14 Planned Obsolescence Examples

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Jean Richardson

Jean Richardson is a lover of knowledge, in all forms. He has spent over 15 years as a high school teacher, instructing students in history, geography, mathematics, and more.

Planned obsolescence is when various strategies by companies are used to make a product that a consumer has irrelevant or undesirable. Further, they use these kinds of strategies with the intent of the item or the service to be replaced by something that is new or requires updates. 

There are four different ways in which companies can achieve planned obsolescence and the four strategies are durability, software updates, perception, and repair prevention. Therefore, these products are deliberately designed with a limited amount of life. Read on for more info!

14 Planned Obsolescence Examples


1. iPhones Slow Down

One of the most common obsolesce is from Apple, where older models of Apple’s iPhone were slowed down whenever a software update occurred. 

Apple has even faced multiple lawsuits regarding planned obsolesce. 

One recent lawsuit was in the spring of 2021 by a private consumer organization in Portugal by a man name Deco Prosteste. 

In this lawsuit, it alleges that Apple had planned to obsolesce with the iPhone 6, 6 Plus, 6S, and 6S Plus phones. 

This planned obsolescence forced customers to buy a new phone that they would not need to do otherwise. 

Furthermore, this unfortunately was not the first lawsuit of alleged planned obsolesce that Apple has had to face. 

However, after having multiple lawsuits and some bad public relations in 2017 the company temporarily reduced the pricing of an iPhone battery replacement. 

Additionally, they also focused on an IOS update meant to assist with the health of the battery.

Customer Solution 

There are a few things as a customer you can do:

  • Due to multiple lawsuits, newer models of the iPhone have had updated IOS systems that are meant to assist with battery health. 
  • They have also been working to increase the disruption of software updates on new iPhone models. 

Furthermore, if you follow these ideas, it can help protect you from purchasing unnecessary items. 

2. Printer Ink Cartridges 

A new printer ink cartridge can run you up a hefty total, depending on the type of printer you have. 

But yet, despite the hefty cost, you may be limited from using every ounce of the expensive ink. 

This is because a lot of ink cartridges come with a smart chip on them that disables the printer from using one of the colors if the ink fails to reach a certain level. 

Furthermore, this causes it to fail even if there is enough ink to complete the printing job. 

On top of the disabled safety of the smart clip, companies can also make them where it discourages the use of third-party ink or attempting to refill the current ink with another brands. 

Therefore, leading someone to purchase same brand ink at a potentially higher cost.  

Customer Solution

There are a few things as a customer you can do:

  • Buy cheaper generic ink cartridges: Try to find the ones that do let your refill the ink. Not only will this cut down the price of the ink but going to generic, but it was also reducing the amount of plastic and other materials being used. 
  • Another direction to go could be printing in black and white, reducing the amount of printing you are doing or optimizing for the web before sending your document to the printer. 

If you follow these ideas, it can help protect you from purchasing unnecessary items.

3. Low-Quality Clothes And Fast Fashion 

Clothing is constantly changing, so what is in style and what is not in style?

These changes can be in the form of cuts, hemlines, colors, materials, you name it, it has probably had its chance at glory in the fashion world. 

Furthermore, since trends are changing quickly, that also means brands and stores must adjust to the demands of the consumers. 

Additionally, you will eventually start to notice that fashion brands are not the leaders when it comes to styles and trends but rather followers.

This is because they will track what is popular and where the clothing trends are going. 

Then, they will put into production those trends and bring them to market as quickly as possible. 

Since these clothing items are brought so quickly to the market, and often are made to be more affordable for the average consumer, they are also of lower quality.  

Customer Solution 

Purchase fashionable clothing that may cost a little more but is made of higher quality materials and have better production methods. 

By investing in these types of products they will end up lasting longer and be more valuable. 

Furthermore, you can find these types of products by looking at the fashion brands that are setting styles rather than the brands that are following the trends. 

4. Newer Modeled Vehicles 

Automakers used planned obsolescence in many ways, why do you think that there is a new model for every car each year?

Often these yearly released cars do not offer much change from the previous model. 

