Is Apple busting your iPhone?

The New York Times' Catherine Rampell asked if Apple is trying to bust your iPhone to get you to upgrade. While it may benefit Apple – and every other company – to make old products obsolete, there are bigger forces at work.

Is Apple busting your iPhone?

The writer wondered if the new iOS 7 was purposely designed to drain battery life to force users to upgrade to a newer iPhone. The proof? Well, there isn't any.

I also own an iPhone 4S. I haven't been satisfied with the battery life either so a year ago I got an add on battery case. Now I get a full days use.

Planned obsolescence
Perhaps planned obsolescence is part of Apple's strategy. But looking back on 75 years of obsolete computer equipment – and automobiles, appliances, careers, phone systems, medical equipment, and political ideologies – obsolescence is broader than a single company.

In fact, what many call planned obsolescence is seen by others as smart engineering. If a product is going to be thrown out or recycled why over invest in one part when some other part will cause it to fail? Ideally, every part and a product would wear out and fail on exactly the same day. That is maximum efficiency.

Moore's Law and obsolescence
Computer obsolescence is caused by the steadily improving economics of compute cycles, storage and networks. They all get faster and cheaper over time, making them powerfully attractive and economic at the same time.

We then invent applications to use the new power and performance that Moore's Law and other improvements bring. Often the most exciting apps will not run on existing older equipment. The product still does what it did when we bought it, but now we want it to do more. Whose fault is that?

At the same time the improved technology makes it possible to build more attractive equipment. Whether it's a smaller, lighter, brighter phone or a more energy efficient and powerful server, the new technology creates its own demand.

Correlation and causality
Obviously Apple benefits if many customers decide to upgrade every year or two. The phone companies agree as they now offer plans to enable the fashion forward to upgrade as often as every six months.

But looking at the computer industry as a whole it is clear that the churn created by new technology has benefited us all by enabling the big investments in design, engineering and manufacturing required to take computers from room size behemoths down to something you can hold in the palm of your hand. Correlation is not causality.

The Storage Bits take
Humans are excellent pattern recognition machines. Unfortunately, we sometimes see patterns were none exists.

This is one of those cases.

We live in a society where most economic activity is driven by consumer spending. Therefore, a large industry has grown up to help us spend.

Companies that build insanely attractive consumer products tend to do very well. Apple is a case in point.

And as long as they continue to build great products people like The New York Times writer will seek ways to justify buying them. Blaming Apple – or any company – for our desire for the latest and greatest isn't realistic. The fault does not lie in the stars but in us.

I see the benefits of the iPhone 5S, but I'm in no rush to upgrade. That battery case on the 4S gives me the functionality I need. But gee! a quad-core processor, larger screen and fingerprint recognition? Sounds good!

Comments welcome, as always. A friend uses an eight-year-old cell phone. What is your favorite piece of "obsolete" technology that you still use today?