General discussion

Is Apple's hardware quality declining?

May 19, 2017 4:49PM PDT

The topic I want to suggest is about Apple products. Is it just me? Or is their quality declining, or at least, noticeably lower than their competitors? I have been a more or less loyal Apple customer, but lately I have noticed all around me people with 'dead' Apple products to which Apple's answer is 'sometimes electronic products fail'. The truth is, I have a 15-year-old computer, an 11-year-old laptop, another 8-year-old laptop, a 12ish-year-old iPod Mini, a 10ish-year-old iPod Touch, a 4ish-year-old Samsung Galaxy SIII, multiple 'old flip phone' era phones... I can keep going. All still working just fine. But in the last couple of years I saw my wife's iPhone 5 failing twice, fortunately fixed by Apple, my dad's iPhone 6+'s death (on its 14th month!!! and Apple did not take care of it), my son's iPad (on its 3rd year, and Apple said 'sometimes that happens'), an uncle's iPad (a couple years old), failing for no apparent reason, my son's Mac, still in guarantee fortunately, with a scrambled HD, just to name a few close to me. I am not talking about water damage or abuse. Simply, one day you wake up and they are dead. They either simply don't come on, or they stay stuck in the Apple logo and there is nothing you can do about it.

As a sideline... Has anyone noticed that your 'micro' or 'mini' usb cables are also just fine, but the Apple cables tend to break in a matter of a year or so? and happen to be the most expensive in the market?

So wondering... What is going on? Is Apple's strategy to lower quality to force replacement? Thank you for your insight and thoughts.

--Submitted by Fausto Z.

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Note to all, please keep the conversation civil...
May 19, 2017 5:04PM PDT

and be respectful to each other. This is NOT an Apple bash event.

Thank you!

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It's a cruel world
May 27, 2017 2:03AM PDT

Sometimes reality is harsh. But of course you still can stamp it as "Alternative facts".

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To be fair...
May 27, 2017 10:19AM PDT

To Apple, and in fact any manufacturer - the more mobile the hardware, the rougher the environment is for that hardware to survive - I'm not sure any maker short of military spec hardware can survive long in such environments. The anecdotal evidence would vary wildly between users - so I'm not sure I could ever honestly answer the question put forward here.

Computers used to sit on desks, or peoples laps; but every since the laptop came out the chances of damage went up. I got my first laptop in 1985, and my NCOIC stuck his combat boot right through the keyboard. My dealer felt sympathy for me, and gave me a new keyboard for free. Things are just that much rougher now, and the hardware reaches the limits of lightweight and spindly construction. It is just a sign of our times, I'm afraid.

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A Sign of All Times
May 27, 2017 3:18PM PDT

Agree. But people have been making these comments for ages. I remember when radios were bigger than boom boxes and you had to take the vacuum tubes to the drug store to have them checked and/or replaced. Computers on desks? On laps? I worked on computers when they took took up an entire floor of a building. Tapes along one wall. Fastrand disks that could knock down the building wall and travel 2 miles after that. The CPU the size of my bedroom.
I don't think it is a question of better vs. worse. Its a matter of comparing new innovations and technology to plain and simple ruggedness. If I dropped my boombox, back then, it would shatter too. It's a matter these days of giving people what they want. They want thin and light but there is no technology that says we can make things thinner, lighter and STRONGER. It's all about the shiny tech. Then there are those that confuse their cell phone with "bling". It has to be "beautiful". Why? Is it necessary to show your new phone off? No, many of us don't care what you bought. If that is a reason not to put a protective case and screen protector on it...? I used to drop cell phones all of the time. Some without a case and never had an issue but to make something "pretty" it could just be pretty delicate. Without a case, you can barely drop ANY cell phone more than a few feet, especially if it lands on the screen or the corners.
So, a lot of durability has to do with making it look pretty. Not so much older is better. My ballistic case has helped the dozens of times my phone has dropped from several feet. So, maybe the choice is between pretty device or rugged device. I go for rugged. Just my opinion.

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All hail Bakelite!
May 27, 2017 3:25PM PDT
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Dropped I-Phone
May 27, 2017 7:29PM PDT

I dropped my I-Phone 5C down a flight of stairs, bumpity, bump, bump, bump. Thanks to the protective case it emerged intact.

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Oct 5, 2018 5:15AM PDT
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Humm still have my original iPhone. That still works
Mar 12, 2018 6:35AM PDT

Odd old was back then better made.