Rather they offer a few cosmetic updates, a change in a few parts (even if they were working well before), and maybe a new technology that was not in the previous model. 

Furthermore, the older your car is the harder it is to find parts to repair it, and this is due to the manufacturer of the products discontinuing certain parts.

They also prevent this by having each yearly update have different part sets, to leave less of a chance of finding the right kind of part for an older vehicle. 

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Therefore, you will find people purchasing these newer vehicles not because they offer a different function but because marketing tells you that you will look better in them.

Customer Solution 

Used cars may not be as fashionable as their newer counterparts but they often come at a lower cost with the same value of the function. 

Beyond having a lower cost, they are also reducing the number of resources being used by taking away part of the market for new vehicles.

5. Short Lasting Light Bulbs 

Did you know that the original light bulb created by Thomas Edison is still illuminating hundreds of years after it was originally made? 

The reason is, that they were originally made to be long-lasting. So why are they not built that way today you might ask? Because that leads to lower profits. 

Therefore, by creating light bulbs that do not last as long it keeps you coming back to buy more. 

This is why a lot of companies want their bulbs to have a shorter lifespan. 

However, LED lights and the idea of long-lasting light bulbs have started to increase but they do come at a higher cost.

Customer Solution

There are a few things as a customer you can do:

  • A lightbulb with a longer lifespan may cost you more, but in most cases, they do tend to save you money in the long run. 
  • It is best to invest in light bulbs produced by well-known manufacturers to ensure you are getting the best quality. 
  • To reduce the amount of time a light bulb is being used, turn them off when using them or find systems that allow you to remote control your lights. 

If you follow these ideas, it can help protect you from purchasing unnecessary items. 

6. Air Conditioners Coils 

For most, one of the most used items in homes is an air conditioner. 

With an item that is used so often, it gets constant wear and tears. 

Therefore, in recent years, air conditioning models have been utilizing a new design of coils to be more energy efficient. 

However, this new design uses a fin tube heat exchanger. This is what makes the unit more efficient, but it is less resistant to corrosion.  

Additionally, the manufacturers increase the fins per inch to increase the airflow. 

Furthermore, for this to be possible it requires gauged aluminum. This design feature makes the coil more susceptible to corrosion.

Moreover, this will reduce the efficiency of the air conditioner over time, meaning that it has to be replaced, or fixed more often due to the beginning design. 

Customer Solution 

So to try and keep your air conditioning running as long as possible, it is best to have regularly scheduled coil cleaning because it will keep the coils clean and corrosion-free. 

This will not only extend the efficiency of the unit but also the life expectancy. 

7. Textbooks Constant Updates

Textbooks Constant Updates

Textbooks are constantly having updates made to them. 

Furthermore, when these updates are occurring, they are changing the page number of the book to make it difficult for someone with an older volume to follow along with a newer volume. 

Additionally, the cost of most textbooks is high, but due to class requirements, it gives many students a lack of options when it comes to their books. 

Customer Solutions 

There are a few things as a customer you can do:

  • A lot of students have started to buy textbooks on Facebook marketplace, Craigslist, or Chegg.com at a lower discounted rate. 
  • Other students have gone as far as not even purchasing the book until they know if the book will be required for the class, as some classes do not even reference the book more than once. 
  • Others have found that they are in libraries or are splitting the cost, sharing the book with their friends or classmates.

If you follow these ideas, it can help protect you from purchasing unnecessary items.

8. Washing Machine Builds 

There has been a change in modern washing machines making them not last as long as they use to. 

However, on the other end, they are also way cheaper than they were 40 years ago despite the cost increases everywhere else. 

Beyond just the changes in the designs, there have also been changes in the availability to make repairs. 

Oftentimes, for example, even if one small piece breaks you are having to repair the entire larger piece, costing you more money than before. 

Whereas before you were able to replace each piece, costing less for repairs. 

On top of this, the price of the parts has also gone up, leading to the customer buying another cheap washing machine to replace a broken one instead of simply fixing it.

Customer Solution 

Remember that most washer machines only last between three to six years no matter how expensive the model is. 

