Apple is Engaged in a Plot To…

August 1st, 2014

Paranoia strikes deep in today’s society. Governments aren’t believed, and there is a conspiracy theory behind almost everything. Any significant world event has multiple meanings, and there is always the feeling we aren’t being told everything.

Certainly profit-making corporations aren’t to be believed. The message, whatever it might be, is designed to entice you to buy a product or service. Competition is fierce, and bending the facts — or simply lying — to fit the marketing plan is par for the course. When a company depends on regular upgrades to keep sales running at a good clip, you expect they will pull stunts to get you to dump the old gear.

Indeed, it may well be that the reason iPad sales have declined is that Apple hasn’t made a good case for you to upgrade. You can take the original iPad, forgetting for the moment that current apps and iOS 7 aren’t supported, and it will continue to do its thing without protest for year after year. Indeed, some iPads are used in the business world for dedicated functions, so updating is rare unless a custom app requires it.

Now I suppose releasing an OS upgrade that leaves older hardware behind is one way to entice you to buy new gear. It’s also reasonable to suppose that the decision not to support certain models is done for marketing reasons rather than simply because the new OS won’t work so well on slower hardware. I suppose one can hack OS X or iOS and somehow induce it to install on unsupported gear, but you may see then the wisdom of Apple’s position.

Don’t forget that, when iOS 7 came out, you could install it on an iPhone 4. But those who did complained of subpar performance, including slow launch times and glacial response. Apple did tune iOS 7 to make it snappier on that iPhone, but the handwriting was on the wall. You can’t install iOS 8 on an iPhone 4. Besides, some new features will not work on the older models, but eventually those old models are set aside.

At least Apple lets you update iOS and OS X annually. Try to get a timely upgrade on an Android phone, and you’ll be very lucky if that ever happens, even if a critical security patch is involved.

For the Mac, OS X Yosemite supports the same models as Mavericks and, for that matter, Lion. That covers Macs built as far back in 2007 in some cases. Some features won’t work. Right now, based on published reports, Yosemite’s highly-touted Handoff feature — allowing you to pick up an email or document where you left off on another Apple device — only supports Bluetooth LE. But Macs built before 2011 or 2012 (depending on the model) don’t support that feature.

Maybe this will be addressed by supporting third-party Bluetooth LE USB adapters, or maybe not. But that doesn’t mean Apple should not have developed this feature. If they took that attitude there would be no Handoff and other compelling features. Apple has to be forward looking.

One ill-informed commentator for a major newspaper of record suggested that there was some plot by Apple to deliberately slow down an iPhone just ahead of the release of a new model. Supposedly this was done with some sort of software update that somehow delivered this effect. It doesn’t matter that there really isn’t any evidence that such a plot is being foisted on an unsuspecting public. It was all about getting hits because Apple was mentioned in the headline.

As a practical matter, Apple wants to sell you more gear. There’s nothing wrong with that. But there’s really no proof that OS upgrades are thus designed to deliberately disable features on older hardware, or not to support other models. The march of technology isn’t going to stop to maintain full backwards compatibility. To avoid that nasty truth would mean that newer hardware couldn’t exploit the latest and greatest OS and app features, and that would basically stall the development of these platforms.

More to the point: Unlike other companies, new OS upgrades from Apple aren’t always slower than previous releases. With Mavericks, for example, Apple actually helped improve efficiencies and power management. So your Mac seemed a tad snappier, and note-books had longer battery life. iOS 7 didn’t seem to slow down the iPhones and iPads on which I tested it — I didn’t have access to an iPhone 4. But the zooming effects by themselves would create the impression of slower response, but those effects can be turned off if you don’t like them.

The long and short of it is that I do not believe that Apple is engaged in any plot to cripple hardware or pull other stunts to make you buy new gear. On the other hand, by making it difficult if not impossible for you to upgrade your Android smartphone or tablet to a newer version of Google’s OS, does that encourage you to buy a new gadget? Or are you disgusted that you cannot take advantage of the latest and greatest features?

But I don’t think that’s necessarily Google’s plot to get you to buy new stuff. It’s more about a disorganized platform, and the inability to get handset makers and wireless carriers on the same page to set up a workable OS patching system.

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