Mid-Cycle Upgrades Represent the Best and the Worst of Planned Obsolesce

The Staggering Rate of Innovation is Bittersweet

Credit: The Verge

This week, Microsoft released its Xbox One S console. Heralded as what the Xbox One should have been, devices like this new Xbox beg the question: Software updates aside, why aren't products like these this good when they originally come out?

The Xbox One S is far from the only consumer electronics device in recent years to raise eyebrows for this reason. Consider the iPhone 6. Like the original Xbox One, the iPhone 6 was a radical departure from its predecessor. Like the 2013 Xbox, the 2014 iPhone lacked a key feature found in competing products.

Credit: Macworld

In the case of the One, it could not maintain full 1080p HD resolution when under load. The iPhone to this day doesn’t have a 1080p screen, staying true to what Steve Jobs dubbed a “retina display.” More importantly, the original iPhone 6 had only a single gigabyte of memory. Other 2014 flagship phones, including the HTC One (M8), the Samsung Galaxy S4, and the LG G3, had 2GB of RAM for enhanced multitasking.

The iPhone 6S remedied this issue, much like the Xbox One S’s improved APU will alleviate its under-performance as compared to the PlayStation 4. But what about owners of the 2013 Xbox One? And those who purchased the iPhone 6? They weren't exactly cheated out of their $400 and $650, respectively. Sure, their devices are able to play current games and run the newest apps but, compared to those who bought in a year later, early adopters must deal with lesser performance in spite of owning essentially the same product, save these spec bumps.

"Tech companies have no incentive to deliver the experiences their customers deserve at launch."

Mid-cycle upgrade cycles can help potential adopters who were on the fence buy into the ecosystem, but at the cost of burning earlier customers. It’s nefarious and greedy. But tech companies have no incentive to deliver the experiences their customers deserve at launch. Better to reel in as many suckers as possible upfront and hook more folks down the line. Heck, some may even bite twice.