When planned obsolescence gets ridiculous

Instagram and iPhone3G

As I previously explained, I stopped using my Instagram account five months ago and I haven’t uploaded new photos since their Terms of Service changed. However — since my contacts and friends are more important than the stupid bureaucracy of a service — I haven’t deleted the account and I still use Instagram clients to browse and like other people’s snaps. I use Carousel on the Mac, Iris on my iPad, and the official Instagram app on my iPhone 4. 

I also use my old iPhone 3G as an iPod touch, every now and then, and I still have a collection of working apps on it — basically, a lot of them are the same apps I use on the iPhone 4, saved on the iPhone 3G at their last iOS 4.2.1-compatible version. The majority of these apps still work fine on the iPhone 3G despite the obvious lack of updates, and overall they help make the iPhone 3G feel like a device one can still use with a certain degree of flexibility. 

When you go back interacting with a five-year-old iPhone, you immediately notice you’re holding an older device because of its hardware performance. The iPhone 3G is still quite usable, but it’s slow and a bit sluggish when navigating certain parts of the system. But since I can still check my email, take shots with older versions of Hipstamatic and Camera+, manage Twitter with Twitterrific, use the official Tumblr client, listen to Spotify, read feeds with Reeder, upload photos to Flickr, and so on and so forth, this iPhone 3G doesn’t feel much limited or terribly obsolete(d).

Imagine my surprise, then, when last night I decided to take a look at my friends’ photos on Instagram using the older Instagram client on the iPhone 3G and I received the error message you can see above. The same app which was still working fine not long ago, now doesn’t even let me log in.

Perhaps I’ve missed something and there’s some technical reason behind this. Maybe they changed something in the way the client application retrieves and displays information passed by the Instagram servers. And maybe the older iPhone 3G app is no longer able to fulfil its duties for this reason. But if it’s not the case, then this becomes an example of mindless planned obsolescence. And I tend to believe it’s not a technical reason because on the Palm Pre 2 I still use an Instagram viewer app that’s as old as the Instagram app on the iPhone 3G (possibly even older) and works just fine.

I really don’t get why the older Instagram app has been crippled this way. Where’s the harm in letting it work, at least as a browser? The iPhone 3G is not my main iPhone, and I’ve stopped using Instagram actively, so this doesn’t bother me at a practical level (it does bother me at a logical level, though). But there are people out there who still use older devices, because maybe they don’t need to upgrade to the newer and shinier every 12 months — or they can’t afford it. The iPhone 3G is still a capable device (certainly more than an Android phone or Windows Mobile phone of similar vintage), and crippling apps this way doesn’t make sense to me. You don’t want people to post photos taken with old filters or with filters you have discontinued (like Gotham)? Fine, just prevent the app from uploading photos, but let people still use it as a viewer. Let people at least log in to the service. If Instagram (and Facebook) are interested in numbers, shouldn’t it come to their advantage if they let the client app work even on older devices? The more, the merrier, no?

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About Riccardo Mori

Writer. Translator. Mac consultant. Enthusiast photographer. • If you like what I write, please consider supporting my writing by purchasing my short stories, Minigrooves or by making a donation. Thank you!