Fail by design

Blown light bulbI remember the inception of mobile phones vividly. My first was a bright orange thing with green buttons, bought for £3 from a questionable source, I did always fear it’s previous owner longed for it back…

Since then, obtaining a new phone has for a while quenched my thirst for the latest model, until about two weeks later where there’s something newer and shinier on the market. The exponential development of these small devices still astounds me, I remember well when I first experienced a polyphonic ringtone I commented to a friend “Well the audio quality isn’t going to get much better than that is it?”.

It’s said that the average mobile phone user owns three handsets on top of the one they are currently using, which goes to show what a disposable commodity they are. Imagine walking to Argos for a new landline phone, and them telling you that it’ll cost £600, but will only last two years? You’d laugh! But seemingly, that’s what we all do for mobiles.

These little handsets consume so much of our time. My partner Amanda spends hours glaring into the little portal of pixels, endlessly scanning facebook for something, anything noteworthy, or directing little bubbles into clusters of three.

When I owned the iPhone, I remember being truly fascinated by it, well for a month at least. It was a 3GS, I paid and extra fiver a month to have the 19th letter appended to the end of the model number, and by god it was speedy!

The problem with iPhones though, is they are too designed. Odd problem I hear you question. My point is though, they’re designed to outdate quickly. Very niche stylistically, and the constant churn of the Apple machine means there’s a constant flow of new models replacing and outdating the old ones. Only six months will go by and the iPhone quickly becomes wallpaper in your hand.

On a complete whim, I walked into a well known mobile phone retailer (purporting to be a combination of elements) to buy the latest generic iPhone and walked out instead with an HTC. Within a month, I downloaded a firware update which literally broke the phone. The Oxygen company obliged our contractual agreement and provided me with a new one, with specific instruction to wait until the next update. Fair enough really.

Even in spite of this small glitch (which apparently removed their entire profit margin for this phone) I’ve never been so contented with a phone. Two years down the line, I have absolutely no desire to ditch it for the newer shinier model. I’ve become quite fond of this little phone (or rather, huge phone – relative to the size of iPhones).

The clever chaps at the South Korean firm rammed this sleek bit of rubberised metal with as much of the technology as they could, leaving nothing up their sleeve for future models. But then I suppose it’s not a particularly clever business model at all is it? I liken it to lightbulbs. They design incandescent bulbs to fail. Simple really, design something with a predetermined lifespan, and you’ll get repeat custom again and again. It is said that if you were to buy a lightbulb by Thomas Eddison’s blueprint, it would stay functional for as long as the fluorescent energy-saver models.

Interesting ey? Successful businesses work by producing products designed to fail.

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