While reading some articles this weekend I was struck by two recurring themes said by different people in different ways, but each carrying the same meaning. These two ideas, while completely valid in the minds of millions, are like cancers. Some people have a stronger resistance to the destructive concepts but, over time, they begin to take root in people's consciousness and flourish like any other long-running recurring concept in our mind.
They need to stop, and we need to actively put an end to these two ideas:
- Electronics are meant to be replaced every six to twelve months
- Companies need to "do the right thing" and take a huge loss rather than consumers needing to investigate their purchases
Waste Not, Want Not
While reading a post on Engadget regarding Samsung's new 9 Series notebooks, one common theme was seen in the comments: computers (and all electronics) should be cheaper and replaced on an annual basis. The argument started with someone taking on the standard Windows vs. OS X argument, which was then carried by another person who replied:
"...I left Windows and jumped on the Apply hype wagon for several months and then left. The hardware is overpriced, a lack of support by third parties, and there is an elitist aire about it all. There are other OS just as good or better today, and hardware with twice the power and options for half the price. Sure the machines wont last as long but who cares-at half the price and with annual tech advancements I dont really care if my hardware lasts several years when its just about outdated to begin with. Id rather buy an affordable windows machine every year or two over an overpriced trend." -- Michial Brown
Character for character, that's what Mr. Brown wrote. I'm not sure how someone who is incapable of using an apostrophe can afford a new computer every year or two, but fortune often favors the foolish. That, and idiots tend to have a lot more money than people who try to find a better way of using resources.
Spelling and grammar aside, this idea is not unique on technology sites. There are literally thousands of people that say the very same thing on various technologies with different timescales. Android phones are supposedly replaced every six months. iPhones every year. Notebooks every spring. Desktop computers every two years. TVs every five. It's a never-ending cycle which results in incredible waste. This planet does not have an infinite supply of rare earths, precious metals, or plastics ... yet millions of people in wealthier nations are tossing away equipment that is not functionally broken. These items either collect dust in a closet, or leak corrosive products into the soil after being destroyed by garbage processors.
Yet we still see billions of people without adequate drinking water because there isn't enough money for the $150-a-year pump and filter kits they need ...
It's disgusting how much we waste on sub-par crap rather than investing our hard-earned money into products that will actually provide a decent life-span. People can spend their money however they choose, of course. I don't believe that we should forfeit the freedoms that a billion of us have for the sake of five billion others who couldn't imagine living with access to resources like many of us take for granted ... but we should make the most of the things we do purchase to ensure the world remains that much cleaner.
Free Upgrades For All!
The second item came from an author that I've slowly grown to enjoy reading on TechCrunch; MG Seigler. An American reader asked him if they should buy the iPhone 4 on Verizon as soon as it comes out, or wait until summer to see if the iPhone 5 will support both Verizon and GSM-based networks. MG responds by wondering if AT&T will have exclusive access to the iPhone 5 in the US for an amount of time, and then follows up with this gem:
"Does Verizon do the right thing and give all early adopters of the iPhone the standard discount to buy the iPhone 5 at the subsidized price if it does come this summer to Verizon as well?" -- MG Seigler
Since when has it ever been a company's responsibility to give discounts to impatient customers with buyers remorse? Maybe it's just me, but I hate it when people complain about how their new product has already been replaced by something newer while it's just a few months old. The Interweb is loaded with sites talking about upcoming products, release schedules, features, benefits, negatives, and everything between. Sure, Apple products are very, very difficult to predict, but this does not mean a person can't quickly research their purchase beforehand and say "Oh, Apple typically releases a new iPhone every June. Let's wait until Steve Jobs gives his presentation in April or May to see what's announced."
Is our lust for things so unquenchable that we can't "make due" with whatever the heck we're currently using for another few months? MONTHS!
People go for YEARS without basic medical care in some nations around the world, but some over-privileged are complaining because they have to go a dozen weeks with a 9-month old phone.
We humans need to start realizing that just because there's a big world of shiny things on the market does not mean we need to possess all of those shiny things. Not only is this a very bad habit with a horrible ROI, but it's a very bad habit that's attributing to the further pollution of our world. We need to ask our electronics to last longer and, if that means we need to pay a bit more up front for a quality device that will survive our usage patterns for a long time, we need to be willing to accept the price tags that come with being a little more responsible.
Just because we can do a thing does not necessarily mean we must do a thing. We all need to learn this lesson; myself included.