FutureFive New Zealand logo
Consumer technology news from the future
Story image

'They don't make things like they used to' - why devices aren't built to last

By Sara Barker
Tue 30 Jun 2020
FYI, this story is more than a year old

The adage ‘they don’t make things like they used to’ is somewhat true, but it’s a little more complicated than you think– or at least that’s what one University of New South Wales (UNSW) industrial design expert believes.

UNSW senior lecturer in industrial design, Miles Park, says that some people may subscribe to the theory that manufacturers are intentionally building ‘planned obsolescence’ into their products – that is, they’re designing products so they don’t last.

“There is a little bit of truth in that. It’s fairly well accepted that products now often do have a shorter lifespan,” says Park.

He points to Apple as one of the companies that are encouraging obsolescence – even though they might not be explicitly designed to fail or have a planned shelf life.

He says, “Apple got in trouble a few years ago where they were accused of throttling the speed of iPhones as the battery depleted, which was seen as a means to trigger an event for people to want to replace that product.”  

Park points the finger at manufacturers and said they should be doing more to make sure their products last longer. However, manufacturers may claim that consumers always want new things. Is that the whole truth, though?

“People lament the fact that things aren’t repairable, and that things don’t seem to last as long as they used to, and they’re right,” says Park.

Mind, matter, and money are the three main drivers that push people to buy new items, forcing older items into obsolescence.

“We tend to get rid of things just because they don’t do things as well anymore. A lot of electronic waste, for instance, is still functional when it’s disposed of, it might not be as good as it once was, the battery doesn’t work as well, or a connector might not work anymore,” says Park.

He believes that consumers are open to product repair services, however manufacturers don’t have too many incentives to extend a product’s life. 

Park explains that replacements may end up being cheaper than repairs, particularly with consumer devices like electronics.

“Consumer electronics have gone through a deflationary trend for some time – every time you get a new laptop, it’s twice as powerful as the previous one, but may cost a similar or lesser amount,” says Park.

“However, if the provision of spare parts, repair services and the availability of information about repairability, if it is competitive, it will become economically viable for people to seek out repairs,” he says.   

He points to the European Union, where legislation will soon require companies to provide spare parts and servicing information for up to 10 years in some product categories.

While there are product stewardship regulations in places like Australia, they only cater for certain products like computers and televisions. 

He believes manufacturers can do more about repairability – there are even design and engineering strategies that can help to do just that.

“For example, you might offer obvious non-tool entry points for opening a product and replacing components, or you might design a product to be modular,” he says.

Just look at the Boeing 747 – it has served millions of passengers since the 1960s and is only just going into retirement. Along the way everything has been renewed and upgraded.

“Perhaps we could have a similar attitude too about household durables, where new business models, as well as the design and the engineering of these products, allows for things to be upgraded and repaired,” concludes Park.

