Apple Finally Did Something About Planned Obsolescence

The company's actions have led to results.

Apple’s stance against planned obsolescence is bearing fruit. B-Stock, which claims the title of world’s largest business-to-business marketplace for trade-in phones, announced on Tuesday that the iPhone X had overtaken the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus as the most sold used model. The switchover comes with the iPhone X retaining a high value, high incentives for consumers to trade up to an iPhone XS, and Apple pledging to support older devices for longer with its iOS 12 software update.

“Those that spend the $1,200-plus to invest in a top-tier iPhone demand that the device last through multiple software updates and maintain a level of quality against upcoming products for 24 months or more,” Sean Cleland, head of mobile at B-Stock, tells Inverse.

B-Stock enables retailers and manufacturers to sell their excess, returned or other inventory to other business buyers in an auction model. The site has seen a 53 percent increase in iPhone X volume month-over-month since January 2018, compared to a nine percent month-over-month increase for the 7 Plus over the same period. The iPhone X is also selling to secondary end users at a notably high price of up to 65 percent of its recommended retail price of $999, figures unheard of in the trade-in industry. Wholesale prices rank 20 percent higher than any other model ever 14 months out from launch.

Proving popular: the iPhone X.
Proving popular: the iPhone X.

The shift comes as Apple seeks to lengthen the lifespan of its phones. At the company’s annual Worldwide Developers’ Conference in June 2018, vice president of software engineering Craig Federighi proudly proclaimed that iOS 12 would be “the largest base ever supported by an Apple release,” stretching support back to devices released in 2013. The update brings performance boosts to older devices, with up to 40 percent faster app launches and up to 70 percent faster access to the camera.

The move also encourages iPhone users to stick with older devices. Lisa Jackson, Apple vice president of environment, said at the launch of the iPhone XS in September 2018 that “because they last longer, you can keep using them, and keeping using them is the best thing for the planet.”

While these moves could benefit the environment and increase customer loyalty in the long term, they seem to be having an impact on Apple’s financial results in the short term. CEO Tim Cook wrote in a letter to investors at the start of January, where he warned the company would report $5 billion less revenue than expected in the next quarterly results, that Apple was partly seeing an effect from “some customers taking advantage of significantly reduced pricing for iPhone battery replacements.” Apple reduced the price of battery replacements from $79 to $29 for 12 months starting in December 2017. Cook noted that a multitude of factors “resulted in fewer iPhone upgrades than we had anticipated.”

Related video: The Most Frustrating Part of Owning an iPhone Has Been Solved