From Planned Obsolescence to the Circular Economy in the Smartphone Industry: An evolution of strategies embodied in product features

Mário Barros, Eric Dimla

Research output: Contribution to book/anthology/report/conference proceedingArticle in proceedingResearchpeer-review

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Planned obsolescence can artificially increase sales by stimulating desire or perceived need. This can be done in many ways and some companies are releasing newer models sooner than necessary or engineering the product to fail after a certain amount of use. In recent years, we have observed a change in the pattern of planned obsolescence strategies employed by technological companies, shifting from aesthetic to technological obsolescence. The reaction to this model comes from social enterprises and grassroots movements addressing the circular economy and repairability. This paper illustrates these relationships in context, taking the mobile phone industry as a case study. We focus on product architecture and product features, as a reference point to discuss the embodiment of strategies, and the degree of control the consumer is given for repairing the product. Using netnography as a method to collect data in a digital-mediated environment, this paper highlights how planned obsolescence strategies are embedded in product characteristics and summarises their evolution. It concludes by opposing planned obsolescence strategies to circular economy principles to discuss more sustainable pathways for the smartphone industry.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the Design Society
Number of pages10
PublisherCambridge University Press
Publication dateAug 2021
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2021
EventThe International Conference on Engineering Design (ICED21) - Gothenburg, Sweden
Duration: 23 Aug 202127 Aug 2021


ConferenceThe International Conference on Engineering Design (ICED21)
Internet address
SeriesProceedings of the Design Society


  • Product family model
  • Smartphone
  • Planned obsolescence
  • Circular Economy
  • Design Process


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