App(alling): The Apple Upgrade Trap

The world of technology is currently headed to a very exciting interconnected future; a future in which products are updated and debugged on the fly at the cost of reliance on the internet. These recent developments have led to a dramatic increase in competition within the software market as corporations like Apple, Microsoft and Google are constantly held to account for the quality of their software and the speed with which they patch out bugs and issue improvements.

However, the interconnected future unfolding before our eyes has revealed a very sinister form of anti-consumer practice; artificially dating products.

With the release of iOS 7 last year, millions of customers rushed to download the latest mobile operating system from Apple. To the disappointment of many, the operating system that promised to be, “The mobile OS from a whole new perspective”, managed to significantly slow down devices like the iPhone 4 while decreasing battery life substantially. There were thousands of complaints on the Apple forums by disgruntled users that felt like they were being forced to upgrade to a new iPhone, just to remain within the iOS ecosystem.

The changes introduced by the update were by no means game-changing, resulting in a lukewarm reception from critics, which begs the question: what in the update was so taxing that slowed older generation iOS devices to a standstill while inexplicably changing so little?

The correct answer is that we simply don’t know. However, what we do know is that to convince you to upgrade, corporations like Apple can’t simply degrade build quality to force you to buy their latest iteration. In such a highly competitive market, such a move would be suicide.
What Apple can do though, is draw you in with the promise of new features, bug fixes and general improvements, compelling consumers to upgrade. Accompanying the slew of improvements, of course, is the relentless marketing fanfare that can convince even the most jaded consumer that an upgrade is well worth what is surely “a small performance loss”.

And if all else fails, exploiting the fact that iOS is a closed operating system, why not make all updates for your apps, exclusive to the operating system that you have not yet installed? A brute force approach sure, but by now the casual consumer is convinced that the update makes changes significant enough to require a whole new operating system to function effectively.

A delightful conspiracy and I can’t prove a word of it.

And that is the beauty of it all. At the end of the day, the device in your pocket is ultimately manufactured by a corporation and it is by that corporation’s grace that you are allowed to use it. The way they develop their software is completely up to them. Don’t like it? Don’t buy it.
If that’s not good enough, make yourself a tinfoil hat, purchase an indestructible Nokia and join me and a few other disillusioned consumers for a screening of ‘The Moon Landing Hoax’ this weekend.

Columnist at York Vision and Chat Politics.