Apple is suckering you into upgrade culture

Or how Capitalism is bad actually

John Tabbernor // Community Relations Manager

With Apple, it’s always one more thing: a new phone, a new laptop, a new set of earbuds. And we always want more. Just. One. More. Thing. Apple’s latest keynote on Sept. 12 kicked off iPhone season. It’s that time of year when we all decide that last year’s models may as well be trash, slowly fermenting on the sidewalk on a hot summer’s day.

Apple even decided to accelerate this tradition by announcing not just the iPhone 8, but its 10th anniversary model, the iPhone X. It wouldn’t have been surprising if Tim Cook took a moment to tell us that he loves all of the iPhones equally. Don’t worry Tim, we know who the favourite is.

We could talk about the iPhone 8, but we won’t. It’s not the X, and why would we settle for less than the absolute pinnacle of technological achievement. This is by design. Hardware manufacturers like Apple knowingly engage in iterative engineering and yearly releases to create an artificial demand for devices we don’t need. You might ask what’s wrong with your existing phone? Well, Apple doesn’t really want you to have it anymore. Planned obsolescence refers to the built-in shelf life of most modern electronics.

Apple, along with most modern tech companies, achieves this by slowly iterating on hardware and software, while phasing out older models. If your technology becomes obsolete, you are forced to upgrade to maintain the same utility in your life. The upcoming version of Apple’s mobile operating system, iOS 11, will only work on iPhone 5s/SE models and above. Have an original iPhone 5 or iPad mini? Tough shit. Buy a new one. This type of software gatekeeping is a prime example of how tech companies render their own products obsolete and feed into upgrade culture.

Illustration by Jenny Oakley

Staying the course, Apple has completely revamped the form factor of its beloved smartphone with this latest iteration. In its biggest redesign since the iPhone 4, it ditches the home button along with the Touch ID system. In its place Apple has implemented a new facial recognition system that allows the user to unlock their phone just by looking at it.

This is nothing new in the mobile phone space, but Apple’s ability to control the minutiae of design and manufacturing allows them to add a layer of polish to this feature that doesn’t exist on any other device. That level of obsessive detail and precision has allowed Apple to garner its cult following.

But those details come with a steep price tag. The iPhone X will start at $1,319 CAD for the base 64GB model and peak at $1,529 for the 256GB model. This is staggering when taking into account that the base model of the MacBook Air laptop starts at $1,199. This premium price feels absurd when comparing the difference in functionality between the X and the 8, starting at $929. Though the X does feature some fancier bells and whistles, including an updated augmented reality kit, the everyday functionality for users will likely vary only in degrees.

Through its marketing campaigns, celebrity endorsements, and product placement Apple has been able to position their devices as not only fashionable and cool, but the must-have devices of the last decade. Popular culture and our mass media have also exacerbated this by glamourizing the yearly consumption cycle. This normalizes our willingness to dispose of our technology year after year and capitulate to the planned obsolescence that is built in by hardware manufacturers.

$45.6 billion. That was Apple’s net income last year. Not total income — net. Apple is the runaway train that capitalism laid the tracks for. Though they cannot be held entirely accountable for the existence of upgrade culture and the practice of planned obsolescence, Apple is clearly benefitting from the current state of affairs. Preorders for the iPhone X go live Oct. 27 and will begin shipping Nov. 3.

Oh, and there’s one more thing, none of these phones have a goddamned headphone jack anymore.

No Comments Yet

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.