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The Ethics of Apple

Jessica Burger, Writer

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September: the temperature is cool, leaves begin to fall, everything smells like cinnamon, and most importantly, Apple releases the newest addition to the iPhone family. The introduction of new innovative technology can be very pleasant and exciting, with one exception: you may notice the soon to be outdated iPhone 7,  beginning to fail. At first it’s not so bad:  performance time slows a little, occasionally the screen freezes, but nonetheless, it is still manageable. Fast forward a couple months later and now you have a real problem on your hands. Your phone’s battery life is ridiculously short and the charge drops by 5% every 2 minutes and shuts off whenever it pleases without even being directed to do so. The day has come. Your phone is dying. Time to empty those pockets and shell out $1,000 on the brand new iPhone X (or $800 on its sibling, the iPhone 8). Sure, it may have a couple new features, like a true depth camera, capable of facial recognition, but then again, who really needs that to text their Grandma or complain about the weather on Twitter?

Many people would go as far as accusing Apple of planned obsolescence, a market strategy in which a product is purposely designed to have a short life-span, thus requiring customers to purchase and replace frequently. Is this really the case though? There is no hard evidence to support this claim, however,  Apple does strongly encourage customers to upgrade on a yearly basis. For example, the screws on most iPhones are designed to be “tamper-proof,” meaning they are hard to remove. In an article written by Kyle Wiens titled “Apple’s Diabolical Plan to Screw Your Phone,” Wiens states, “Apple chose this fastener specifically because it was new, guaranteeing repair tools would be both rare and expensive.” This makes it very difficult for the consumer to make simple repairs, such as replacing the battery, without spending lots of money with Apple. At some point, expensive repairs are hardly worth it and most rational people would avoid the hassle of repairing an inferior product. Instead, they elect to purchase a new phone. 

Stepping outside of specific brands and viewing the industry as a whole, one will find that the Internet is littered with negative reviews from dissatisfied customers claiming their mobile phones, no matter the company, are deteriorating at a fast pace. In the article “Your Phone isn’t a Victim of Planned Obsolescence: Apple and Android Don’t Hate You” by Brian Exelbierd, an experienced and tech-savvy  I.T.  professional, it is made clear that an older phone’s sluggishness can be attributed to software updates that re-vamp the interface and enhance security. Taking Exelbierd’s expert opinion into consideration, in theory, a mobile phone would defy its expiration date if the user was somehow able to pick out the crucial updates, such as security fixes, and leave out frivolous features that are hard on operating systems. However, this brings us back to questioning the morality of our mobile phone manufacturers. They make it humanly impossible to update only the security and the bare necessities. Instead, you are forced to update all, not some, of the features when a new software update is released, effectively limiting the capability of your mobile phone in the long run.

One thing is for certain: Apple definitely does not go out of their way to improve the longevity or affordability of their devices. Yet, in defense of Apple, the American economy is based on consumerism and the tech world is no exception to this. It’s hard to justifiably criminalize a company for simply having clever business strategies that generate revenue. But the next time you find yourself spending absurd amounts of hard earned money on gadgets that you don’t really need,  be content with the knowledge that you are performing a basic civic duty: nurturing the economy.

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The student news site of New Milford High School, New Milford, New Jersey
The Ethics of Apple