In a blog post yesterday iFixIt noted a new sneaky way Apple is preventing iPhone owners from replacing their battery either themselves or through a 3rd. party repair shop. Although any new battery will function, the phone will display a service message in the battery health feature in settings. IFixIt write up is very well put together and highlights completely how this is a user hostile choice. Since I like to focus on the wallet impact of tech. Increasingly, tech has become extremely user hostile… To a specific set of users. As brands attempt to curate a specific lifestyle around their products, the lifestyle is often only targeted at people above a household income level. Simply put: Unless you have the funds available for the companies ecosystem, you aren’t the right user for the product.
This isn’t just true for repairability, although a quick search of “best phones with a removable battery” are all entry-level devices with most not available in the US. The income bracket hostility is also in features. If you are willing to pony up for a flagship device, most are without a headphone jack, FM tuner (which most phones never had, even if the hardware was in the device) or SD card slot. It may not be intentional, but these maneuvers are point to an opportunity to continue to monetize their users by requiring accessories, dongles and more just to get the full use of the device you own.
Yesterday, Samsung announced the new Note 10 and Note 10+ phones with ridiculous specs. Including up to 512 GB of storage, 12 GB of memory and a multi-core Snapdragon 855 CPU, the device will be more than capable for many years. But if it’s anything like last years Note 9, which got a repairability score of 4/10 from iFixIt its essentially already on planned obsolescence.
Its incredibly frustrating seeing the trend of modern computing devices be so hostile to income brackets. Decades earlier tech was a hobby and to enthusiasts these would not be huge barriers to overcome. But in our current world, mobile devices are a requirement. Banking, communication, and even punching your timecard are all now mobile-first if not mobile-only. At over $1,000 the Samsung Note 10 Plus or the iPhone XS it’s not the total cost of the device that is the barrier to budget-conscience users, it’s the cost of the lifecycle. Being forced to purchase accessories just to get the device to work with your other gear then having to upgrade every 2-3 years because of battery wear is not sustainable.
Just to add fuel onto this fire, this is also an environmentally hostile approach to tech. Just because the device or packaging includes recycled material, to really make an impact the devices themselves need to last longer and be easily recycled. As these devices get more and more commoditized, this problem will only get worse as manufacturers try to increase margins.