Rotten Apples

Once upon a time, in the land of computers, there was a thing called “planned obsolescence.” Remember that? Your shiny new desktop would come with a one-year warranty, and on Day 367 you’d be staring at the blue screen of death and paging through Best Buy ads.

Almost like they planned it.

Nowadays, things work a little better than they used to. Granted, sometimes they don’t, but you’re free to buy this insurance policy or that insurance policy or whatever else you can afford to make you feel like your electronics are a sure thing that will last forever. (Keep in mind that we sent men to the moon with less computer intelligence than the smart phone in your hand. Baffling, isn’t it?)

I have a crappy Dell desktop PC. It’s a backup, a way to print out my Christmas CD labels, and when I had a proper desk it was my preferred way of sitting to do copyedits. It cost me about $400. The flat screen monitor, fancy (now obsolete) printer/scanner, webcam, cordless mouse, and speakers cost me that much on top. I’ve had it for about 6 years. Right now it’s in a corner gathering dust, waiting for the next move (and another proper desk). One day it will die and I’ll get another one. I’m totally okay with that.

I own three laptops. I do most of my work on my iBook. I have a crappy HP for backup and downloads, and a cute pink netbook for travel. I almost didn’t buy the iBook, but my lovely friend Ken Scholes bullied me into doing something nice for myself for a change. (Actually, his crazy logic told me it was for the good of the world, which is really the only reason I did it. Damn him.) It was a tough thing, but in the end, I deserved that iBook. I finished my first novel on it. I’m about to finish my second. And the world will be better for it.

Last year, I finally bit the bullet and upgraded my phone. I had an old ten-year-old Nokia brick of a thing that did not fold in half, take pictures, or surf the internet. It texted, but I didn’t. The battery lasted forever, and it was great at conventions. But what with the advent of all this social networking, the degree to which I was now expected to be on the internet, and all the traveling I was doing, the switch to iPhone was necessary. I got a 3G and figured that would be all I needed. Ever. (When I reverently placed my old Nokia on the counter, the sales guy whistled and said, “Wow. You have The Coffin. They just don’t make them like that anymore.”)

The 3GS came out, but I didn’t care about recording video since I have a great digital Canon camera that does it for me. My phone and I were fabulous. For a while, it was my security blanket and my only tie to a sane world. Before the Ivory Tower fell, I did not let it leave my person. I even slept with it under the pillow. I had nightmares about getting it wet. (I still have visions of it falling in the toilet or a glass of water.) I plugged it into my iBook regularly and upgraded my Apps and OS, and backed up my contacts and pictures like a good girl. This last upgrade to iOS4 took me almost two hours, but I just plugged the phone in and set about working on something else while it did its thing.

And now, my phone is annoying.

It sometimes takes a full minute for the screen to pop up when I’ve received a text. I can hardly use most of my Apps because it cuts out and drops me back to the main menu before I’m finished. And don’t even get me started on the camera. By the time I even get it to come up and the shutter to close, the Kodak moment has passed. Assuming I can get the stupid camera to come up at all without crapping out on me.

I stopped by the Apple store the other day and inquired about the new iPhone 4. I don’t NEED it, and in my ideal version of the world, it wouldn’t even be something I’d consider. Turns out, I am eligible for an upgrade (with the standard fee, of course). While they were checking my account, I mentioned the problems I was having on my 3G with the new OS. “Yeah, we’ve been hearing that,” was the reply.

REALLY? And that’s OKAY? I thought upgrades were supposed to make things BETTER. If it screws up the functionality of the 3G, then it shouldn’t be made available to the 3G phones — plain and simple. If I had known about the mess it was going to cause, I WOULDN’T have spent two hours of my life dutifully putting something on my phone that was actually going to make it run WORSE. My phone was fine. I didn’t need another new fabulous phone. I’m not the kind of girl who gets hot every time I see a new gadget. (Okay, I *am*, but I don’t feel pressed to *purchase* said gadget.) I had passed up an offer of an iPhone 4 upgrade once already. But I hesitated at the Apple store.

“Your phone is a piece of crap,” said Joe, and he’s pretty much right. But not due to any fault of my own — it was intentionally sabotaged by the software owners, and the world seems okay with this. I’m still baffled. Sure enough, OS Upgrades = the new Planned Obsolescence.

And yes. I placed an order for the iPhone 4. For the good of the world.