Apple’s Planned Obsolescence and the Rate of Profit

Proponents of capitalism insist that it is their system alone that can produce the greatest products available to mankind. It is only via the profit motive that production can hammer together the greatest of quality. There is nothing that can surpass the capitalist mode of production in providing luxury commodities to people through the market, they claim.

Yet, the reality we see is quite different from this rosy picture presented to us by apologists of the system. Every day we’re finding items that are designed to break so that we have to purchase new ones. The popular term is ‘planned obsolescence’. This is most commonly found in consumer electronics. The capitalists specifically design their products to break down at a particular time so that you will be forced to purchase a new one.

Apple dominates the world in cell phones with the most iconic brand, the iPhone. In the eyes of many people, they are the pinnacle of quality, at a steep price. However, despite their self-identifying with the brand, the reality is quite the opposite. Apple has been found to be deliberately sabotaging their own products in order to get you to purchase a newer model.

A study done by Harvard has confirmed what many have suspected of the iPhone: that it miraculously becomes slower right before a newer model comes out. Harvard looked at Google trends and compared searches about iPhones slowing down to dates when a new iPhone model was released. The research shows that this was indeed the case.


Apple has been accused of forcing their existing phones to slow down via software update. It seems that this is certainly the case.

For a measure of control, the Harvard study did the same comparison of release date and speed with the Samsung Galaxy.


As you can see there was no correlation between speed and release dates. It appears that Samsung engages in no such unethical practice of sabotaging their own products.

It seems a pretty clear-cut case that Apple is cheating their customers by deliberately causing their productions to malfunction.

The question before us is, why would the capitalist do this? We can point to greed as something that is rewarded in the capitalist system. This is a very typical liberal view, one that condemns capitalism, but relegates the actions of the capitalist to be some kind of anomaly. That is to say, it is something that this capitalist did, not something inherent to capitalism itself. They see it as the action of some unethical businessman, not a structural problem of capitalism itself.

In fact, it’s a part of capitalism itself: the tendency of the rate of profit to fall.


It’s clear that such unethical actions are necessary in order to keep up business. The capitalist has no vested interest in making such a commodity last a long time. It is far more profitable to force the consumer to purchase a new device when it becomes available. I don’t think it is necessary to go through the math. We know what an increasing profit margin looks like.


So, given all of this, do you think it’s plausible that Apple sabotages their phones so that you’ll buy a new one?