How to Shop for Tech That Actually Lasts

If we are to get ourselves out of Spaceship Earth Demolition Mode, one thing we are all going to have to do is to wean ourselves off the Perpetual Upgrade Treadmill.

Below is a ‘reblog’ of an interesting lifehacker article by Meredith Dietz†, lightly edited for style. Its thrust ties in well with my own thinking, as illustrated by wibblettes such as:

How to Shop for Tech That Actually Lasts

If it feels like your electronics always die after a few years, it’s because they’re designed that way.

All the tech we know and love will, one day, be obsolete. In the meantime, it would be nice if the gadgets we use every day were designed to last longer and longer rather than shorter and shorter. Unfortunately, tech companies usually adopt the strategy of ‘planned obsolescence’: You keep coming back to buy more product, hurting the planet and wasting your money along the way. And so, for the sake of the planet, your wallet, and your sanity, here’s what to know about hacking planned obsolescence and getting your electronics to last as long as possible.

What exactly is ‘planned obsolescence’?

Planned obsolescence is not as simple as electronics falling apart on a set deadline. Instead, it’s a business strategy: design products that require replacing within a few years on the market.

In practice, this looks like your smartphone slowing down after just about two years as new generations of software grow less compatible with the aging hardware. In fact, software is often designed to include new features and file types that are incompatible or otherwise less friendly with existing programs and hardware. Sure, some of that is necessary for technological progress, but much of it is done to encourage you to upgrade your devices.

When it comes to the plague of planned obsolescence, there’s not a lot you can do in the face of Big Tech. Companies are going to do whatever they think will benefit them most. Still, there are a few tips to keep in mind to fight back against purposefully short-lived electronics.

Push past perceived obsolescence

First off, it’s important to take a beat and recognize how you’re defining obsolescence. Powerful marketing tactics will always push the newest, shiniest products at us. Often, these aren’t actually meeting a need you have, but play on the desire to have the latest and greatest thing. Always think about functionality over style.

Tech has gotten so good in recent years that a smartphone or laptop will stay usable far longer than ever before. While you might lose out on new feature here and there, or notice some slowdowns, chances are you can hang onto your devices for longer than you – or the companies that make them – think.

Choose devices that you can upgrade rather than replace

Instead of always replacing your gadgets with newer version, try to shop for products you can easily upgrade in future. For instance, the next time you need a laptop, consider skipping the light, sleek model for one that can handle upgrading RAM and storage. While more devices are now going the non-upgradable route than ever, there are still customizable options out there to choose from.

Apple’s laptops, on the other hand, can’t be customized at all. What you buy today is what you’ll have forever (or, rather, until it fails), so keep that in mind.

Repair before you replace

Your instinct might be to replace your old electronics with newer models, but don’t rule out good old-fashioned repairs. For instance, if your phone never reaches a full charge anymore, you might be able to replace just the battery for a fraction of the cost of a brand new phone. If your laptop is running hot, you might need to clean the fans, or to reapply the thermal paste. It’s like taking your car to the mechanic: You don’t chuck out the whole car because you have a flat tire, after all.

What’s key here is to do a little research before you buy. Find out whether the product you’re buying is easily fixed by a repair person, and if the brand has any rules or restrictions around repairing their products. Remember, as a customer, you’re allowed to ask for every detail about what you’re buying, so don’t make the purchase until you’re sure you know how repairs will go down the line.

Protect your equipment

It’s simple, but overlooked: Treat your electronics gently if you want them to live long, happy lives. Use cases and screen protectors, and handle your tech with care. And, when you’re initially buying, shop with an eye for durability over style. Even if all these accessories are an extra investment at first, you’ll save yourself money in the long run by avoiding costly replacements every few years.

Oh, and by the way: if you have an old PC running Windows 8, give me a shout before you throw it out; I may be able to give it a new lease of life.

† I did look for, but couldn’t find, any information on regarding its policy on reuse of its content, but came up blank. I hope that they won’t object to my helping to spread this very useful message.

About peNdantry

Phlyarologist (part-time) and pendant. Campaigner for action against anthropogenic global warming (AGW) and injustice in all its forms. Humanist, atheist, notoftenpist. Wannabe poet, writer and astronaut.
This entry was posted in balance, Computers and Internet, Core thought, Environment, Ludditis, Strategy, Tech tips and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to How to Shop for Tech That Actually Lasts

  1. I’ve been complaining about planned obsolescence for the last 15 years. It’s not just tech. It’s almost everything I have purchased in the last 15 years. Manufacturers used to take pride in their products that were made to last. Not the case for most items anymore. It’s all about cheaply-made products that will require upgrades as soon as possible.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Amen. Great recommendations!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. revruss1220 says:

    I’m sure you are familiar with “Right to Repair” legislation that is working its way through the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. It is being advocated for by The Repair Association and aims to break the monopoly companies like Apple and Samsung have on being the sole providers of repair services for their products. It is still far from being “the law of the land,” but things are moving!


  4. Bill Ziegler says:

    Hello Colin,
    I have been busy with exigency concerns recently. Apologies for the much-delayed response.
    Actually, I published my latest essay this very afternoon.
    We have been Apple users since yonks; Microsoft reminds me of DOS 3.11. There are yet some floppy disks in a desk at the basement. We call it the “time machine” here at Crowell Manor.
    Wishing all good things to my many friends in the Kingdom United :-)
    Mach’s gut, mon ami.


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