Planned obsolescence is the practice of manufacturing consumer goods deliberately designed to have a specific, usually short, lifespan. There are many ways to practice planned obsolescence in the marketplace. For example, a manufacturer may use ingredients that will not last or discontinue the supply of spare parts needed to repair the product. The design of the product is made in such a way that the consumer develops the need for it. Now, due to the lack of spare parts present in the market or due to the release of a better version of the product by the company, the consumer is bound to find the old product unappealing. Obsolescence, as such, is not only present in the decisions of the manufacturer but is also created in the state of mind of the consumer.
The first requirement for planned obsolescence to work and be effective is to create the mindset that the consumer is getting what they pay for with the product. Additionally, the consumer must have confidence in the manufacturing company to want to replace the original product with a superseded version from the same company.
A good example of this is a mobile phone. These are designed with current technology in mind, although the manufacturers may have already developed very advanced technology with them. The phone is therefore bound to become obsolete in the future. When the manufacturer comes up with another model with better features and functionality, the consumer will feel the immediate urge to opt for a new phone. Although the old phone is still in good working order, the consumer will still feel the need to upgrade to a newer model.
Planned obsolescence has both supporters and opponents and so there is an ongoing debate in this context. Let’s look at the pros and cons of this practice and decide for yourself whether the practice is good or bad.
The benefits of planned obsolescence:
There are several advantages to the situation and not everything is as bad as it seems. One of the main advantages of planned obsolescence lies in what is called value engineering. This is when companies use the fewest resources and the life of the product remains reasonable. This reduces the company’s cost of production, and the interests of consumers are also not hampered.
Japan is a good example. It is the country where the standard procedure is to design printed circuit boards out of paper and phenolic resin which are inexpensive in nature. The copper layers are also reduced in number. It reduces the cost of the business and does not harm the specifications of the products.
The other situation is planned functional obsolescence when there is a real reason to make the product obsolete in the market. Some telephone companies engage in the technique of functional obsolescence of their products. For example, consider a phone manufacturing company that devotes its resources and sufficient time to resolving software update issues. The problem this would have caused is stopping progress on the latest phone. There is a chance that the software upgrade will not work and then you would have to go back to fix the old model, which would take much longer. In such a situation, it is best to leave the phone on software that runs the phone efficiently and currently has no issues.
The disadvantages of planned obsolescence:
Planned obsolescence can be dangerous if consumers are pushed too far. Companies are actually risking a backlash by doing this. Online comments are filling with comments of displeasure. Complaints such as new software version not working, previous version no longer supported, new phones cannot be plugged into old chargers, old media player not playing new media collection, and other similar ones would certainly not seem foreign to you.
Consumers can only tolerate a while before they give up or decide to stick with the older version of the product that they were comfortable with. Companies thus risk losing consumers if they continue to push the customer too far to buy the updated version of the products. Sometimes the update is so apparent and tiny that it is easy for a person to spot the trick that has been applied.
There are also several environmental downsides to this. Discarded products can accumulate and harm human health and can also harm the environment.
So what do you think? Is planned obsolescence good or bad? Well, like everything else, anything done within the limits is good, but when the limits are crossed, it’s definitely bad. What should be done then? Raising consumer awareness seems to be the best, and apparently the simplest, way to resist the harmful effects of planned obsolescence. Consumers, for the most part, aren’t even aware that such a thing exists. Many consumers know little about how a product works, so it’s asking too much of them when it comes to knowing the difference between planned obsolescence and true innovation. The demerits of the problem can therefore be controlled with awareness. As long as planned obsolescence does not harm consumers, it can be accepted. But when it comes to granting unilateral benefits to corporations while pushing consumers to the brink, this is certainly a mistake and should be addressed.