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4 Types of Planned Obsolescence

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Planned obsolescence is the introduction of an artificial limitation on the life of a product in order to increase sales. The term has negative connotations as it is perceived as unfriendly to customers and/or the environment. The following are illustrative examples of planned obsolescence.

Razor & Blades

Razor & blades is a business model whereby a product is sold cheaply because it requires regular parts or supplies to continue to work. For example, a printer may be sold cheaply because it requires regular supplies of ink to continue to function. This model becomes less profitable if parts or supplies last too long.


Technology is often updated automatically on a regular basis. As such, it is possible for firms to purposely slow devices down or begin to limit functionality in order to encourage users to upgrade to a new version.


The fashion industry is based on a model of promoting a style, material, color or format for a season. What is trendy this season becomes hopelessly unfashionable the next. This is done to improve sales.


In some cases, an industry may seek regulations that encourage customers to upgrade on a regular basis. For example, regular mandatory vehicle inspections tend to encourage customers to purchase a new car as opposed to facing expensive repairs every few years.
Overview: Planned Obsolescence
The implementation of artificial limits on the life of a product.
Related Concepts

Reliability Engineering

This is the complete list of articles we have written about reliability engineering.
Cold Standby
Defensive Design
Design Debt
Design Life
Error Tolerance
Fault Tolerance
Graceful Degradation
Latent Error
Material Strength
Mistake Proofing
Wear And Tear
More ...
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