Therefore, in most cases, there is no need to spend the extra money on a crazy expensive model when the life expectancy is the same.

9. Video Game Consoles And Hardware 

Video games have been out for a long time and over the years the processing power and other capabilities have increased. 

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The number of games available to use has also increased. 

Furthermore, every year a new version of an old console comes out, and makes them start to become obsolete as most users are wanting faster, and updated graphics.

In a lot of cases, these new consoles come out and have specific games that are allowed to play on the new console. 

Due to this, if gamers were wanting to play their games, they would have no option but to purchase the same game on the new device, costing them more money for their games. 

However, this was up until the last couple of years when Xbox and PlayStation began to have their games become compatible on most devices. 

They have done this by having an online store of all the games and making the games themselves compatible with the previous models of the game. 

Therefore, allowing them to continue to play their games even when a new console was purchased.

Customer Solutions 

There are a few things as a customer you can do:

  • To reduce the cost of purchasing new consoles constantly, try playing your games online using a computer instead of a dedicated console.
  • Instead of purchasing games as a CD, nowadays it is best to purchase online using your online account for easy downloading to whatever device you want. There are also more frequent sales in online stores.

If you follow these ideas, it can help protect you from purchasing unnecessary items. 

10. Constant Software Updates

Suddenly you notice that your computer is not working, or your printer is having issues.

After lots of research, you find that your item is no longer compatible with the operating system. 

Then, when this occurs it only leaves you with one option, buy a new model. 

This is because technology comes with a lot of software, and all software needs updating. 

In a lot of cases, companies know when they are releasing these updates that this is exactly what they are doing. 

But at the same time, this is how companies are getting repeat buyers with software and electronics. 

Furthermore, if they made them last forever, their sales would decrease drastically over time. In addition, newer hardware requires faster more powerful systems.

Customer Solutions 

Instead of purchasing name-brand software, think about purchasing from open-source titles. 

In most cases, these types of software are free including the upgrades.  

Furthermore, unless there is a security issue where it is necessary to use something different, these open-source software can provide you with the same luxuries of brand-name softwares.

11. Television Applications Crashing

A TV’s software is not built like they used to, though costs have gone down, the length of time in which a TV lasts has gone down as well. 

This is because a TV’s software is powered by cheap processors and a smart TV’s pitch the built-in apps that let you stream content on the go. 

However, the longer you have your TV the harder your processors have to work to handle the new content. 

Therefore, as time passes, the manufacturers start having fewer updates, leading to poorer performance that will just never be fixed as the developers have abandoned old versions. 

By this time, the TV is only a few years old, you have already invested a lot of money into it and expect it to last longer. 

But now, you have to buy yet another new TV that offers the new updates or applications or find a more cost-effective solution that provides you the same conveniences your TV did provide. 

Customer Solutions 

There are a few things as a customer you can do:

  • If you have a TV failing to open applications it may be time to get yourself a Set-Top Box, such as the Roku, Amazon Firestick, or Apple TV, among others. Going in this direction will save you a bunch of money in the meantime, as most of the other systems of your TV are still working, in most cases.  
  • If this is not the right solution for you then it is the right time for you to purchase a new TV. Rather than focusing on the applications on the TV, focus on the operating system, internal parts, and other pieces that affect picture quality and processing power. This way you can purchase a product that will be a longer investment, simply updating applications down the road.

If you follow these ideas, it can help protect you from purchasing unnecessary items. 

12. Eyeglasses Frames Constant Upgrades 

Modern-day eyeglasses are not meant to last like they use to and one might think that you could use the same frames for whatever your next prescription is.

But in most cases, you are told that your frames are weak, the hinges on the frames are about to break, or you are informed that they are discontinued. 

Additionally, this leads you to not only having to replace the new lenses with your updated prescription but also the frames. 

Therefore increasing your cost of the total sale, even if your original frames were perfectly adequate for some more time. 

Further, they are always coming out with new designs of eyewear that either shape your face, or lenses that provide sun protection or blue light protection, all of which require new frames.