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I don't know about Apple...
May 19, 2017 5:44PM PDT

But lowering quality to force people to buy more often is almost universal these days. It is highly unethical, but manufacturers do it anyway. It is very likely that they are doing precisely that.

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Planned Obsolescence?
May 29, 2017 3:53PM PDT

I too believe that many manufacturers are guilty of a little bit of PO, but the reason it bothers me more when it comes to the few Apple products I've bought throughout the years is the (very) premium price they tend to attach to their gizmos.

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It's not just Apple
May 19, 2017 7:42PM PDT

My uni roommate used the first colour screen Apple iPod - 4th gen, with 20 gigs of memory, bought in 2005 - in 2013. And he still uses it in 2017. He stepped on it in 2011 so half the screen is dead but it works 100% alright and the click wheel is as smooth as it could have been in 2005.

Do you think anyone on this planet would be using the iPhone 7 in 2029? No. I'd be surprised to see someone use one in 2019, forget 2029.

So, is Apple cheating its newer customers out of good quality products? As much as I do not like Apple and its pricing and draconian Mac ecosystem, the short answer is NO. And there are a number of reasons this is so.

First off, they're giving what the customers want - a new flashy phone to show off as the "latest" product in town. I mean come on, bar the headphone jack debacle (waterproofing), what's oh-so-special about iPhone 7 that wasn't there in the 6S? You'd be hard pressed to find actual performance leaps between Galaxy S4 and S5, just as there is little to no improvement between i5 6th gen and the Kaby Lake processors unless you go into the super high spec $1500 ones. In all of these products, the hardware improvement is barely keeping pace with the expanding software loads. But consumers want "new" stuff so the corporate gives them that.

With this "staying up to the trend" mentality, putting in the dollars and hours to build a durable product suddenly becomes an effort in futility, because no one in their right mind is going to use it for more than 2-2.5 years. The likes of me and you (I too use an 8 year old iTouch 2nd gen) who see durability as a virtue are a dying breed, and definitely a breed too small for the giants to take care of. Durability in itself is getting obsolete.

Apart from that, try to look back to the smartphone market when iPhone 2 came out. Or the PC market when Mac OS was released. There was little competition, and so, Apple could charge you what it wanted because it was the only proven working trick in the town. Fast forward to 2017, competition is brutal and pricing wars are cut throat. Sure, Apple still remains a premium product line but it sure has to cut corners to stay competitive and keep its margins.

And over and above all of this, there's the simple rule of "the more complicated it is, the more delicate it is." A pneumatic drill is infinitely more susceptible to breakdown as opposed to a hammer and nail. The ultra light super thin iPhone 7 with 4g, a camera, a thin battery, touchscreen and a bazillion other swanky features is going to be terribly short lived compared to its predecessor from 2010.

When you sum it all up, you'll see that it's not just Apple, but all tech companies - from Intel to Samsung to Dell - who are sacrificing durability for the sake of novelty, which is not so much by a global conspiracy but a result of hyper-consumerism. One big exception to this trend, in my opinion, is Sony. Yes their stuff costs more but boy does it last! My bravia is going strong since 6 years. My dad uses the rather thoughtlessly names Xperia C4 since 2 years now and despite all the apps being much heavier than 2015, still runs like a charm. I know a couple people using the same Sony Vaio PC since 2011. Alas, as Sony is not giving in to the durability reducing trends, it's exiting low cost markets and costing down verticals. Apple is seeing its biggest growths in these same markets. Say a lot about the consumers, doesn't it?

The cords on the other hand are definitely a swindle. I know a guy who has separate chargers for travel and home and the two wore out in a year, within a month of each other. It is nothing short of criminal that these exorbitantly priced lightning cables have such short life spans. If the USB cable which came with my $150 ASUS phone can travel with me everyday for over a year, without a hitch, I'm sure Apple can do better job with cords costing half of my phone.

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Remember, it's a Foxconn Product
May 19, 2017 10:22PM PDT

Especially with automobiles today, all of the components are made in various places -- mostly, China. If a component proves to be bad, you get something called a "recall".
If you are looking at your wife's iPhone 5, consider that there have been TWO recalls on this phone: battery and power switch (on the top). These are not "new". In fact YEARS old. Did you take the phone in under warranty/recall? I had no problems with it. In fact, the battery had swollen up pushing on the screen and Apple replaced the entire phone as a safety issue.
You might want to start with the Apple support website to see if the serial number is on their list. USE the Genius Bar at the nearest Apple Store (if you have one) or call them. I've had a camera issue as well. Not major, but I got the phone replaced.
So, bottom line: if you are talking about an ancient device like the iPhone 5, remember that components don't last forever these days, and Android is no better (of course, which Android?). I can't start a campfire with my Apple product, but I'm sure they'll pick that up from Samsung.
By the way, my XP computer was bought just before VISTA came out. Years ago. My car is a 1998 model. Not everyone is young enough to make a fantastic salary. Oh and the cables I have just lose some of the outside white insulation. Easily fixable.

