Planned Obscolesence as Fragility

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I want to discuss Planned obsolescence as fragility. In the days of Nokia you could buy a phone and give it to a teenage boy and expect it to survive without breaking. I know because I was a teenage boy with a Nokia phone. So were plenty of my peers. It was more likely that someone would lose or drown their phone than break it. I only broke one phone display in those days and that took some effort. 


A few years ago I was playing Ingress and I managed to shatter three screens in quick succession and it was frustrating but it was due to me walking while playing ingress. I replaced the screens three times before I bought a rugged crosscall phone that was designed to withstand falls, submersion and more. I didn’t use it for long because I had connectivity issues. These were android devices. 

Lifeproof, Otterbox and Quad lock

When the risk of breaking phones increased so did the need for protective cases. I have used lifeproof cases for iphones, otterbox for iphones and a blackberry device and quad lock for the most recent iphone. I use these cases because dropping a phone just once will shatter either the front panel or the back panel. It’s for this reason that I used an iphone SE for more than a year. You can break the screen but you can’t break the back. 

I thought another iphone wouldn’t fit with the protective case within the clasps of the DJI drone remote control so I took it out of it’s protective case. Within 30 seconds the phone fell to the floor and the rear glass shattered. I promptly put the phone back into its case. 

On the one hand brands like Apple say “Look at our beautiful device devices, they’re so sleek and elegant” and then you shatter one of the screens within days of getting it and you think “What is the point of elegance if it shatters?”

The unfinished device

The Unfinished device I am thinking of is the Apple Watch. As I mentioned in an earlier post I have had at least half a dozen fitness watches and two diving watches. My Suunto Ambit 3 came with me for three years of sporting activites without showing any real signs of wear and tear. The straps are fine, the screen is fine. The only signs of wear are on the bezel that protects the screen and this is key. 

Most luxury watches use sapphire glass and despite the rugged qualities of this glass they protect them with a protective bezel. If you’re climbing and hit the watch against rocks, metal rungs, door frames or other surfaces the bezel keeps the glass safe. 

I know for a fact that my suunto Ambit 3 took rock impacts straight to the screen as I climbed but the glass is concave, sloping inwards from the centre to the bezel. If it suffers an impact it is designed to survive. 

The Apple watch has an unprotected glass screen that is flat. It is unsuitable for climbing because when you’re climbing your wrists hit rock, metal, resin hand moulds and ropes or cables. Whereas Suunto watches are designed for rugged sports Apple watches are designed for park runs and boardrooms. You find articles like this one about how to protect your apple watch when doing sports. To me the notion that you would need to protect a sports tracking watch is absurd. The whole reason for a sports tracking watch is to be light and tough, to survive indoor climbing. 

In indoor climbing the materials you come across are wood, metal and resin hand holds. They’re not granite, limestone and other forms of rock. They’re soft and forgiving. 

I have a theory that the hairline fractures that appeared on my screen after a fourth session of climbing with this watch were caused either by A) the rope somehow whipping the screen and fracturing it or B) When going from one hold to another I applied pressure to the screen at just the right angle for it to shatter in two places, splitting the touchscreen in three. 

The display itself is fine. The only reason I noticed the damage is that the touch screen failed to respond. 

Take it off

The most absurd suggestion to not damaging a sport apple watch is to take it off when you’re exercising. If you buy a sports version of the apple watch is taking it off a viable solution? If that’s the solution then buy a suunto or a garmin. They cost the same, have good battery life and they will survive any sport you can survive. Just google search broken suunto screen. A search for broken Garmin screen will yield broken screens. 

The protective sleeve

If a solution to protecting a device is a protective sleeve then it is an unfinished device. Your biggest fear with a watch should be that the screen gets scratched as you use it over the years. It shouldn’t be that you shatter it while climbing indoors. 

Conclusion – Buy a case

If you buy an iPhone you should automatically get a case. With Apple’s current design philosophy you should not buy an Apple watch until you can buy a protective case for it. The new design philosophy for mobile phones, watches, and as of yesterday laptops is to push the boundaries of survivability to their limits. I hope that the trend to make things more fragile goes away. 


2 responses to “Planned Obscolesence as Fragility”

  1. What’s your current watch? I’m burning through Suunto watch bands probably because I swim with my Ambit.

    1. The Suunto Spartan Wrist HR Baro and the Apple Watch Series 4. Sometimes I wear both.

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