No, the stack of iPhones pictured above is not mine but it represents several iterations of the popular smartphone since its launch almost a dozen years ago. During that time Linda and I have owned exactly TWO of those models: the iPhone 5 that we bought in 2012 and the iPhone SE that we bought this year right before Apple discontinued it. And we kept the former as a backup for the latter since it still works okay.
Now, I am a longtime user of Apple gadgets and have owned more than a dozen of their devices over as many years, including four iPhones, three Macs, three iPods, two iPads, one Apple TV, and several other peripherals. And as anyone who owns Apple stuff knows, it does not come cheap. So that is why Linda and I still own and use eleven of the thirteen products listed above, some from as long ago as 2005.
Okay, so why am I sharing this here? Because as a minimalist, I think it is important to resist the materialist pressures (from producers and peers) to continually consume more and more stuff. While we may not be able to stop companies such as Apple from building planned obsolescence into their product cycles we can limit its influence upon our purchasing decisions by refusing to participate in the scheme. And quit trying to keep up with the Joneses!
According to Wikipedia, planned obsolescence is the policy of designing a product with an artificially limited useful life so it will become obsolete after a certain period of time. The rationale behind the strategy is to increase sales volume by reducing the time between repeat purchases. And it tends to work best when a company has a superior market position like Apple does with its pricey gadgets.
In his book The Waste Makers, social critic Vance Packard outlined the three prongs of planned obsolescence. The first is obsolescence of function and the second is obsolescence of quality, neither of which is necessarily applicable to Apple. But it is the third variety of planned obsolescence we must face: the obsolescence of desirability. This refers to the intentional process of making the newest version of a product marginally more desirable than its predecessors.
The Waste Makers was written more than 50 years ago, but it is as potent today as it ever was. As Packard presciently observed, “All the emphasis on style tends to cause the product designers and public alike to be preoccupied with the appearance of change rather than the real values involved” [emphasis mine]. And he delivered that warning long before Apple sold more than one billion iPhones, as it has to date, or became the first trillion-dollar company. So, shop wisely!