Be Reasonable About The Limitations Of Tech

Send to Kindle

Over the past few weeks, I’ve seen rage-filled rants online about everything from Amazon’s server problems over the past few days to the matter of tech devices aging and eventually dying or becoming obsolete.

I also received an epithet-filled rage-a-gram this week from someone who was angry that her child’s Fire tablet had been stolen and Amazon was doing nothing to retrieve it for her (nor offering to replace it free of charge), and for some reason this woman had decided it was at least partially my fault, apparently because I’ve written about what to do when your Fire tablet is lost or stolen.

To everyone who thinks tech devices and software should live forever and receive unlimited support and upgrades from their manufacturers forever, that new software, apps and tech accessories should always be compatible with years-old tech, or that a lost or stolen device should be hunted down or replaced by the manufacturer free of charge, I have one thing to say:


It’s time for some tough, but true, talk.


Remember when Windows 3.1 was state of the art, and impressive? Today’s smart phones can mop up the floor with it.


Everyone Who’s Mad That Amazon Underground Isn’t Compatible With First & Second-Gen Fire Tablets: Think It Through

Tech keeps getting better, faster and cheaper, and programmers are always pushing the envelope in new programs to take advantage of the latest bells and whistles in hardware and operating systems. This is why apps being released today may not be compatible with hardware more than a couple years old: the old hardware doesn’t have enough memory, processing power or speed to run the latest apps, and there’s nothing surprising or unfair about that.

Many people don’t seem to realize that what’s going on inside the device and its software are every bit as important as the visible hardware when it comes to what the device can or can’t do, so even if your device looks like the newer model, it’s unlikely to have the same capabilities.


Look at how quickly smartphones evolved in the decade from 1996 to 2007. Is it really so surprising that the older models are no longer supported, or that they can’t run the same programs as the latest models? image from Creative Technologist

Many people also don’t seem to appreciate that the technological innovations clock has sped up, and a computer or other tech device coming off the assembly line today is FAR superior to one that was made just one year ago, and much more powerful. These same kinds of unwritten rules apply to mobile devices.

You wouldn’t expect to surf the web on an electric typewriter, yet PLENTY of people are outraged that their circa-2011 tablet can’t run software that wasn’t even written until this year, and was written with the powerful features of the latest devices and technological advances in mind.


Tech Isn’t Free, and Neither Is Support

It costs money to develop and support tech stuff. Manufacturers don’t stop supporting and upgrading old tech just to force you to buy the new thing they’re selling, they do it because if they didn’t, old tech would be a black hole of expense for them forever.

Think about it: what if Microsoft was on the hook to keep supporting and upgrading every version of Windows ever made, to test every version of Windows ever made against every new Windows program and then revise the old operating systems to ensure they could run the newest software, to send computer owners hardware upgrades free of charge for as long they lived and still owned a licensed copy of an old Windows operating system? This would cost millions of dollars a year, for a product consumers bought for a couple hundred dollars or less many years ago, with no new revenue coming in to support ongoing support and upgrades.


Somebody has to pay all these people, and the consumer who dropped a couple hundred on a tablet certainly isn’t covering that overhead.


The only way they could do it would be to jack up the price of every operating system to fund this never-ending support and upgrades scheme, to pay the salaries of a huge staff of programmers and engineers whose only job would be ensuring old, no longer even available for sale, tech could still be used over a decade later, when most of the world had already moved on to newer and better tech.

Expecting any tech manufacturer to keep supporting and updating every device they ever release is no less ridiculous, for all the same reasons. How can anyone possibly expect a manufacturer to eat that ongoing overhead expense for a device that was sold for a couple hundred to a few thousand dollars, or less? Unless you paid tens of thousands of dollars for your device, you didn’t spend enough to cover the overhead expenses of the staff and resources needed to support it through many years upgrades and updates.

Nobody wants to spend tens of thousands of dollars on a tablet, or a phone, or a computer, yet plenty of them think manufacturers should keep supporting and upgrading those devices forever.



