Welcome to another edition of Unreasonable Expectations Theater, a wandering production that somehow always seems to feature Apple quite heavily.
Writing for Fast Company, Mark Wilson says “Dear Apple and Google: It’s time to stop releasing a new phone every year.” (Tip o’ the antlers to Peter.)
The Macalope is old enough to remember when Apple was being chastised for only releasing new phones once a year. Which isn’t that astounding because that was like five years ago.
You used to need a new smartphone every year or two.
It’s hard to remember now, but upgrading to a new generation of phone once meant gaining access to crucial features: The internet became browsable…
It became faster. Even on EDGE you could browse the internet if you didn’t mind waiting.
…photos became legible…
He’s trying so hard to get you to buy his premise.
[nods vigorously] Yes, Mark, early smartphone pictures were just an illegible blur of colors!
[whispers] Quick, let’s get out of here.
…and PDFs became openable.
If I’m not able to open PDFs on my smartphone right now I will simply die. Said no one ever in whatever year that became a thing, the Macalope honestly doesn’t remember.
The smartphone is good now.
As opposed to when we all used to cut our fingers on them because the edges were sharp. The first iPhone was actually just a few icons glued to a rock. Not a lot of people remember that.
No company needs to make a new smartphone every year.
Here’s another thought: just don’t buy a new smartphone every year. Who cares what Apple, Google or Samsung do? Make your own decisions. The Macalope has had his iPhone SE for three and a half years and somehow has managed to stay a… well, he was going to say “a productive member of society” but look at what he does for a living. Let’s just say he’s not any less productive than he was during that period when he bought a new phone every year.
…the production of new phones takes a staggering environmental toll on the planet.
Framing this as being all on Apple or Google does little to change it. This is not a supply-driven equation as much as it is demand-driven.
Smartphone sales are already declining globally, and people are upgrading their phones less often—for most of us, a new phone is a deeply expendable purchase.
Good! So maybe pundits and Wall Street analysts could also stop brow-beating companies for failing to maintain sales growth.
Ha-ha, yeah, right.
Wilson mentions Gadi Amit, who worked on Google’s Project Ara which attempted to make a modular phone that would let you swap out components.
In theory, a modular phone would be better for consumers…
In theory, if humans could breathe carbon dioxide and expel oxygen, we’d be able to solve global warming.
Also cause a lot more fires, but that’s a different problem. Back here on the Earth we live on, modular phones like Ara are resoundingly not the answer.
Ara may ultimately have been a victim of insurmountable flaws with its underlying concept. As detailed by Recode, separating a phone into components threatened to slow communication between them, while also sapping battery life and making phones more expensive.
This would all be a little easier to swallow if Wilson didn’t have a history of criticizing Apple for the sake of criticizing Apple. Back in 2015, Wilson said, “You Guys Realize The Apple Watch Is Going To Flop, Right?” which was both unnecessarily gendered, fabulously wrong and tied into the same consumption mindset that Wilson is now deriding.
It is ridiculous to chastise Apple, Google or Samsung for releasing new phones every year. The first company that decided to sit out a year would get pilloried for “failing to compete” and its stock price would get hammered. Probably in publications like Fast Company which says it’s dedicated to covering “how changing companies create and compete.” If you want to effect change, start there.
In the meantime, if you want off the hype cycle, you can get off any time. Just step off. The Macalope did. And it’s fine.
It’s definitely less expensive.