Friday, December 14, 2012

Tech Needs To Get More Sustainable

This week, I declared the home button of my iPhone dead. It still has actually some signs of life, but it's more similar to coma. You have to press it hard up to 20 times to get back to home. Double press is even harder. So I activated the accessibility features, and now I have a white round permanently on my screen which emulates the home button. It works well, but it's still a pain to live with, as this button uses space on my screen. It's not 20 clicks to get back to the home screen, but 2. I wonder how Apple could mess so much here. After years, my Playstation controller X button still works, despite heavy use. Reports I've read mentioned that the engineering save costs on that feature. Too bad. By the way, I know defective home buttons can be fixed.

Other situation, other outcome. My Lenovo work laptop was swapping like crazy (disclaimer - I work at IBM, which sold the Thinkpad unit to Lenovo). I went to the hardware department, the woman servicing the hardware switched the memory in two minutes, and told me how she like the modular system the Thinkpad have. Not only the robustness make them liked for businesses, they are also easily serviceable by the IT departments.

Other hardware fail: recently, my washing machine failed. Computer dead. Too expensive to replace, would cost the price of a new one, said the repairer. He was a really nice guy and not searching to make money at all costs. Instead, he advised me to buy a Miele washing machine, even if used and 8 years old. Because it (arguably) lasts more than 20 years, this is a safe buy.

Miele is a German company known for building appliance that are costly but last decades with very few maintenance. Traditional German engineering, so to say. A new simple washing machine costs around 800 EUR. So this is not cheap, but in the long term this is actually a good investment versus a 500 EUR one that gets broken after 6 or 7 years.

Let's get back to the laptop and smartphone topic. I upgraded my laptop memory because the rest is fine. It's actually working great. I don't need more power. I may not order a new laptop next year, because there is no real need for it. Same for the phone. The iPhone 4 is *fine*, really - outside of the home button. The battery is still in good shape and can hold around 2 days - so much better than the iPhone 3G after the same time. Would not be the defective hardware.

What we'd need is a Miele for high tech. A german company doing the (durable) hardware and a US division doing the software, at best. I remember having had a Bosch phone a while ago, it was just great. Probably Loewe, or Bang & Olufsen are nearer to that. Too bad they don't produce laptops yet. Also they seem to be more triggered toward luxury and exclusiveness than plain, simple, boring quality.

The computer hardware has reached maturity, and the smartphones will soon do. There is no need anymore to upgrade every two years. Too often hardware break is the only reason to buy a new item. So this the question to answer: if I want quality electronics, to what shop do I get? Or is someone going to create that soon?