iPhone X is classified as an obsolete product. What turns a durable product into a consumable product?

iPhone X, the first-generation HomePods and the first-generation AirPods were classified as "obsolete products" by Apple, which sounds like a very contradictory thing.

In my opinion, even in the iPhone 15 generation, its general shape still follows the appearance of iPhone X.

This is especially true for AirPods. The experience of using the first generation and the latest ones is very close, including HomePods. The sound quality is still good, and there is no "outdated" look at all.

But obsolescence in Apple’s definition is just a concept of time: Get service for your Apple product after the warranty period – Official Apple Support (China)

According to Apple's classification standards, products that have been discontinued for more than five years but less than seven years are classified as "obsolete products." This means that they may not receive official Apple repair services, but if parts are still available, Apple can still Maintenance services will be provided for up to two years.

If it has been more than seven years, the official can only give you one sentence: May you be blessed and stay well.

The paradox of obsolescence: losing everything

Musician Li Ronghao has recently become a hot topic because he still uses wired EarPods headphones. This is because wired headphones now look like an old thing from the last century. They are neither technological nor fashionable, inconvenient and annoying.

Every time I take out this messy mess from my pocket or bag, sometimes it even gets knotted, and the more I untie it, the tighter it becomes, and the more urgent it becomes.

▲ Picture from: Google

Suddenly, my desire to listen to music disappeared, and I suddenly wanted to get to know it with scissors.

But I can’t stand it, it’s durable.

Li Ronghao’s response was the same:

It has nothing to do with the sound quality. I listen to music for a long time and the EarPods just don’t need to be charged.

The troubles of wired headphones have been uprooted by TWS earphones. We once thought that this kind of extreme simplification is the best form of the product, and it is also a humane design from the user's perspective. But who would have thought that in order to make way for convenient and simple functional design, Instead, I fell into the wireless trap.

When manufacturers design batteries to be non-removable in the name of being thin, waterproof and beautiful, it is almost impossible for users to replace the batteries themselves.

The life of the battery largely determines the service life of electronic equipment.

When special-shaped batteries and products with higher integration and unibody levels appear and become the mainstream of today's consumer electronics market, this also means that the difficulty of repairing them has increased exponentially. At first, I didn’t want you to open it. The manufacturer seemed to have absolute confidence in its product and could use it until the end of the entire product cycle.

▲ Picture from: iFixit

For example, for AirPods, the repair and disassembly website gave the first-generation AirPods a repairability index of 0 points: taking into account factors such as disassembly risks, repair costs, cumbersome processes, and scarcity of parts (especially batteries), with this spare money and Time, it’s better to change one.

Take a look at the comment section of this "AirPods Battery Replacement" post. Sure enough, many netizens around the world want to repair their battle-tested first-generation AirPods, but most people encounter the same problem: Where to buy batteries?

This is the price of elegance: Apple, which pursues unibody and seamlessness, has led the trend of minimalism, but it has also paid a huge price.

▲ Picture from: iFixit

For example, the original Apple Pencil could only be destructively disassembled and could not be put back together.

Even with the above troubles, it is still difficult for me to say that such a design is a multiple-choice question that is either wrong or right.

Because in terms of usage experience, they are very practical and convenient. There is no need to worry about the problem of wire tangles. The extremely simplified product becomes better-looking. The integration also reduces the gaps in the product, and the usage scenarios are much wider, such as taking a bath and watching TV series, swimming and listening to music.

To a large extent, you and I are the beneficiaries of new design.

But the premise is that they must be durable enough and not go wrong, otherwise the backlash effect of unibody and seamless will be "doubled" in terms of money and time costs.

On the other hand, in a market where "everyone is doing it", if you insist on a retro design – such as a 3.5mm headphone jack and a removable battery – or a counterintuitive design, it doesn't matter whether consumers will pay for it. , just finding the supply chain is a problem.

Beyond that, I mean is there a possibility that this is all part of the plan.

