Black Sonos speaker on a desk surrounded by art supplies.
Research report
30 January 2020

Tech obsolescence and what you can do about it

Manufacturers would rather you ignore environmental issues and just upgrade.

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Bernard B.
06 Jul 2021
When your Smart TV is no longer Smart

We purchased our first SmartTV on 2011 (Samsung) and were really impressed for the 2 years of software upgrades, and then it was no longer Smart, the browser was no longer capable of connecting to sites; the apps would no longer upgrade.

Changing to a new power supplier brought along another newer Smart TV, we are up with it all again.

Get the picture (no pun intended).

Enter the Set-Top boxes which cost way less than a Smart TV and you also get upgrades in the same way as Smart TV's. However this device can be smaller than a pack of cards or as large as a tissue box.

I've got a DishTV device that cost $79 that allows access to much more on the web.

Rather than change the big LED screen, add a set-top box and get some more years of life out of your no so smart tv.

Johnny B.
05 Feb 2022
Retail promising no obsolescence

I think Tech education /support is key. If you're not interested in or can't keep up with tech then it's very easy to make unnecessary purchases when you're told by unscrupulous retail staff or advertising that your device can no longer do this or that or you "need" a device to do something new & the "only way" is to upgrade. Your comment on buying a top box needs to be put out there so people don't buy a whole new TV if it's tech is out of date. I understand android tv boxes are plentiful & cheap but a bit scary to operate for the technically challenged.

My friend bought a Samsung some years ago & was told at the time that as it had downloadable apps then he would never need a new one (no note of the industry acceptance of a limited lifespan of modern panels of around 7 years - iirc). Of course, Samsung stopped supporting the apps after a number of years & some (I think YouTube & Netflix) literally stopped working due to licensing or other support coming to an end. I bought a latest & greatest android tv set in July 21 & the salesman told me that as it was an "Android TV" it would never go out of date. It was very hard not to laugh - I'll pull my windows 95 pc, Samsung s3 & 2014 "smart" TV out of retirement shall I & they'll update & work fine?

The waste of old devices must be massive. The hardware should be usable for many many years but as tech stops working due to the tech environment evolves then it gets thrown out to make room for the "latest & greatest".

I have a chronic degenerative illness & am trying to make life easier for the future by using smart devices. It's been hard work to do it on the (relative) cheap. I'm starting to get concerned that in 5 or 10 years, my devices won't talk due to the relentless change of tech & difficulty of making older tech work in new digital environments.

Wendy S.
31 Aug 2020
Fitbit strap

I purchased a new Fitbit approximately 18 months ago and gifted my old one to my husband. In that time I have purchased 2 new straps for it and every one has torn through (that makes three in total, and I had already replaced the strap twice when I was using it). I have also replaced the strap on my newer Fitbit. I find this very wasteful. Companies place profit above durability which severely impacts the global environment.

Russell F.
29 Aug 2020
software updates for smart phones

Software update (in particular security ones) are vital but many phone vendors offer updates for just two years while others offer a lot more. This is something that people should factor into the the purchase price.

I have a six year old iPhone that still runs the latest OS -- no it won't run the next but it will continue to get security update for at least another year.

The other issue with cheap phones (Android) is that you have no way of knowing it your phone has the latest security updates released by Google. There are ways of finding out but they are too difficult for the average consumer.

This is another form of builtin obsolescence.

Valerie B.
06 Sep 2020
A possible solution to lack of vendor updates

For at least some phones it is fairly easy to replace the stagnating vendor OS with an up to date android derivative. A couple of starting points are

https://lineageos.org/
https://doc.e.foundation/devices/

David C.
30 Jan 2020
The extension of software marketing to hardware?

In many cases software suppliers stop supporting updates for products, and there are all sorts of backward compatibility issues. With software it's irritating and potentially expensive, but it doesn't leave you with a wasteful drawer-full of unusable and hard to recycle e-waste. That Sonos have taken this approach, in today's climate, is astonishingly tone-deaf (puns intended), and I hope the market will react appropriately.