Customer Solution 

There is no point in spending the big bucks on your frames. 

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When it comes down to it, your prescription is going to constantly change, and your doctor’s office is likely going to require you to purchase new frames when you have to update them. 

Therefore, resist the urge to purchase the extra sets or the extra frames for other reasons. 

As you can find ones for much cheaper online that can provide the same features at a lower price point.

13. New Home Buildable Floor Plans 

There are different types of obsolescence, one of which is functional obsolescence. 

What this means is that the function is made with usefulness or desirability. Which typically leads to needing to be updated or changed. 

In the real estate market, planned obsolescence uses “functional obsolescence” too.

In the sense that a brand-new home, that is allowed for updates and costs, has a home size of 5 bedrooms but only two bathrooms. 

Leading to a large number of people that would need to share that number of bathrooms. 

This means that the new owners during the construction phase will have to upgrade the floor plan. 

This will also increase the number to match the number of bedrooms. 

Therefore, by planning their builds this way, they are almost automatically getting upgrades from the base cost of the home just by adding add-ons to the floor plan. 

This also adds to the cost of the electrical, plumbing and the square foot of the home or you have to make compromises on the current square foot.

Customer Solutions 

There are a few things as a customer you can do:

  • Be careful of builder setups, look at the cost difference between their set models to verify the difference when adding things to a different model. 
  • Builders will do this with materials as well, so make sure to know what materials are in a home before committing to a home.  

Buying a new home is super exciting, however, always be checking the cost of updates, the cost of materials, and of course the value of the home before committing to anything.

14. Refrigerator Materials Used 

Refrigerators are built to last up until their warranty expires. On top of that, when the refrigerators do begin to fail, the parts are no longer available. 

This is due to the manufacturers changing the internal design, and constant updating of the technology in the refrigerators.

Furthermore, it is either this, or they are making the parts way too expensive or impossible to fix. 

Additionally, in recent years, they have started making refrigerators out of lighter-weight plastic, which tends to cause some problems. 

So by making it difficult to repair they are ultimately making it where it is a lot easier to just purchase a new refrigerator. 

Refrigerators also tend to have newer models come out yearly, and the only difference between the newer model and the older model is the technology in it, sometimes a software update. 

This makes the older model seem unfashionable, and then they can simply cut the costs of making the new model.

However, they might even take a slight loss as they know you’ll now be paying more in repairs and extra features on the new model.

Customer Solution

Though refrigerators are not lasting as long, they are also not as expensive as they once were either. 

However, to save yourself money down the road, there is no manufactured difference in the way a refrigerator is built between a high-end expensive model and a lower-end model. 

Therefore, the function is the same between the two brands. 

Just make sure you purchase from a reputable manufacturer whose product will make it through the warranty time and possibly longer.

How To Avoid Planned Obsolescence 

Planned obsolescence is very appealing for manufacturers of goods because of the increase in profits that they receive. 

However, there are a few ways to overall protect yourself from planned obsolescence:

  • Refuse to buy: Do not get stuck on the newest trends. Think twice before purchasing items. 
  • Reduce: Keep items as long as possible and reduce the number of items you purchase. 
  • Recycle: When an item is no longer needed find the best ways to recycle the item. This can help prevent unnecessary items in landfills. 
  • Rebuy: Buy items that are used or made from recycled materials. 

Furthermore, following this list will help you avoid planned obsolescence in its entirety.

To learn more, you can also read our posts on the 37 revealing recycling facts that you need to know, 29 recycling tips to reduce your carbon footprint, and what plastics cannot be recycled.

Conlusion

Planned obsolescence is a business strategy to increase sales by decreasing the want for an item or its lifetime. Furthermore, you will find that this is not done just with products but is also done with business, jobs, and other markets you may not have considered before. 

The important thing to remember is that this is going on everywhere you look, even if it may not be seen easily. Therefore, always do your research before purchasing items to ensure the manufacturer has a good reputation. 

Author

  • Jean Richardson is a lover of knowledge, in all forms. He has spent over 15 years as a high school teacher, instructing students in history, geography, mathematics, and more.

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