Have you noticed that over the years, the lifespan of your electronic products are getting shorter and shorter? Most fail within three years, while few even stop working within a year compared to electronics in olden days.
You may probably recall the many years the wooden-framed rectangular stereos and black and white TVs lasted. A black-and-white TV sold in 1979 lasted for about 12 years; today, a cutting-edge LCD-screen TV is replaced after five years. Same case for the old DOS or Windows 95 or 98 running computers. It took ages before they came to their knees.
Nowadays, laptop computers need to be fixed every 16 months on average, while mobile phones last an estimated two years. Partly because people use technology more, communication has improved and people are always in touch through the many means of communication channels available.
We tag along gadgets when we travel, sometimes exposing these electronics to unfavourable weather, dust and hitting from tough terrains, hence cutting short their lifespan.
But this is compounded by a combination of shorter warranties and design changes which means that buyers of even relatively expensive gadgets now have little choice but to throw them in the trash if anything breaks.
In the past few years, companies like Dell slashed warranty periods from three years to one. Apple Computer’s iPod digital-music player comes with only a 90-day warranty and all other electronic companies have followed suit.
Even if people want to pay for repairs out of their own pockets (when warranty expires), some gadget makers are cutting off that option as well. Many hand-held devices from companies such as Apple, Palm and Hewlett-Packard have built-in rechargeable batteries that generally can’t be replaced without sending the entire unit back to the company.
You just can’t fix it at home and there is fear that if you give the gadget to some technicians, they may mess it more.
It is an open secret that consumer electronics industry has come up with this 10,000-hour lifespan concept for their products. If you divide 10,000 hours into 10 hours a day and five days a week of usage, you will get roughly about four years’ worth of usage.
Why would they want to do that? Simple, in order to keep up with profits, companies need to keep selling their products. But, if the products last very long, then there will be no reason compelling enough to get people to keep buying!
But things have gone far worse than that. Over the years, companies have taken a step further to cut the 10,000 hours by as much as 75 per cent. The 2,500 hours translate to about one year of usage. Looking at the warranty cards for your products, you will hardly get a warranty for more than a year, for products that used to come with three-year warranties.
There are some people who will use their computers as servers and run them 24/7 whole year round. So, what do you think would be the likely outcome for their computers?
With all the social media stuff accessed through phones, many phones rest for very few hours in a day and therefore start acting up after one or two years depending on the quality of the phone. Some phones are dead in less than six months.
Additionally, when computer and other electronics break down; many people nowadays find it difficult to check in their gadgets for a week at a service centre.
Guess what would most people do? Spend a little more money on a brand new computer or phone that’s much faster and much better and forget their old, slow and faulty equipment. Banks even encourage it; they have attractive loan offers which one can use to buy these electronics.
The result? Tech companies remain in business.
Sam Wambugu is a monitoring and evaluation specialist. Samwambugu@gmail.com