Mobile phones purposely built not to last, researchers say

17 Oct 2014

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Mobile phones are purposely engineered ‘not to last’ so manufacturers can sell new products at an accelerated rate, researchers at the University of Sydney have claimed.

As reported by ABC News, the university’s professor of media and communications, Gerard Goggin, believes device manufacturers use cheaper components and have experimented with more plastics to cause a “quick turnover” of products.

“It’s a concept that has been obvious for a long time in terms of a consumer society,” said Goggin. “And there’s a sense now in which the built-in obsolescence in devices is shorter than usual.”

Goggin claims hardware companies have reacted to payment plans that allowed customers to “post pay” on 24-month contracts with telecommunication companies so they could avoid paying for the latest device. He specifically mentioned Nokia Vertu as a brand perhaps culpable and asserted that ‘mobile phone culture’ – that is, customers constantly seeking the latest smartphone – was partially to blame.

“People want the latest mobile, and there’s still enough innovation in them to justify upgrades, although in three to five years’ time that won’t be the case.

“There won’t be that much new in this mobile market, and I feel a bit like that at the moment. I’ve just got an iPhone 5, why would I want an iPhone 6? There’s not much difference in it.”

Shortly after the release of the iPhone 6 Plus last month, Apple was hit by claims the device was prone to bending or warping. Samsung, meanwhile, has gone to lengths to ensure it isn’t levelled with similar accusations by attempting to display the Galaxy Note 4's durability in a recently released video.

Broken smartphone image via Shutterstock

Dean is a freelance journalist and editor covering media.

editorial@siliconrepublic.com