Apple, iPad Pro, and the counter-revolution of thought
If you read the reviews of the latest iPad Pro you’d be forgiven for thinking some people writing them live in a different world where it’s normal to buy a new $1,000 computer every 12-months.
But that’s not how it works
That’s just not the world we live in.
Well, it shouldn’t be.
Yes, you will find some product manufacturers put so little inside their devices (bar marketing) that they need to be replaced annually, and you may even still be stranded on one of those crappy platforms that’s failed to figure out how to apply a universal software update to older devices, but that’s not Apple.
You don’t even need to scratch hard for proof of this.
Look at iOS 13, which supports devices way back to the five-year old iPhone 6S. Look to iOS 12, which supported devices back to iPhone 5S. Look at the way Apple’s device hold their value on the second-user market.
Even if the critics don’t see that the Apple business plan isn’t a new machine each year, but more about a happy customer with each sale who will eventually invest in an Apple device or service again, I do.
Apple would be quite happy if you upgraded annually, don’t get me wrong — but it wants to deliver you the kind of experience that means you’ll feel happy enough a few years later to stick with its platform when you actually need to upgrade.
It’s not a year by year thing
I’ve seen someone argue (no link) that the latest iPad Pro isn’t worth purchasing if you already have a 2019 model. This may be a surprise for a hero worshipper at the temple of built in obsolescence but shouldn’t surprise anyone who actually uses these things.
I’m sure there are consumers in the top percentiles who may invest in a new gadget on an annual basis, but they the exception, not the rule.
(Though the iPhone Upgrade Scheme makes it much easier for the rest of us to upgrade more often).
The thing is, most people look to these devices as investments in professional tools they use to get things done.
They don’t buy an iPad Pro because it’s cool (though it is), but because they need a computer.
iPads are computers, not toys
Fundamentally, the notion that we should replace our tablet every year is flawed.
It reflects a completely incorrect point of view – certainly incorrect for iPadOS devices — that claims tablets are not computers, but toys.
That is a PC reactionary position that cannot sustain itself against future historical narrative because it’s nothing more than reality denial.
Tablets are computers.
They sometimes do more of what we want computers to do than traditional computers are capable of.
(With a few exceptions, which is why we still need PCs, and probably always will. Though not as much. “PC will be trucks”? Who said that?).
Not only this, but that’s an unsustainable model.
Our fragile planet
The notion that you buy devices to replace them every year is actually dangerous.
It’s both wasteful and destructive in an era in which (denial or not) climate change threatens to eliminate all of our future days.
We don’t need new products every year. We need good products that last.
Apple – perhaps the world’s biggest consumer electronics company – has seen this and has been working to re-position its business to reflect that change.
That’s why Apple’s VP, Lisa Jackson told the WWDC audience in 2018:
“We also make sure to design and build durable products, that last as long as possible. That means long lasting hardware, coupled with amazing software. All of these devices, including the iPhone 5S, run iOS 12, and iOS 12 is designed to make your iPhone and iPad experience even better, even more responsive, faster… just better! And because they last longer, you can keep using them. And keeping using them is the best thing for the planet.”
In other words, using things for longer is the new normal.
Change your mentality
And in this new normal it doesn’t matter if Apple’s hardware has “just” caught up with its existing processor technology on the rest of its hardware enough to enable existing features that were already years ahead of the competition. It means the device you purchased in 2018 will still be delivering you good service in 2022, and that’s the kind of time frame product reviewers have to take when they review things.
That’s super-difficult for many starry-eyed tech writers, of course.
They seem to think consumerism has a future.
But it’s a different future, one in which the quality of a product doesn’t just reflect how it compares to last year’s version, but how it compares to the model you purchased five years ago.
Not only that, but regular software and OS upgrades also mean that when you look at an Apple product you aren’t looking at a finite object in a finite time, but you’re looking at a platform which will be iteratively improved upon across its usable life, which currently seems to be around five years.
And you can add a couple more onto that if you’re willing to use a slightly older OS.
Critics who won’t criticize
The great hypocrisy, however, of so many tech reviewers in this space is that they know that if they took these philosophies on board then they’d have to reject almost every single gadget they ever got asked to review.
That’s because so many of those gadgets are built on anachronistic models of consumerism and obsolescence. We know our global resources can no longer support such models of infinite growth.
It’s unsustainable. Even if [insert brand name with huge marketing budgets and little environmental commitment here] manufactures it.
Wake up and smell the coffee.
If a device isn’t built to last for at least five years, it’s not something to recommend. It’s a waste of resources, including the money spent on it.
One day consumer electronics will last for longer. That’s inevitable. Last year’s model is now a meaningless comparator.
Stop using it.