No, Amazon, Apple and Microsoft Do Not Have In-House CSI Teams

…and again, you haven’t paid enough for your device to cover the costs of one. So if your device was lost or stolen and you’re howling that the manufacturer owes it to you to:

a) track down the thief and bring him or her to justice

b) replace your device free of charge -or-

c) include some kind of tracking feature and service to locate your lost device and return it to you free of charge,

…all I can do here is repeat myself: be reasonable. Do you really expect a crack crime-solving team to be waiting by the phone to get the news that one Jane Doe’s 1st generation iPad was stolen from her car, ready to spring into action, putting pins in maps, interviewing witnesses and potential perps, and scouring criminal databases around the clock until Jane’s iPad is safely back in her custody? Really?

Do you doubt for one second that if Apple, Amazon, Microsoft et al were willing to replace any of their devices reported as lost or stolen free of charge, no proof of the claim required, that thousands of people would make false reports of loss and there would suddenly be a huge uptick in the number of those devices available for sale on eBay and Craigslist?

And even if there were some way to absolutely prove a loss or theft (there isn’t; even eyewitness accounts and videotapes have been thrown out as evidence in court), how is that the manufacturer’s fault? Why is it the manufacturer’s responsibility to replace your device at their expense? Manufacturers don’t replace stolen cars. Designers don’t replace lost or stolen purses or wallets. Why do so many people assume it should be different with tech?


Tech Fails Happen: Expect It

No tech device or service can guarantee 100% uptime with complete accessibility and capability 24/7-365, and forever. Hardware fails. Brownouts and blackouts happen. Natural disasters happen.

Hacks happen, and no tech security system, no matter how robust or carefully monitored, can possibly predict or prevent all of them.

Human error happens. What? You’ve never, ever made an on-the-job mistake? It turns out that the guys and gals in charge of web servers are human too, and every so often one of them flubs it and your service goes down for a few hours.

When Amazon started experiencing server problems a few days ago—problems that are not yet completely resolved as of this writing—some angry consumers were outraged that such a thing could happen. It can happen, it does happen, and it’s foolish to expect otherwise.

Just as there’s no such thing as online privacy, there’s no such thing as a comprehensively fail-safe technology. It’s reasonable to expect people who run tech you’re paying for, or have paid for, to plan for all the most likely kinds of problems and have recovery steps in place to handle them. But it’s completely unreasonable to expect no problem to ever occur that can interrupt or reduce your tech service availability.


Your Device Is Not Immortal, Neither Is Its Rechargeable Battery

Rechargeable batteries have a limited number of available charge/drain cycles over their lifetime. Maybe someday soon some brilliant scientist or engineer will invent a version than can be recharged and drained indefinitely, but that’s not the world we’re living in as of this writing (on 9/22/15). For now, we must accept that one day, our device battery will no longer be able to hold a full charge. A little after that, it will stop taking a charge at all and at that point, the only way to keep using the device is to plug it in to an electrical outlet or backup battery pack.

Limited battery lifespan alone is enough reason to expect your mobile device to die one day, and to plan for it.

It’s true that many apps don’t currently offer users any kind of backup mechanisms and when your phone or tablet dies or is replaced, users will lose all their progress in many or most of their apps. Some app developers address this problem by storing users’ profiles and save files online, but many consumers balk at this arrangement out of (largely unfounded) privacy concerns.

With so many different kinds of devices and types of operating system software out there, it’s not quick or easy for an app developer to ensure his app will be compatible with all of them, or to create a ‘save file’ function that will work the same way on all of them. It may take weeks or even months to write and test the necessary program changes for that, yet many consumers expect developers to do it, even for an app the consumer is getting for a couple dollars—or even at no cost at all. Even when doing so would make it impossible for the developer to ever break even on an app.

Plenty of people are quick to complain about a $5 app being overpriced, but often it’s those same people who are complaining about losing app progress when their device is replaced, or railing against the evil developers who require them to login to the app every time they play (in order to keep user files up to date and safe on the developers’ servers).


In conclusion: BE REASONABLE.

* * *

And now…

The 2015 Fire HD 7″ is an amazing value at $49.99. Its specs are pretty close to those of last year’s $99 Fire HD6, and it has one thing the HD6 does not: an SD card slot. Amazon’s currently running a limited-time Buy 5 Get 1 Free offer on this tablet too (enter code FIRE6PACK at checkout), which effectively lowers the price per tablet to under $42. It’s a convenient way to get some impressive holiday gifts to cover the kids, nieces and nephews, grandkids, employees or brothers and sisters in one fell swoop!

