Apple accused of ‘sabotaging’ older iPhones? Get real

Screen Shot 2014-05-10 at 15.46.22, a group whose work I sometimes respect, has done itself no favors with its latest lazy anti-Apple petition, in which it accuses the company of sabotaging older iPhones with software upgrades…

While offering absolutely no credible proof. And not the first time SumOfUs has run things that way.

After all, while I accept that some models of iPhone are less capable of running some new features, I’ve written plenty of How to and tips reports where I explain how to set those devices up so they don’t run those features and won’t be impacted by them. I’ve also written plenty of articles detailing how to ensure you have set your iPhone up in the first place.

Even Apple is open that its software updates only work with certain iPhone models and some features don’t work on every supported device — what’s wrong with that?

The survey also: “Calls out Apple’s green initiatives as superficial; while the company has addressed environmental issues in recent years, such as investing in renewable energy and phasing out toxic chemicals, the petition says the company’s software updates force consumers to trade their iphones for the latest models, contributing to the global e-waste crisis.”

Just take a look at Apple’s Environmental reports and you’ll know this is a spurious claim.

All the same, there’s clearly no shortage of anti-Apple feeling, the survey’s already attracted 150,000 signatures.

Now I understand SumofUS has a stated mission to oppose corporate hegemony, and I think this reflects the politics of the time, a need to change the balance and enable a more positive outcome than the unfolding horror of neoliberalism, but I think the group has raised this matter needlessly.

I do think they have raised one constructive proposal: That Apple should ensure there’s an easy path for users to downgrade to a previous OS if they don’t like the current edition. In most cases I don’t think that will have too much of a material impact on Apple’s user base, and does at least give people a little more choice.

In future I think we will buy mobile devices on monthly plans and will always have the current model, if we want to. I also think Apple will continue to improve its recycling efforts.

I think SumOfUs could do much better by targeting some real environmental criminals. (But I’ve a hunch they won’t).

Jonny Evans

Watching Apple since 1999. I don't say what they should do. I say what they might do. They sometimes do.

4 Responses

  1. ViewRoyal says:

    Obsolescence is not really “planned” at all. Obsolescence happens when newer, better technologies usurp older, obsolete ones. The car replaced the horse. The smartphone replaced the mechanical, rotary dial phone.

    But even within a technology category, improvements happen in steps. Black & white TV, color TV, 720p flat screen, 1080p, 4K, etc. The same is true for smartphones. Hardware and software improvements are made as the technology advances.

    But people who complain about “planned obsolescence” have a simple solution to end their complaints… Just don’t buy anything new!!!

    If your old flip-phone, or your smartphone from 2007 still meets your needs, don’t buy the latest and greatest. As long as you take care of your devices, they should last a long time (but don’t expect companies to support obsolete products forever, because it is financially and technically impossible).

    There is no “best before date” stamped on your smartphone. But as technologies advance, don’t be P.O.’d because your old devices can’t do the same things as the new devices. If you want to stop time, join the Amish. ;-))

  2. Paul Robinson says:

    The key is what Jonny mentioned late in the story– users should always be given the chance to return a previous version of the OS, and especially, the original iOS that the device came with.

    But then Apple wouldn’t be able to proclaim that 70%, 80%, 90% of its users or devices were using the most recent OS.

    They also need to stop the automatic downloading the installers for new OSs… they finally provided a way to delete the installer file (often a HUGE one), but that’s opt-out, not opt-in.

    If Apple really, truly wasn’t hoping that users of older devices wouldn’t be frustrated, they would provide *warnings* for older devices that would accompany the update dialog boxes. It’s not enough to have the info buried on their web pages (or even highlighted there) as most regular users aren’t in the habit that we tech aficionados and gurus are of being Apple watchers or rummaging the website or the tech news.

    Good column!

  3. Ponse says:

    There is some truth to this claim that when it comes to iphones, new iOS upgrades does make the operation slower. Thats why unless needed I am very careful when upgrading. The ordinary person does not know that and usually trust Apples request for upgrades all the time.

  4. Eric Zylstra says:

    Old OSes have known vulnerabilities. It is insecure to roll back.

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