Your three-year-old iPhone is living on borrowed time

Ever wonder about the expected life cycle of your electronics? If, for example, you have an Apple iPhone and no way to change the battery without going to a repair shop, how long is it expected to last? This week, Apple provided insight on product class lifecycles in an answer on its website on a page dedicated to environmental issues and questions, first reported in The Telegraph. The quick answer? iPhones and Apple Watches are expected to last for three years.

Apple bases its lifespan expectancy on modeled use and actual use data. The Cupertino, California company groups its products by operating system in making lifespan projections, regardless of other product specifications. For example, iOS and watchOS devices have three years before Apple figures they’re used up (or lost). OS X and tvOS units are assumed to last four years. In all cases, Apple is estimating first owner device lifespans. Therefore, if you buy a used Apple device, the clock has already been ticking. A functioning iPhone 5, for example, which launched in September 2012, could be considered a living dead phone.

Related: Apple targeted in legal action over the ‘iWatch’ name it never used

The information about life cycles came about in answer to a question about Apple’s Product Greenhouse Gas Life Cycle Assessment. Apple broke down its environmental impact measurement into five sections: part by part measurements; power use scenarios; transportation costs; material composition; and emissions data. The lifespan information came from the power use scenario estimates.

It’s interesting to project replacement costs based on your own devices. My wife and I, for example, both bought iPhone 5Cs in December 2013. Mine lasted until May 2014, at which point it stopped knowing how to do math, which threw off the time, dates, and just about everything else.  So if I got less than a year, wouldn’t it be nice if that tacked two more years on my wife’s phone? Even though averages are based on the concept of “big numbers,” you can’t use them that way in your own household. Too bad.

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