Oct 21st 2014

My iPhone is aBrick

It took me some time to be tempted across to the Apple stable and succumb to the joys of iPhone ownership. I always appreciated the way the company kept the end user in mind with some of the most iconic industrial design this side of Philippe Stark’s Juicy Salif but I resisted. Other options were more cost effective, configurable and had other features that appealed to my techy nature. Eventually though, succumb I did and in 2010 purchased a shiny new iPhone 4.

That phone served me well for some time but I got a little concerned when each new version of iOS degraded the performance marginally until eventually I managed to smash it beyond economical repair and upgraded to a 4S. That too has served me reasonably well, even with iOS 7 loaded which came with a, by now familiar, performance penalty. I resisted the temptation to upgrade to a 5/5C/5S – my view is that a piece of consumer electronics you invest hundreds of pounds/dollars in (whichever way you pay for it), ought to have a half-life slightly longer than desert road kill.

The other factor is that innovation is slowing down in the mobile handset sector and as far as I was concerned the 4S did what was needed. I could still get my email, browse the web, send SMS or WhatsApp messages, take reasonable photos and even make a phone call. Importantly, I could also still use the Keynote app via an attached dongle to present on VGA compatible screens and projectors.

That all changed the other day when I was attempting to upload a new presentation to Apple’s cloud platform, iCloud, which then synchs with the iPhone. “No” it said. “That’s not possible unless you upgrade to the new iCloud and by the way, the new iCloud won’t work with iOS 7, you will also have to upgrade to iOS 8 on your phone – you’re stuffed mate.” Actually it didn’t say exactly that but you get the general idea.

Although, given my previous upgrade experience, I was nervous but I jumped into the void and upgraded both platforms and six hours later (I’m exaggerating but only slightly) I’d done it. What an unmitigated disaster! My iOS 8 equipped iPhone is now slightly more useful than an ashtray on a motorcycle and operates with the speed and dexterity of a 40-a-day smoking sloth.

OK, I thought, lets downgrade back to iOS 7 and I’ll come up with another solution for presentations (I hear paper is good for that). ”Think again” said Apple, “Now that we have you on iOS 8 you are trapped by the proverbial ‘short and curlys’ and we’re not letting you go, downgrades are not possible sucker. We can however, offer you a shiny new iPhone 6 or 6 Plus.’” Once again, they didn’t say exactly that, but the substance is correct.

So there we have it, a perfectly good and expensive device is rendered useless and the only reasonable conclusion you can reach is that it is done to encourage an upgrade. I’ve been around the technology sector longer than most, I don’t think I’m terribly naive and I also know that Apple isn’t the only guilty party in this comedy of errors but this unbelievably cynical manipulation of the consumer is getting beyond a joke. What does it say about the individuals behind the manipulations? How does the ridiculously short half-life of a mobile phone fit in with the Corporate Social Responsibility policies of the companies involved? A good proportion of those phones are probably going to end up in land fill sites while manual labourers in less fortunate parts of the world toil for hours to extract more of the rare earth elements required to make ‘the next best thing’.

Enough said, grrrrrrr.


Ian Hood
Ian Hood CEO