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The Age of Unjustifiable Consumerism

What is unjustifiable consumerism? It is a form of conspicuous consumption that defies logic and common sense. It goes beyond filling a need or desire and exists purely as evidence of the power of advertising to convince us to buy almost anything.

What brings this to mind is the introduction of the Apple iPhone 7. One of its highly touted 'features' is the elimination of a headphone jack. Taking advantage of this 'feature' requires the purchase of optional wireless earbuds (AirPods) that retail for an additional $159.00. Plus, the AirPods need their batteries charged independent of your smartphone on a dedicated charger (each charge lasts a maximum of five hours) .

Consider this scenario: You walk into a public restroom with your light-as-a-feather wireless AirPods sitting in each earlobe. Suddenly, while at a urinal, one of the wireless earbuds comes loose and falls into the mini-waterfall just before you. Or, maybe it just falls on the damp restroom floor instead. Do you pick it up, dry it off and pop it right back into your ear?

Planned Obsolescence 2.0

My guess is that you will be back at the Apple store getting a brand new pair. This is planned obsolescence 2.0. The rapid obsolescence of this product is engineered by the likelihood that it will be damaged, dropped or lost, requiring you to purchase a new pair. Kaching, Apple, kaching...

There is no enhancement of the earbud design to make them more secure in the ear. Every reviewer who tested the AirPods expressed the concern that they are just as prone to dislodge from the ear as wired earbuds. Because this Apple wireless earbud model does not come with slip-on pads to customize the fit they are more prone than most to being dislodged. It is not a matter of if they will fall out, but when.

The Verge did a poll of nearly 16,000 Apple Earbud users (the older wired, headphone jack equipped earbud), asking them, "Do Your Apple Earbuds Fall Out of Your Ears?" Of the respondents, 35% answered "all the time," and 17% answered "some of the time." The new AirPods have the same in-the-ear dimensions as the older EarPods.

There is no rational reason to buy wireless earbuds that are likely to fall out when you walk, jog, or chew gum. Plus, think of how easy it will be to misplace those chiclet-sized tech toys (at $80 per ear). The old-fashioned headphone-jack wired earphones are cheaper, more stable, and compatible with a much wider range of consumer tech products.

Is the development of wireless AirPods a technological advancement? Absolutely! But who really benefits from it? The manufacturer or the consumer?

The Audacity of Modern Marketing

Such is the audacity of marketing. Its purpose is to convince you that this is something you should desire even if it inherently less useful and more expensive than what you already own. What is more, marketers know they will win. Edward Bernays, a pioneer of modern marketing techniques, convinced women in the 1920's that it was no longer taboo to smoke in public, opening up a new market for tobacco companies. Who really benefited from that 'breakthrough?' Tobacco companies or consumers?

Of course, you, like all consumers, have the right to decide how you spend your 'disposable income'. Personally, I have no 'disposable' income. That term is very clever wordsmithing that has the unmistakable signature of a marketing mindset. Some would even call it propaganda. Its connotation is that we have money to throw away. How do we discard our money? By spending it all. When its disposable, the true value of what we are purchasing really doesn't matter.

Nevertheless, it is likely that wireless earbuds will become the standard in the near future as more smartphone manufacturers adopt it. It will be the hot new thing. They will become cheaper and more discardable. We will probably notice more of them left abandoned on the street like old cigarette butts. After all who will want to put one back in his ear after it has fallen in the mud or rain?

The author, Don Peterson is a (frugal) freelance web designer who creates beautiful websites on a beer budget for small business clients.

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