The Planned Obsolesce Myth

“Don’t you hate Apple’s planned obsolescence?!”

This  is something I hear a lot, often after I have just delivered the bad news about someone’s Mac… something like they need an upgrade or this hardware is too old to install the latest and greatest OS.

It is an understandable feeling when faced with the cost of a new Mac or iPad just to remain current or secure in a digital world.

Understandable but I don’t think it is accurate, especially when it comes to computers like iPhones, iPads, Macs, PC or Android.

While my Planned Obsolescence arguments can be used to support PC’s and Android as well, they have their own reasons to be shunned and made to live in exile so I will concentrate on Apple’s products from here on in.

Firstly, a computer is not a fridge or a car.

I think I am right in saying that the idea of Planned Obsolescence came about from the US car industry in the 1950’s. Cars would be made, nah designed, to start disintegrating the minute they were driven off the lot. Flimsy hoses, badly bolted body panels ect, meant that the car was a wreck just in time for the new model to come out ensuring that a new car was always being purchased. No sense in making something that lasts forever is there, that is the fastest way to go out of business. Just ask the bell makers of the world. These days, at the risk of sounding like a curmudgeon, the same business model can be used to criticise the makers of home appliances. Gone are the days when you could buy a washing machine that sees you through five kids and 20 Prime Ministers and still be going strong when those kids have kids of their own and a stable government has been achieved. 

Thing is, there is no reason for a car to go out of date. There is no reason for a washing machine or fridge to stop what it is meant to do because rolling down the road or keeping something cold doesn’t change through the years. Oh sure, things wear out, seals perish and motors burn out but these can be repaired and the main body, the essence of the thing, continues.

But technology does change. All the time. And this is why your Mac or iPhone can suddenly be out of date. And I say suddenly with my tongue firmly screwed into my cheek… I have some clients that are using 10 year old macs that are still (just) running a supported OS.

This is hardly Planned Obsolescence at its finest.

In my view it goes something like this.

The internet is more than 50% of a computer because without it there isn’t much point in having one. Now the internet is, for the want of a better word, a sewer with islands of knowledge and wonder dotted throughout and so Apple needs to build security into their software and hardware to traverse the muck.

Often these technologies require a certain level of computing power in order to function and as the sewage gets deeper and the rats get more cunning the software needs to become more sophisticated and this requires better hardware or software.

At some point something has to give and this is one of the reasons your 2014 iMac will no longer run the latest OS because its hardware cannot deal with the requirements of a constantly evolving operating system.

But I can hear you screaming at the screen right now… I don’t need a new OS. I don’t need a better Mac… I am happy with my (insert age here) iMac.

That’s cool… but sadly we get back to the internet again and it cares a lot about security. At some point your bank, for example, refuses to accept the only browser your Mac can handle because it was released when milk cost a dollar a litre.

Of course the other reason a computer runs out of life is innovation.

Customers demand faster macs, more features better graphics or screens that have so many pixels you can zoom into a satellite image to the point where you can tell if a dog has dandruff or not.

This all requires new software and new hardware and eventually your hardware ain’t makin’ it.

So I maintain that we Apple users are well taken care of… in the long run. I mean, in recent years they have been releasing iOS updates that actually improve the speed of older iPhones… again, not exactly Planned Obsolescence at its finest.

But of course thats not the whole story and I am not sure I can defend Apple all the way… just most of the way.

I am, of course, referring to repairs.

In days gone by, within a certain window and with certain parts, a Mac could be repaired. 

Aftermarket hard disks, fans and refurbished bits and bobs meant that a third party repairer (such as yours truely) could repair a Mac for years and years. But increasingly Apple products have been practically dipped in resin meaning that, especially in the case of the new iMac, if you need a new SSD you need a new mainboard. 


That is not only pricey but as Apple holds those parts there is nothing for anyone outside of Apple to offer as an alternative.

This might suck for businesses like mine but what makes it worse is Apple, after 5 years or so, stop supporting the hardware and so no one can fix it – and that means you need a brand new Mac.

There is nothing to say that, in light of the recent “right to repair” legislation, that Apple won’t increase this window of support to address this issue but if they don’t then this is Planned Obsolescence – perhaps with a small p.

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    • Chandra Rangnath on June 16, 2021 at 11:12 AM
    • Reply

    Hi Renny. I had my MacBook Pro refurbished at your place recently and It was well worth it.

    However, can a MacBook do with just Malwarebytes or would you recommend a Internet Security product.

    Currently I have Kaspersky and while it has been good, there was at least one instance where it did not pick up a malware. That said, my version of Kaspersky was quite old, at that point. I subsequently installed an updated version, and touchwood, there have been no breaches so far, that I know of.

    When I spoke with Apple Support a few months ago regarding the performance issue on my MacBook, the lady got me to install a trial version of Malwarebytes, which could then identify a malware which was then removed by me. (As I said above, this was the malware that Kaspersky did not pick up, but the version of Kaspersky was very old at that point). The Apple Support lady told me that Apple endorse Malwarebytes, but I did not ask her whether Malwarebytes is a comprehensive anti-virus product or not, which can be replacement for, say, Kaspersky.

    Your advice ?

    1. HI Chandra . I have a few articles here on antivirus, ect. Essentially Malware Bytes is about the only thing worth installing as the rest really does very little that some free cautious web browsing wouldn’t already achieve.

    • Alex vdG on June 23, 2021 at 7:14 PM
    • Reply

    This is a fantastic article!

    • Robert Moore on July 1, 2021 at 12:02 PM
    • Reply

    Excellent! Thanks, Renny. I have a 2004 Mac Mini that still runs perfectly, but … it is not connected to the Internet. It is used to run music software that is no longer available for current (or even mildly obsolete ) OS. When the Mini fails, I know it’ll be gone forever, but for now it runs as it always has. No Planned Obsolescence here!

    • Chris on July 3, 2021 at 8:54 PM
    • Reply

    Another great article, Renny. Without your input my (don’t even know how old) MacBook would not still be running well. The time will come when I have to have it torn from my screaming fingers and buy a new one. I only hope the new ones are as well built as the old ones (as the saying goes…they don’t make cars like they used too).

    Lots of information there to explain (even to a neanderthal like me) why newer OS systems are required. I do wonder about the carbon footprint created by designing machines that cannot be upgraded and made good by your friendly mac repair man…but then cars are no different now.

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