Obsolescence

Every now and then I think it might be a good idea to save some money that I indulge on my cell phone plan each month by getting a crappier phone, and substituting the more data functionality with a tablet. Every time I think to do this I’m dissuaded by the same problem: There are virtually no tablets out there with replaceable batteries. That’s bullshit. I’m sorry, but if I’m going to drop $400+ on something, it’s going to have to last more than a year or two. If after 18 months the battery only lasts 60% of the original time, what the hell am I supposed to do? Just junk the whole device for a new one? There’s a bigger problem at work here regarding planned obsolescence of technology. I get that, even though I hate it. But what I don’t get is the reason to spend that kind of money on something you know will be either obsolete or non functional after only 18 months.

I personally categorize various sums of money on a scale. On the lower end of <50 dollars or so are the trivial amounts. These are sums that while they may seem like a lot, end up being trivial in the long run. Next I have the 50-250 dollar range. This range comprises things that are nice to have once in a while. Maybe a few times a year at most. Beyond $250 is what I call “investment class” funds. Anything purchased above $250 needs to have some kind of long term benefit. It’s an “investment”. These are things I buy rarely, and only when there’s a massive long term benefit to be had. Some examples? My computer. I built it a year and a half ago. It came in towards the lower end of the investment class scale at around $500. But my computer is something I use every single day. Not only is it still completely functional after 18 months, but it’s still extremely capable and has the capacity to be expanded or upgraded for relatively little cost. In fact, when I built it, I did so in such a way as future upgrades (for 18 months and beyond) where part of the plan. Another example is my bike. I spent almost a year researching and planning to buy my bike, and at around $1000 it came in pretty high on the investment class scale. But, going on two years now, it’s still completely functional. I perform minor maintenance on it, will be replacing a few components next spring, but the long term usage profile completely justifies the cost.

With all that in mind, how on earth can I justify one of these tablets? $600 for an iPad when it’s likely the battery will be useless in 18 months? To say nothing of the technology. I’m pretty sure even the iPad 2 (which just passed its 18th month) is completely technologically irrelevant (at least according to Apple) at this point. People (hippies) love to talk about being environmentally friendly, being conscious of resource use. Well you know what? How about building shit that lasts. Better yet, let’s build stuff that not only lasts, but can be easily repaired and/or upgraded as well. The amount of resources (both material and energy) that go into the creation of a single iPad are staggering. All those resources for 18 months. The earth doesn’t even know what 18 months is. That would be like you or me noticing that a single alien farted on Neptune. It’s completely immeasurable by our perspective.

So in the grander scheme of things we need to figure this shit out, or I’m pretty sure we’re completely fucked.