Related stories
Top stories
Story image
Sony
Sony launches LinkBuds S - the latest model in the series
Sony says the LinkBuds S will give users a unique sound experience through sensor and spatial sound technology, even in AR games.
Story image
Surveillance
i-PRO releases smallest AI-based surveillance camera on the market
The new i-PRO mini network camera is now available, with a pocket-sized form factor and full AI analytics functionality.
Story image
Digital Marketing
Getty Images delves into the world of NFTs with Candy Digital
Getty Images and Candy Digital, the next-generation digital collectible company, have announced a new multi-year partnership agreement.
Story image
Gaming
Hands-on review: WD_Black SN770 NVMe SSD Game Drive
Western Digital expands its WD_Black range of NVMe solid-state drives with the WD_Black SN770 Game Drive.
Story image
Gaming
Hands-on review: The A500 Mini Retro Gaming Console
Retro Games, the UK outfit responsible for a range of retro gaming devices from joystick to full-sized Vic-20s and C64 emulators, have launched their A500 Mini Retro Gaming Console.
Story image
Norton
Hands-on review: Norton Anti Track 19 software
We get hands on with Norton's new privacy tool that was introduced in March 2022.
Story image
Microsoft
Microsoft backing Māori and Pacific wāhine in tech industry
A new initiative focused on getting Māori and Pacific wāhine into the tech industry and backed by Microsoft, NZTech and the government is calling for tech companies to get involved.
Story image
Sustainability
Can bots succeed where humans have failed in sustainability?
People want businesses to turn talk into action, and believe technology can help businesses succeed where people have failed.  
Story image
Gaming
Mastercard users can now use rewards points in gaming
Mastercard has launched Mastercard Gamer Xchange (MGX), allowing APAC consumers to convert their rewards points into gaming currency.
Story image
i-PRO
i-Pro announces newest solutions as rebranded enterprise
i-PRO APAC Oceania has introduced its newest high-resolution mid-range cameras, with combined edge AI analytics and resolutions of up to 4K.
Story image
Logitech
Logitech releases new mouse with ergonomic and sustainable focus
Logitech has announced the Logitech Signature M650 Mouse and the Signature M650 for Business Wireless Mouse, both with new ergonomic features and capabilities.
Story image
Collaboration
TikTok launches community-inspired effect capability
TikTok has announced the launch of its Effect House feature to allow its users to create and share Community Effects.
Story image
WolfVision
WolfVision announces new range of visualisers
WolfVision has announced a new range of visualisers to help meet multiple industry demands for remote learning and educational solutions.
Story image
First Table
First Table set to revive restaurant commerce in NZ with platform launch
A new restaurant booking platform has launched in New Zealand, giving Kiwi diners the opportunity to save and book at a variety of restaurants around the country.
Story image
Malware
Vulnerabilities in Lenovo laptops expose users to UEFI malware
Researchers at ESET have discovered three vulnerabilities affecting various Lenovo consumer laptop models.
Story image
Gaming
Hands-on review: 32GB PNY XLR8 Gaming MAKO 6000MHz DDR5 memory kit
PNY’s XLR8 Gaming MAKO DDR5 memory modules are designed to get the most out of systems based on Intel’s 12th generation Alder Lake CPUs.
Story image
Music
Hands-on review: JBL Partybox 110 Bluetooth speaker
My first review in a long time is sure to create a lot of noise, if the experience in my household has been anything to go by.
Story image
Apple
Apple previews new features for users with disabilities
Apple says new software features that offer users with disabilities new tools for navigation, health and communication, are set to come out later this year.
Story image
Review
Hands-on-review: Creative Outlier Air V3
Creative is back with the third version of its affordable Outlier Air wireless earbuds range - aptly named the ‘V3’. And this time, they come boasting ambient mode and active noise reduction.
Story image
Jabra
Jabra reveals its latest portable headset Engage 55
Jabra has launched the Engage 55, the newest product in Jabra's Engage series designed for ultimate call security and quality.
Story image
NFT
Emirates to launch NFTs and experiences in the metaverse
"Emirates has embraced advanced technologies to improve business processes, enhance our customer offering, and enrich our employees' skills and experiences."
Story image
Online shopping
A/NZ shoppers plan to spend less, be more selective
For retailers, 2022 is set to be a year of introspection as shoppers across Australia and New Zealand indicate they plan to spend less.
