Stepping out of Planned Obsolescence into the Circular Economy: the emergence, effects, and ethics in the smartphone industry

Mário Barros, Eric Dimla

Research output: Contribution to conference without publisher/journalPaper without publisher/journalResearch

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Abstract

A constructive debate on the circular economy entails rethinking planned obsolescence. The increased production and use of consumer electronics, together with their high replacement rate substantially increases electronic waste.
Planned obsolescence consist of multiple strategies for rendering a product obsolete. In recent years, we have observed a shift from aesthetic obsolescence to technological obsolescence in for example, smartphones. As regards hardware, the life span of a product is artificially reduced by designing components that cannot be disassembled without damaging the product. Software obsolescence, on the other hand, comprises updates that slow down devices, or create incompatibility between operating systems and running applications.
This paper investigates these practices in the smartphone industry. Based on the analysis of the literature we compare planned obsolescence strategies adopted by major companies against circular economy strategies and policies recently implemented. We assess the embodiment of the strategies by analysing product features and indexes of repairability in smartphones and characterise technological obsolescence considering hardware, firmware and software.
Our conclusions suggest that tackling planned obsolescence requires policymaking that establishes guidelines for reliability to strengthen indexes of repairability as information to consumers.
Original languageEnglish
Publication date28 May 2021
Number of pages5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 28 May 2021
Event4th Conference on Product Lifetimes and the Environment (PLATE) - University of Limerick, Limerick, Ireland
Duration: 26 May 202128 May 2021

Conference

Conference4th Conference on Product Lifetimes and the Environment (PLATE)
LocationUniversity of Limerick
Country/TerritoryIreland
CityLimerick
Period26/05/202128/05/2021

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