Obsolescence, or state of obsolescence, is the state in which a certain product, a good, that has already reached its useful life, can be found.


Obsolescence, therefore, is the state to which a certain product reaches, a good that we have previously acquired, once its useful life has ended. That is, when it meets the time programmed by the manufacturer for the product to continue working or serving its owner.

To get an idea, let’s imagine a mobile from the Apple brand, once the new model is launched on the market. This, little by little, will stop working, at the same time that the developers will stop supporting it in terms of software. When this situation is reached, we say that the mobile has become obsolete.

Another example could be that of a product that no longer finds parts to be repaired. Let’s imagine a car model that came out 20 years ago and has suffered a breakdown. Having become obsolete, the vehicle no longer even finds parts to be repaired.

Finally, let’s imagine those objects that we used in the past and today, thanks to research, they have been replaced by other more advanced tools. This is the case of slide rules, which in their day were replaced by electronic calculators. Or the steam engine itself, which was replaced by the combustion engine.

Thus, in all the scenarios raised, we will say that the products to which we refer have reached the state of obsolescence, so they are obsolete.

Causes of obsolescence

Among the causes that cause this state of obsolescence in the products, the following should be highlighted:

  • Innovation.
  • Investigation and development.
  • Expiration.
  • Exhaustion of useful life.
  • Incompatibilities with new products.
  • Discontinuation.
  • Absence of spare parts.

Types of obsolescence

In addition to these causes, we must know that obsolescence is not always a state that is reached when the useful life of the product is fulfilled, but that many companies accelerate this obsolescence as a strategy for their customers to buy their new product, thus renewing the ancient. This is known as planned or planned obsolescence.

But let’s see the main types that exist:

  • Planned or programmed obsolescence : This occurs when a specific company, when creating a product, predicts the expected useful life of said product. This, in order to program, in a certain way, its breakage or wear. In this way, the company avoids repairs to its products, not affecting its brand image. Thus, also, the company promotes the purchase of its new product, when it begins to stop working properly.
  • Perceived obsolescence : It is the one that occurs when the company, from time to time, superficially renews the appearance of its product. In this way, the company promotes the purchase of the new product, making the old one out of date. It is a very efficient strategy when you want to have a higher turnover.
  • Speculation obsolescence : This is done by a company that launches a product, but over time adds improvements to promote its sale. In this way, the company encourages the sale of the product over time, depending on the additions and modifications made to the product. All this, depending on the fit that this is having in the market.

Examples of obsolescence

Here are some examples of each type of obsolescence:

Example of planned obsolescence

A clear example of planned obsolescence is found in household appliances. Most electrical appliances are programmed to have a certain useful life.

This, in order that before requiring a replacement, the consumer acquires a new model due to its malfunction.

Example of perceived obsolescence

A very clear example of perceived obsolescence is found in the textile sector. The clothing firms, with the aim of increasing their sales, launch models that they have previously launched, but modifying their colors, or some superficial aspect of the garment.

In this way, the firm classifies said garment as if it were a new season, leaving the garment outdated with a different appearance.

Speculation obsolescence example

This last example is found in computers, mobile phones or tablets. On many occasions we buy a mobile, but after months we see that the company launches a variant with a larger screen, a new processor, as well as a higher quality camera. This type of obsolescence is practiced in order to encourage the sale of this product over time and incrementals, as well as to facilitate its fit into the market.