Planned obsolescence: light bulbs, smartphones and printers

Planned obsolescence: light bulbs, smartphones and printers

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Planned obsolescence. That is the end of the objects decided by the manufacturer. In broad terms, we described the phenomenon in the first article where we explained in general terms the two kinds of planned obsolescence: the technological and the psychological. Now let's get down to the concrete, by examining the planned obsolescence of three commonly used objects: the light bulbs, the smartphone and the printers.

Planned obsolescence: light bulbs

Let's start with the light bulbs. Today we have three alternatives to illuminate our home: halogen bulbs, compact fluorescent (CFL) and LED bulbs. The old filament bulbs, those that were the subject of a cartel agreement in 1924, to shorten their useful life, have not been on the market since 2012 because they were banned by the European Union due to their inefficiency. The 90% of the electricity was in fact converted into heat. Therefore, halogen bulbs, compact fluorescent bulbs (CFL) and Led bulbs remain. These are products that have a short industrial history and for this reason it is difficult to know if their duration is “programmed”, as happened to the filament ones.

Halogen halogens will be banned by the European Union starting from 2018, because they still have a high energy cost, even if they consume half the energy of the old filament bulbs, while CFLs are in the pipeline because, compared to LEDs consume a lot and have high industrial production costs. The CFLs, however, are suspected of planned obsolescence because their life is not linked to the duration in operation, but to the on and off cycles. Which are about 6,000. If all these cycles seem like many do not believe it. In a bathroom, for example, it is very simple to enter it ten times a day. Result your CLF bulb will last less than two years, regardless of the ignition time. For this reason, the advice is to move these bulbs to rooms where the light does not turn on and off continuously, such as bathrooms and corridors.

The transition from one technology to another of light bulbs seems to have lifted the scepter of programmed obsolescence from these devices. Let's see the numbers. To provide 20 million Lumen / hour (value of the light produced by a 900 Lumen bulb lit for about three consecutive years), over time, 22 filament bulbs are needed which consume 60 Watts and provide 900 Lumens and which have a life of 1,000 hours each. The situation improves with CFLs. You need 3 that consume 15 Watts, provide 900 Lumens and have a life time of 8,500 hours each. With i Led is the revolution. One that consumes 12.5 Watts, delivers 900 Lumens and lasts, hold on for 25,000 hours. And the source of the data is reliable since it is the United States Department of Energy. We translate everything into what interests people most: shopping.

The last filament lamps from 900 Lumens left today - they come from warehouses - cost about one euro each, they need 22 so we are at 22 euros and in three years they consume 1575 kW / h equal to 299.2 euros. Total € 321.2.

Now let's move on to CLF lamps. A 900 Lumen bulb of this type costs about six euros, three are needed, so we reach 18 euros and in three years they consume 394.4 kW / h equal to 74.8 euros. Total 92.8 euros.

And finally the LEDs. A 900 Lumen LED bulb costs about six euros, you need one, so six euros always remain and in three years it consumes 327 kW / h equal to 62.1 euros. Total 67.1 euros.

In short, technical progress and innovation have produced obsolescence, yes, but for light bulb manufacturers and electricity distributors. We will see over time, if the manufacturers of light bulbs do not make another sign to lower the life of the LEDs, while there is no hope for electricity distributors. Consumption, and CO emissions2, are destined to decline. And in fact the most intelligent are working on other services, such as the connection between your smartphone and the washing machine at home.

Planned obsolescence: smartphone

Well and now let's talk about smartphones which are, with their "ancestors", ie cell phones, among the objects most subject to programmed obsolescence, both technological and psychological. Fortunately, the European Union has for some years decided that all phones must be charged with the same attack, which allows you to power a smartphone of one brand with the charger of another. Only one company did not accept the invitation of the European Union and continues with proprietary cables and connections, which are at risk of planned obsolescence, because it is enough for the company to stop producing them or change the connection in the future. Incidentally, it is a cable that costs 2.8 euros to produce, seven to the consumer if purchased "from third parties" and 25 euros if "original". This is a speech that must also be followed for other parts of the phone, such as additional memory cards, headsets and batteries. And on the latter there is a particular discussion to be made. Some batteries, in fact, are equipped with an internal chip that allows the phone to "recognize" its battery "original". Translated: if the original battery is not found and you want to replace it with a commercial one, the phone may not recognize it. In short, a smartphone can become a waste, although it works perfectly due to a cable or a battery. The golden rule, therefore, is to pay close attention to maximum compatibility. A technological product is not "a work of art" and the alleged uniqueness is paid for.

