Today is yet another instance in which Apple announces a new product, much to the delight and dismay of an adoring and dismissing public. At these events, Apple typically announces a new version of an existing device – in this case, most likely the iPad. Sometimes the new version is a striking improvement. Other times, it’s simply the addition of a few features that seemed inevitable in the first place. In either case, the news is met with grumbling from a number of people.

Why the grumbling? The charge is typically that Apple has a clear strategy: produce a technology, make you pay for it, and then produce a slightly better technology, make you dissatisfied with your current technology, and then make you pay for the new technology to replace it. It’s a vicious cycle of covetousness that never ends, and it’s all Apple’s fault.

Or is it? Look, Apple does one thing: they make better versions of existing products. This is the way of technology. The same thing happens in the realm of cars, computers, phones, videogame consoles and televisions. If you buy something with wires or circuits or a screen, you’re going to have to be content with the fact that it’s not going to be the best thing in existence for long. Those who complain that Apple is “generating discontent by mocking the product they’ve been praising for the last year,” are projecting their own discontent onto a company that is merely saying to the public, “That product was good. This one is better.” If the existence of something better is too much for you to handle, maybe you should consider giving it all up for now.


  1. I would be totally fine if Challie’s statement had been “Today Apple starts exposing discontent ….”

    I have come to accept that this is simply the way that the world of tech works–better, faster, and more efficient versions of products are going to be released soon after we purchase them. Sometimes that isn’t the fault of the company producing the product–the Playstation 3 comes to mind as a product that actually lost money due to the tech that it possessed at the time of its release.

    However, I do think that often tech companies put out products that they know they could have made better to begin with, knowing full well that they will soon make it better for the same price. Tech companies are free to do that–I guess I just wish they wouldn’t. Of course its hard to pin point whether or not they are deliberately doing that or not.

    All that said, I think your overall point here is on the money. In a perfect world, companies would put their best product forward until they can actually afford the research and time it take to produce a more efficient one. We don’t live in a perfect world, so we will just have to be content with pointing the finger at ourselves for the frustration we would like to level at companies like Apple.

  2. Richard – I largely agree with you. My tweet was mostly just a way to point to the irony that what is so exciting today will be pretty much forgotten a year from now. The features that Apple is cheering today will be nothing by next year. So the discontentment is ours; the planned obsolescence is theirs.

  3. Planned obsolescence is something I actually admire about the tech industry. Apple could always hold off on releasing a new product, waiting for prices to come down or resolutions, capacities, and speeds to go up. Instead, they circle a date on the calendar and ship something. The best writers, musicians, and filmmakers do something similar (albeit less technical).

    Of course, the reality of planned obsolescence doesn’t play nice with marketing, and so a soon-to-be replaced product becomes a “magical device” with a $69 cover “fashioned from the hides of unicorns.”

  4. I think we need to decide on a shared definition of “obsolecence” or “obsolete”. Is my iPad really obsolete just because a better one exists, even if it’s WAY better? I still have a perfectly good iPhone 3gs. Should I be turning it in?

    I think apple’s constant updating of their firmware suggests that they’re willing to support their own technology for as long as it makes sense to. My iPhone 3gs is still getting new features in the form of this new iOS update.

    That case looks awesome, and you know it Scott.

  5. In this case, obsolescence is probably more perceived than real when it comes to Apple release cycles. But I think the point is that the original iPad was never intended or engineered to be the final iPad. If I were to take my 12-inch PowerBook G4 to the Apple Store and complain about it performing like Will Ferrell’s character in “Old School” after got shot by the animal tranquilizer, they wouldn’t have much sympathy for me. “Remember the good times you had together,” the employee would say, “and then buy a new one.” That’s how the tech world works, and it comes as no surprise. But contrast that to the tagline for Saddleback Leather bags ( — “They’ll fight over it when you’re dead.”

  6. Looking at Apple’s revelation today, I think we’re safe from being made to feel discontent. The device looks only marginally better and carries the same ridiculous price tag.

  7. As someone who works in the IT industry, I know that technology is advancing at a rapid pace. The processor in my current computer is 2000 times faster than the one in the first computer I used, 30 years ago. There are loads of other statistics I could quote…

    But the whole thing does concern me greatly. Technology is often the ultimate expression of the consumer society, which to my mind is diametrically opposed to the Kingdom of God. I’m not convinced that we all need the latest gadgets in order to function effectively in the world. And, as an engineer, I feel very uncomfortable about anything that only has a lifespan of a year or two.

    I don’t think Apple is the only guilty party in this field (but they do exemplify it).

    And the other thing that worries me is the armies of chinese workers that produce the products, often for little money and in poor conditions. I’m sure Jesus would have something to say about that.

  8. I’m still confused. Is my iPad going to self-destruct after 2 years of use? How does it have a life-span of two years?

    Honestly, I can’t really think of any technology I own that only lasts two years. Except maybe this super-cheap HDTV I bought. But it was an on-sale display unit from target, so.

  9. No, you’re iPad isn’t going to self-destruct after 2 years of use. You have absolutely nothing to worry about there.

    If you’re still using a first-gen iPad after 2 years, t’s your credibility that’s going to self-destruct.

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