Story image
E-waste
NZ’s first and only e-waste sorting machine launched
Computer Recycling launches e-waste shredder and MSS optical sorting machine BLUBOX, which is able to sort out a tonne of e-waste per hour
Story image
Wireless
Sony to bring new 1000X series WH-1000XM5 headphones to the market
Sony has announced the newest edition of its award-winning wireless headphones, with the 1000X series WH-1000XM5 noise-cancelling model.
Story image
Dynabook
Dynabook A/NZ announces new Portégé X40L-K hyperlight laptop
Dynabook A/NZ has unveiled the all-new Portégé X40L-K, a hyperlight 14.0" modern laptop utilising cutting-edge, high-performance computing power.
Story image
Artificial Intelligence
Tell-tale hints before volcanic eruptions found using AI
Researchers have pinpointed precursors to volcanic eruptions, in data collected before explosions including the deadly 2019 Whakaari surge that killed 22 people.
Story image
Review
Hands-on-review: GoPro Hero 10
I have a long history with GoPro; I still remember getting my first camera when I was 16, using it to film Parkour and the day I lost it down a dingey crag. 
Story image
Poly
Poly introduces new smart devices and announces Amazon e-store in Australia
Poly is introducing two new pro-grade devices to the market and announcing its first official Australian e-store on Amazon.
Story image
Design
Dynabook launches new Tecra A40-K and A50-K models
Dynabook has announced two new additions to its Tecra range, with both said to help promote flexible working solutions while also reducing the strain on IT managers.
Story image
Wireless
Hands-on review: Technics EAH-A800 Noise Cancelling Wireless Headphones
Designed in Osaka, Japan, these headphones just exude quality. They aren’t heavy, but they feel well built and solid.
Story image
Wireless Nation
Wireless Nation, N4L provide 4G network to remote NZ schools
Wireless Nation and Network for Learning (N4L) have rolled out the Rural Connectivity Group’s (RCG) new 4G network to better connect three Chatham Islands schools.
Story image
D-Link
D-Link launches new G415 Smart Router as part of EAGLE PRO AI range
D-Link A/NZ has announced the launch of its new G415 AX1500 4G Smart Router as part of the new EAGLE PRO AI Series.
Story image
Mobility
Tyson Beckford partners with Element Case on new AppleWatch band
Celebrity Tyson Beckford has collaborated with STM Brands' Element Case brand to create a rugged new accessory.
Booster
Booster Innovation Fund. A fund of Kiwi ingenuity – for Kiwi investors.
Link image
Story image
Gaming
PNY launches XLR8 Gaming EPIX memory products in A/NZ
PNY has launched its XLR8 Gaming EPIC-X RGB™ DDR4 Silver 3200MHz and 3600MHz memory products in Australia and New Zealand.
Story image
Gaming
Game review: MLB The Show 22 (PS5)
Historically the MLB The Show series has been exclusive to PlayStation consoles, but now the franchise is expanding.
Story image
PaaS
New digital traffic light system to tackle construction defects
Smarter Defects Management launches its PaaS digital system and says it will revolutionise managing defects in the construction industry.
Story image
Microsoft
Microsoft unveils adaptive accessories for disability access
Microsoft is introducing an expansive Inclusive Tech Lab to give people with disabilities greater access to technology through new software features and adaptive accessories.
Story image
Wireless
Hands-on review: Steelseries Aerox 9 Wireless and Aerox 5 gaming mice
Steelseries offered two interesting mice for review, the Aerox 9 Wireless, aimed at MMO/MOBA players, and the Aerox 5, a wired mouse for multi-genre use.
Story image
Sustainability
The AI Forum helps NZ pave the way with AI sustainability practices
Non-profit organisation The AI Forum is helping Kiwis learn about addressing climate change issues through the use of AI technology.
Story image
IDC
IDC finds 3.9% decline in worldwide tablet shipments
Preliminary data from IDC's Worldwide Quarterly Personal Computing Device Tracker has found tablet shipments reached 38.4 million units during Q1 2022, a year-over-year decline of 3.9%.
Story image
Digital Signage
MAXHUB's Digital Signage range to bolster boardroom productivity
The new MAXHUB Digital Signage technology is purpose-built to make every kind of team meeting more effective.
Story image
Mobility
Hands-on review: STM laptop bags
The advent of hybrid working has meant we need laptop bags. We got our hands on two of the most popular laptop bags from STM.
Story image
Artificial Intelligence
Google to enter the smartwatch market with the Google Pixel Watch
Google has provided a first look at its new Google Pixel Watch, which is set to make an entry into the competitive smartwatch market.