies met in Geneva where they signed the Phoebus cartel an agreement in which they standardized the characteristics that incandescent lamps had to have (shape, socket, voltage …) and deliberately limited their duration to 1,000 hours of operation. Why did they limit the duration?

After purchase and subsequent installation, the bulbs had a very long lifespan and the manufacturing companies had low-profit margins. One of the most authentic testimonies of the longevity of an incandescent light bulb is that of the Fire Brigade barracks in Livermore (California), still functional from 1901 to today (a webcam transmits the light of the light bulb live on the web).

However, it should be noted that the light bulb mentioned is made with carbon filament, naturally more resistant than the current vintage LED filament bulbs or with tungsten filament (the latter no longer on the market since 2012).

What is meant by Planned Obsolescence?

There is talk of planned or otherwise planned obsolescence when you try to insert a “limited” time span as regards the life cycle of an appliance, an object linked to the world of technology, but above all mobile phones: tools most used in today’s world even by different generations.

Basically, if the smartphones or the different appliances we bought worked perfectly for 10, 15, 20 years, many companies would consequently find themselves forced to close or lay off staff, due to the lack of work due to the low amount of equipment sold.

Indeed, there is a real method introduced by companies to not allow (for example smartphones) to have a really long life.

Among the elements to be analyzed we find the use, in the production phase, of low-quality materials, software updates that cause the equipment to not work or simply lead the buyer to pay more for the repair of the product than what was spent purchase of the same.

Planned obsolescence, fines, and penalties

It is very difficult to believe that such a strategy could really be possible, especially if we see companies of the caliber of Apple or Samsung involved, also because they are the best-known companies and therefore obviously more exposed.

Planned Obsolescence Definition

In fact, in 2018, the Antitrust Authority punished the same companies precisely because of planned obsolescence. The reason is characterized by having induced its users to install new versions of operating systems (iOS and Android) for old devices and due to this update, they have experienced worse usage performance.

As we have seen several times in the advice on this site, updating to a Major release is never a good idea, especially if our device is not among the most recent, and therefore with the update, there could be consumption phenomena greater than battery.

Planned obsolescence causes pollution

Another element not to be underestimated as regards the use and replacement of smartphones rather than household appliances is linked to the pollution factor.

As we can see in the extract of this infographic, the greenhouse effect is leading to an increase in the temperature of the planet earth, with consequences that are now well known and under the eyes of all.

The greenhouse gas emissions are not caused only by transport (14%) or agriculture (24%), but also by industrial productions that reach 21% of emissions (source). So the production process of an appliance and therefore of a smartphone plays a fundamental role, which is combined with the increasingly substantial disposal due to the constant change of one’s mobile phone, which closes the circle precisely with programmed obsolescence.

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