Another matter, as far as smartphones are concerned, is that of materials. In principle, metal is to be preferred, compared to plastics which are however increasingly widespread and certainly do not belong to the family of highly resistant technical polymers, with which today even parts of truck engines are made, such as oil Cup. Of course, testing the resistance, and the coloring, of the plastics of our future smartphone is complicated, but in this case the network, including Amazon, comes to the rescue and it becomes possible to sift through the comments that judge a product. And maybe do the research in English, given that Anglo-Saxon consumers do not forgive incorrect behavior and often use the web to highlight product defects.

And then there is the psychological programmed obsolescence, which often leads to "Performance anxiety". If your smartphone, with a year of life, has 16 gigabytes of memory and an 8 megapixel camera, with 3X zoom, it does not mean that it is to be thrown away because its successor with 32 gigabytes of memory has just come out. , the 12 megapixel camera, with 5X zoom, that you are aware of due to the backbreaking marketing.

Calm down, breathe, count to ten and ask yourself some questions, like:

1) Did I fill the 16 gig memory?

2) Can I put a microSD expansion card in it?

3) Can I cancel something?

4) Have I ever printed a photograph taken with my smartphone that looked bad for the low resolution of 8 megapixels?

5) Do I ever take pictures of subjects so far away that I need a 5X zoom?

If you have given yourself as an answer sequence: NO-YES-YES-NO-NO, you don't need a new phone and for sure you will pass the "performance anxiety", which will allow you to invest your money in something unique, like a trip lasting a weekend. Of course if the project of the modular smartphone Ara, you could only have changed the camera or internal memory. But the project was decommissioned in 2016 by its own promoters. Perhaps it was scary that the "base model" was priced at just $ 47. However, a 10x15 cm printed photo is excellent even with "only" 8 megapixels, a 32 gig micro SD card - better to abound - costs about 17 euros and another 2X enlarge a photo with the photo editing program, perhaps free and on the net are, starting from 8 megapixels will not make you lose anything on the 10X15 print.

The modular elements of the Ara mobile phone

Planned obsolescence: printers

And now let's move on to a domestic object that is only remembered in two cases, when it is used and when it breaks: the computer printer. It is, the printer, a product that has been the subject of refined studies by producers for planned obsolescence, for a series of characteristics. The first is the dependence on cartridges, which are often expensive, non-refillable, and perhaps have an expiration date.

Let's go in order: the cost. Often the cost of a cartridge for a printer is slightly lower, in the case of simple lasers, than that of an entire new printer, including the supplied cartridge which, however, often has a lower than average toner content.

And often toner consumption is programmed directly at the factory. Thanks to a chip integrated in the cartridges, in fact, some printers go in lockout due to "out of ink / toner" because the number of copies is programmed and the printer does not stop when the cartridge is actually empty.

In this way the user is "forced" to change cartridges that maybe they could still print for a long time. The ink / toner consumption, in fact, depends on the color density of the prints and not on the number of copies.

The chips are also installed in other consumable parts of the printers, such as the drag drum, when separated from the toner cartridge, and which again block them until you bring them in for service for repair, or you change yourself, which is possible on some models. The fact is that often it is a maintenance not yet necessary. And that has a high price tag. It is clear that many users prefer to change the printer, at a cost of 130 euros, we are talking about a color laser, rather than having it repaired, or replacing a piece by itself, the drum, which costs about 90 euros only as a spare. And so the printer ends up in landfill. Working, repairable but obsolete.

Not to mention the cartridges that need to be changed in bulk instead of being refilled with toner, as happens on professional copiers. Same thing, the whole cartridge becomes obsolete, which perhaps has an integrated drum, rather than making it possible to refill. Yet there are those who recharge it. On the market, in fact, you can find refurbished and refilled cartridges or alternatively you can refill it yourself, spending about 5 euros for the toner and the same amount for the isopropyl alcohol necessary for cleaning the cartridge. For the instructions, which change from one printer to another, it is a Google search is enough and it will be hard not to find a video tutorial for your printer.

You may also be interested in reading the article Planned obsolescence: what it is and examples.

Edited by Sergio Ferraris

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