There is a special light bulb in the Livermore-Pleasant Fire Department on East Avenue in Livermore, California, which has been on since it was installed in 1901 (it went out due to two power outages during this period. But it is not caused by its own quality problems). Counting this year, it has been working continuously for 123 years. No one knows how long it will last.

Therefore, this ever-burning lamp is also known as the "100-year-old light bulb" and has also set a niche Guinness World Record for "the longest-lived light bulb".

The century-old light bulb is hand-blown, a veritable hand-rubbing process. The manufacturer behind it is the Shelby Electric Company. What is very dramatic is that the Shelby Light Bulb Factory officially declared bankruptcy in 1925.

There are many reasons, but one of the most important ones is that the quality of their bulbs is so good that many people don’t need to buy a second one after buying one.

High quality, and eventually became the "gravedigger" of the Shelby Light Bulb Factory.

In the decades after Shelby's collapse, many families were still using their products. Although there were many manufacturers of light bulbs at the time, people generally reported that other companies' bulbs were simply not enough, with a lifespan of about 2,500 hours.

On the other hand, the life span of century-old light bulbs has reached more than one million hours, and it is still setting new records.

When light bulbs became popular as mass products, manufacturers of light bulbs discovered new business opportunities:

Greater business profits can be achieved by producing disposable light bulbs and passing on replacement costs to consumers.

In the 1920s, the "Helios Cartel" that controlled the global production of incandescent lamps was born out of such a logical conspiracy. They conspired to limit the service life of light bulbs to 1,000 hours.

▲ Philips electric light advertisement in 1917. Image from: Wikipedia

And this is also an example of the origin of "planned obsolescence".

Although no manufacturer will admit it, planned obsolescence is still widespread and affects you and me all the time. Even if your mobile phone can be used for three to five years, one day you will find out: Why is the power consumption so fast? Why is there ghosting on the screen? Why are the buttons malfunctioning? Why is the system so stuck?

You may say that "planned obsolescence" is a conspiracy theory, but the real situation is this: many products that are wireless, integrated, and seamless suffer from battery life problems. Years later, it became a waste product, and it was a pity to leave it useless and discard it.

▲ Picture from: Hardware libre

My Nokia N93 can still be turned on after finding a suitable charging head, but my other iPod Touch 4 can't escape the disaster – the bulging battery forced the back cover to fly off, and its back panel is still very thin. It's bright, but I know very well that as long as this kind of thing is kept at home, it is always in danger.

Having said that, are AirPods that can only support 30 minutes of music playback outdated? Its sound unit, Bluetooth connection chip, and microphone are all good and not outdated at all, but the battery is almost at the end of its life.

For example, my colleague Liu Xuewen is experiencing this pain on a large scale: he owns more than a dozen true wireless Bluetooth headsets, but many of the products two or three years ago have recently begun to have battery and power problems on a large scale:

  • 1 single earphone cannot be charged
  • The battery power of 1 single-sided earphone is only enough for 30 minutes of music playback
  • 1 headphone compartment cannot be charged
  • 1 charging contact cannot be charged due to rust and condensation due to humid weather and needs to be cleaned

And some of his wired headphones have been in service for 10 years.

In short, due to batteries, as well as product design and manufacturing, many electronic products that could have been durable goods have begun to become consumables.

▲ Picture from: I Love Audio Network

Colleagues in the editorial department have had personal experience: In the past, when the battery of the D11 Bee was dead, it could continue to be used by replacing it with an AA battery, but now it has to be sent back to replace the battery. It feels like manufacturers are using a magical way to cultivate perfectionism in consumers:

The removable battery is backward, the one that fits perfectly is high-end, the original one is the best, and if it can be replaced, don't repair it.

What’s even more ironic is that the selling price of consumable goods is much higher than that of durable goods.

Because I wanted to be smart, I ended up being mentally retarded.

As the saying goes, misfortunes never come singly. After my colleague He Zongcheng upgraded the new SONOS App, the entire set of speakers was disabled, and the 5.1 stereo became six bricks.

