Monday, June 28, 2010

Planned obsolescence . . .

"  . . . is a policy of deliberately planning or designing a product with a limited useful life, so it will become obsolete or nonfunctional after a certain period. Planned obsolescence has potential benefits for a producer because to obtain continuing use of the product the consumer is under pressure to purchase again...The purpose of planned obsolescence is to hide the real cost per use from the consumer, who will be willing to pay a higher price for the product than if he had been aware of its limited useful life." - Wikipedia

Planned obsolescence is one topic I get really worked up about especially now as the rate of new gadgets entering the marketplace becomes dizzying. I've witnessed it firsthand on many occasions: 

iPod mini

I received this as a gift at my first job and I LOOOOVED it! At the time the iPod hadn't been out that long, and everyone in our office wanted one. I had set up a rep meeting for several of my coworkers and when no one showed up but me, I won the iPod by default. It was originally green, but I took it back to the store for a pink one. Anyway, two days after the warranty expired the following year it died. I couldn't believe it! It just wouldn't turn on anymore. I took it back to the Apple store, and I was calm, but frustrated. The customer service rep sympathized with me and gave me another one. 

I haven't owned any other Apple products, but after going through 4 iPods I do see how their headphones always break after a short amount of time. For such a pricey product they make the cheapest headphones, probably to get us to buy more expensive ones which I always end up doing (not from Apple though). 

With all the problems going on with the new iPhone4 it appears that these companies are in a rush to get products out without testing their viability or shelf-life. I'm sure there's already an iPhone5 in the works, but Apple is so adept at their advertising and knows how many of us are suckers for their sleek products that we just keep playing into the vicious cycle. To be honest this psychological cycle is what first sparked my interest in advertising that I decided to make a career of it. 

MailMate Shredder

I received this about 3 Christmases ago from my parents - yes, I had actually asked for it and was so excited when I got it. Well, this past fall it broke out of the blue. It completely stopped shredding. Uka took it apart and found it was singed on the inside. Unsurprisingly, it was outside of the warranty period so there was nothing we could do about getting a replacement from Staples so we ponied up the cash and bought a new one (a different brand) on We'll see how long it lasts  . . .

Cell Phones

I've had a really rough time with cell phones over the years. Granted, some of the issues were my own fault: I dropped one in the toilet, I spilled tea on another, I dropped one behind my radiator, etc. Nonetheless, there are other issues I've had with just poor service in general, phones breaking for no reason (including buttons popping off and chargers dying) and batteries that need replacing. I totally get why the cell phone companies plan for these things making us slaves to contracts and continually hoping that the next new release or software update will atone previous issues. I can't understand why they just can't put together a phone that has all the kinks worked out and tested before pushing it to market and make a phone that has longevity! 

I remember my first phone was a Nokia and I had that for a good 3 years. It worked very well, but it was a clunker. The Motorola Q (pictured above) was going to be my "business phone" as I wanted to look professional, but I quickly learned that the battery only lasted until lunchtime. Ugghhh. 

I was totally against getting a BlackBerry, but I ended up getting the Pearl not only because it was pink - like the iPod mini- but because I decided I didn't want to look to business-y. Now that the Pearl failed me and I have the violet 8530 that I posted about here, the signal strength is appalling. Everyone talks about how Verizon has the best coverage and if that's so, why can't I talk in my own apartment? I have huge windows throughout my apartment but suffer from dropped calls constantly. I'm in the midst of a battle with them for early termination. If I win I'll end up switching to T-Mobile who has awful call quality but better prices and better service (Uka uses them so I witness his call completion firsthand). I'll be sure to post an update . . .

Dell Inspiron 5150 Laptop

This awful product is last as it's caused me the most headaches. Uka warned me years ago not to buy a Dell, but I was so scared to get an Apple, which I hadn't used since elementary school, so I didn't. Man, I wish I had listened to his advice.

I had a PC in college and in 2005 I transferred all my data from it to this laptop. It took forever to figure out how to do this on my own. Since, that time, it had started running slowly so Uka increased my RAM. I also had problems with the battery so I had it replaced. But the worst happened in 2007. I had sent my Dell back for some type of repair in 2007, and a few months later before I went to Las Vegas in September (when Uka and I got engaged) I remember I packed it away safely in my bedroom closet as there was a possibility that workers would be coming into my apartment while I was gone. When I returned from Vegas a week later I found that my laptop would not turn on. It turned out that the hard drive had crashed. There was no warning signs ever. 

I blamed Dell as they were the ones to last have my computer and should have known something was going to happen or that it was on its last leg. They're also the worse with customer service as they outsource everything to India. I had to write many a squeaky wheel e-mail telling them that I needed to speak to a native, English-speaker who wasn't reading off a script. I ended up taking the laptop to a repair shop in Midtown and they were unable to recover my data, but I still have hope that it can be recovered someday. The repair company explained to me that Dell puts the cheapest, most unreliable hard drives in its computers. Now I know, and I've also learned my lesson about backing up my data.

I had my PC for years longer than my laptop, and I never had issues like I had with the Dell. For a reasonable price the repair shop gave me a new hard drive, but thinking back to those nearly 10 years worth of data on my old hard drive makes me sad. Now it's my understanding that unless it's actually burned and melted, data's never really lost. We'll see. This computer continues to annoy me, and I'm praying for the day that I can get the new MacBook Pro 13":

Oh, and by the way, don't EVER buy a Dell.