Product Design, Manufacturers employ various tactics in product design to facilitate planned obsolescence:
Non-Modular Design: Some products, such as smartphones and laptops, are intentionally designed with non-modular components. This means that internal parts are soldered or glued together, making it nearly impossible for consumers or even professional technicians to replace or upgrade individual components like batteries, RAM, or storage. This design choice ensures that when one component fails or becomes outdated, consumers are more likely to replace the entire product rather than fixing or upgrading a specific part.
Proprietary Fasteners: Manufacturers may use proprietary screws and fasteners that are not commonly available. This makes it challenging for consumers to open up their devices for maintenance or repair, as they would need specialized tools or access to proprietary components.
Complex Disassembly: The process of disassembling the product can be intentionally made complicated. This includes intricate internal designs, adhesive-laden components, or components placed in hard-to-reach locations. These design choices discourage consumers from attempting repairs themselves.
Limited Warranty Periods, manufacturers often provide limited warranty periods for their products as part of the planned obsolescence strategy.
Short Warranty Durations: Products are typically covered by warranties that may last for one to two years. Once the warranty expires, consumers are left with no cost-effective recourse if their device malfunctions or needs repairs. In some cases, manufacturers may offer extended warranties for an additional cost, encouraging consumers to spend more.
Post-Warranty Repairs: After the warranty period ends, the cost of repairs can be significantly high, often close to or exceeding the cost of purchasing a new device. This financial disincentive prompts consumers to consider upgrading to the latest model instead of repairing their existing one. We have found that Dust, broken hinges and failed power-supplies tend to void warranties.
Discontinued Production: Manufacturers often discontinue the production of spare parts for older electronic devices. This practice occurs when a product reaches the end of its lifecycle, and the manufacturer decides to focus on producing components for newer models. As a result, consumers with older devices may find it increasingly difficult to obtain replacement parts. Compatibility Issues: Even when spare parts are available, compatibility issues can arise. Newer generations of products may use different components or technologies, making it challenging to find exact matches for older devices. This can create a situation where consumers must settle for less suitable replacements, which may not function optimally. Costly Custom Parts: Some electronic devices, especially those in niche markets or with proprietary components, use custom-made parts that are expensive to produce. When these custom parts become scarce, the cost of sourcing them can be prohibitively high, further discouraging consumers from pursuing repairs. Environmental Impact: The scarcity of spare parts and the resulting difficulty in repairing devices contribute to electronic waste. When people cannot find the components they need, their devices often end up discarded, adding to the global e-waste problem. This environmental impact is a key concern associated with planned obsolescence.
Challenges for Consumers:
Forced Upgrades: When spare parts for older devices are no longer available or are excessively expensive, consumers are effectively pushed toward upgrading to newer models, even if their current device is still functional for their needs. This can strain household budgets and perpetuate a culture of consumerism.
Loss of Functionality: Without access to spare parts, consumers may be unable to maintain or repair essential equipment, such as appliances, smartphones, or laptops. This can lead to a loss of functionality and, in some cases, disrupt daily life or work.
Reduced Sustainability: Limited access to spare parts and repairs can lead to increased consumption as consumers cycle through products more frequently. This is at odds with sustainability goals and contributes to a throwaway culture.
Consumer Frustration: The inability to find spare parts or repair older devices can lead to consumer frustration and dissatisfaction with both the manufacturer and the product. This can damage brand reputation and customer loyalty.
To address the challenge of obsolete parts and promote more sustainable practices, some initiatives, such as “Right to Repair” legislation and consumer demand for longer-lasting, repairable products, are gaining momentum. These efforts aim to ensure that consumers have the means to repair and extend the lifespan of their electronic devices, reducing the impact of planned obsolescence on both individuals and the environment.