After replying to his friend emotionally, he also analyzed it rationally:

Generally speaking, speakers are durable goods that can be passed down to grandchildren. However, in recent years, speakers have relied heavily on apps and networking. If the software level is not backward compatible, the hardware will be retired early.

At the same time, the B&W speakers at the home of unlucky colleague Liu Xuewen also failed to connect at all and turned into an elegant brick.

Many audio manufacturers are good at hardware, but have obvious software shortcomings and launch apps based on embracing intelligence. Almost without exception, the mobile app experience of overseas audio manufacturers is a disaster.

In the past, the experience of just long-pressing the Bluetooth button, waiting for the blue light to flash, and then turning on the phone or computer to connect to the speakers to play music began to become extremely complicated, and there were countless pitfalls in the process.

Among them, the most puzzling thing I have encountered is the confusing operation of some independent brands. In addition to connecting to Bluetooth in the phone settings, you also have to go to the dedicated app for the earphones and match each earphone one by one before it can be used normally. If you want to change to another device, the above process will have to be repeated.

The App design is unreasonable, the connection takes a long time, the failure rate is high, the probability of disconnection is high, the delay is obvious, and the left and right channels are out of sync…

Before I released it, if I had been told that wired devices were more convenient than wireless devices, I would have thrown them back. However, after wading through the muddy waters of wireless devices, I realized that the cables were gone, but there were more troubles.

I believe that many friends have stepped on similar sinkholes. If so, please move to the comment area.

Moreover, many speakers have begun to remove the 3.5mm interface and basic Bluetooth direct connection function, and can only be connected through Apps. The problem is that the probability of these Apps being easy to use is about the same as the probability of winning the lottery in scratch-off games.

▲ Picture from: Google

If the 3.5mm interface and Bluetooth direct connection are like a country road, setting up the connection through the App is like a highway. You can use Wi-Fi channels with wider bandwidth, and you can also form a Mesh to link multiple speakers in each room. But the fact is , this highway collapsed everywhere.

I don’t know how many friends have experienced or still remember the “large-scale Mijia App outage” incident two years ago.

From April to June of 2022, a large number of Mijia users reported online that their app crashed twice. All related equipment including light bulbs, washing machines, TVs, routers, and air conditioners cannot be controlled.

What most depresses most netizens is that in order to achieve intelligent interconnection and increase user stickiness, most of these furniture are not equipped with exclusive remote controls. The App on the mobile phone is the only switch.

The huge and profound impact of this outage is also related to Mijia’s user base.

According to Xiaomi's 2021 financial report, Mijia App has 63.9 million monthly active users, 434 million Xiaomi AIoT connected devices, and 8.8 million users with five or more devices connected to the Xiaomi AIoT platform.

The daily necessities, food, clothing, housing and transportation of tens of millions of people have all been affected to varying degrees because of a piece of software.

I don’t think apps are bad. Products with apps have the ability to connect online. For example, in Guangzhou in July, the air conditioner was turned on as soon as I entered my home after get off work. It’s not too good.

But looking at the present, when everything is talking about intelligence, everyone has an App, and even pillows, toothbrushes, and water bottles have exclusive Apps, have our lives become simpler or more complicated? Whose costs are reduced, or whose generation gap is widened?

It's hard to comment, but what can be seen is that the intelligent experience of many products is not good enough, and even very bad. The "result-oriented" thinking of manufacturers when making products is very important. What kind of product you want to make determines how you implement it.

In the eyes of many manufacturers, this result is just because "everyone else is doing it" rather than making the product more usable.

Next to a breakfast shop near Ai Faner's office, there is often a group of old people sitting and chatting. There is a rusty old fan nearby to supply them with air. The fan is probably older than you in front of the screen.

It has no battery, cannot be connected to the Internet, and cannot be controlled by mobile phones, but it can be used for 30 years or even longer. I don’t know whether it is an outdated product or a timeless product.

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