Advertisements make it possible for Digital Media Mom to bring you great content for free, so thanks for your support.


* * *

Fire Tip of the Week: Amazon Underground App Review: Where’s My Mickey?

* * *


Print Friendly


  1. Comment by Dave:

    So I says to one of the guides running the zip line,
    “You know, I’d love to have your job, except for one thing.”
    “What’s that?”, he asked.
    I managed to keep a straight face and replied,
    “Those damn Tourists!”

  2. Comment by Pauline:

    I have no problem at all with everything you are saying. I do have a problem with the fact that I bought my kindle fire 2nd generation last year after seeking extensive advice on what support Amazon gives to it’s customers and being told the support goes across the board. Having shelled out for the kindle, in a mere 12 months, support is now withdrawn. Absolutely, tech and software upgrades. That being the case Amazon could have, in my humble opinion, withdrawn both 1st and 2nd gen kindle fire hd in anticipation of a new product launch. As it is, the fire hd range came late to Europe. I think it’s a poor show for Amazon’s European customers like myself, who had to wait for the product and now after a mere two years, are having to deal with virtually brand new tech, which has aged by American standards. I have no doubt that the latest kindle fire hd with the retail price of $50 will be launched in Europe much later than in the US. I, for one, will not be buying any more Kindles. I am very disappointed.

    • Comment by Mom:

      “That being the case Amazon could have, in my humble opinion, withdrawn both 1st and 2nd gen kindle fire hd in anticipation of a new product launch.”
      Sorry to tell you this, but that’s not reasonable. NO tech manufacturer does this as a matter of course. Did Apple stop making, or selling, the iPhone5 for months before the iPhone6 launched? No. Do computer manufacturers stop making current-chip machines as soon as they become aware a new chipset is on the way? No. Did Keurig stop making or selling its K-cup brewer for months prior to release of the Keurig 2.0? No.

      These companies have to keep revenue coming in to support ongoing development, they can’t just draw a big X on the calendar 6 months prior to release of a new product and accept that no money will be coming in until the new model hits stores—especially when you consider that Amazon has come out with a new Fire tablet line every year since the first came out, in 2011. Do you really expect Amazon to only sell each new tablet line for half the year, then stop, knowing a new line will be released in another 6 months?

      And if you’re thinking, “But Amazon still would’ve been making plenty of money from all its other product lines,” that’s not how retail businesses that also manufacture goods operate: each product line has to support itself. Amazon did stop selling the Fire TV streaming box for a few months prior to release of the new one, but that’s not typical and not fair for consumers to expect, and it cost them many thousands of dollars to do it.

      “As it is, the fire hd range came late to Europe. I think it’s a poor show for Amazon’s European customers like myself”
      This is not Amazon’s fault, any more than it’s Amazon’s fault printed books are so outrageously expensive in Australia. It’s the fault of overseas tariffs, taxes, shipping costs and trade regulations. Think about it: what possible reason would Amazon itself have to NOT get its latest and greatest products out to every consumer in the world who might want them, as quickly as possible? The answer is: none. There’s a lot of stuff we can’t easily obtain here in the US soon after release, just because it’s manufactured overseas. Nobody seems surprised when Japanese people get all the latest Japanese-made tech first, and consumers seem to accept that it’s typical to wait a year or longer for that same tech to make it to other parts of the world. This is no different.

      • Comment by Pauline:

        It’s a shame that ultimately, the customers of older tech lose out. As I said earlier in my response, I joined Amazon because I had been advised by various sellers here in the UK that Amazon look after their customers, regardless of how old the hardware is. Perhaps you are unaware, I do actually understand market forces, I also understand how quickly the tech industry moves. Only to those who have no idea of the tech industry, is there the assumption that nothing moves quickly. Perhaps you are also unaware, that I’m able to research the tech that I buy, including talking to Amazon advisors from Amazon, prior to buying the kindle. Which leads me to conclude, that in future, I’ll not be buying Amazon products, as I’m unable to trust that what is said to me via Amazon advisors can be trusted. I appreciate that my response my not be to your liking, but different strokes for different folks. I’m glad your experience of both the tech industry and Amazon serves you well in the US. That’s not an experience shared amongst some in the UK.