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IT'S Time People Were Realistic About Apple
May 26, 2017 9:04PM PDT

In 2011, I worked as a customer service person for Apple (indirectly through a customer service contractor). Believe me, Apple products fail just like anyone else's.

You need to know, you can only get service, do returns/exchanges/refunds, etc., at an Apple store if you bought at an Apple retail storefront. If you bought online, you will not get service or replacement locally. Storefront sales and online sales are almost two different companies. Unless, that is, things have changed since 2011. I had to disappoint people daily who thought they could simply take their phone or computer to the store they went to to buy accessories and software. Nope.

Anyway, it's time people developed a realistic idea about Apple. When I see people waiting overnight to get into the store in order to get the latest phone on the day of release, I can't help but think "sucker!" Ditto for people who absolutely must have the latest Nike shoe. Well-trained devoted consumers. Me? I won't even wear a shirt with a logo on it. I'm nobody's bulletin board. People have been trained to forget that these are businesses out to make a buck. They are not your friend, even the ones with good customer service.

The phone they're waiting for will have new features they probably won't use—or if the do, won't really need. And for hundreds of dollars more than a perfectly good Android phone, too, also with loads of unneeded and/or unwanted features, but at a far more bearable price.

Welcome to Suckerville, where Apple's more-than-willing slaves go to throw money down the Apple rat hole. Money they could have given to Bernie Sanders' campaign, for example. But being "cool" was more important. Donald Trump and his pal Vlad thank you.

As for Foxconn, they just fill orders to specifications. If a product sucks or fails, don't blame Foxconn. Yes, they ARE to blame for operating a gigantic slave shop, but Apple plays a role in that as well by being greedy and paying Foxconn as little as they can get away with. Blame the company who's order they are fulfilling, be it Apple, Samsung, or whomever. They all do it. Apple isn't unique in that regard.

They're a business, folks. That's all they are. All of them.

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Dec 28, 2017 2:51PM PST

Anyone who suggests that a viable option would have been to contribute to Bernie Sanders campaign, shouldn’t be calling others “ sucker”.

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A "Note" about Apple.
May 26, 2017 10:21PM PDT

Don't forget, just prior to the Galaxy Note 7 disaster, Apple had similar issues and concerns with the 6s Plus. They had issues with battery fires. The difference is only 2 or 3 devices were of concern, where Samsung a definite design flaw with the batteries they used. Had Samsung not recalled the phone when they did, I am sure they would have had more issues.
It is too bad, as I owned one of these phones (okay 2, for about 2 weeks each) and it was by far the best phone I have ever owned (I have had Smartphones from Apple and Samsung, smart-ish phones from Blackberry and premium phone from Motorola, LG, Erickson and Nokia). If the Note 7 refurbished model ever becomes available in Canada, I would not hesitate in buying one again.
Not withstanding the Battery, I believe this phone to be of the highest quality as good as, if not bettet than my mid 2009 MacBook Pro and my 2nd Gen iPod Touch (still running strong as a media player in my car, although the headphone jack packed it in and the apps are all pretty much useless.

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Hadn't you heard?
May 27, 2017 11:41AM PDT

In 2013 Apple Shifted its supply chain away from Foxconn to Pegatron. As a huge world supplier, I bet they still get some of their components from them to this day - or at least Pegatron does. I would think it would be hard to totally divorce your electronic sources completely from Foxconn.

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May 19, 2017 10:35PM PDT

Yes the quality of apple product is getting lower and lower with each generation.. But its not just apple, its every single large manufacturer.. from small gadgets to larger ones to home appliances and even cars!

Every large manufacturer "engineers" their product to start failing (or showing symptoms of failure) after the warranty ends. and its more apparent in automotive market than gadget market.

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its not a quality issue
May 21, 2017 2:57PM PDT

it is the way you are holding it Happy

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MacBook Air
May 20, 2017 4:36AM PDT

I have a MacBook Air ( still under warranty ) in CA. Right now being replaced by Apple cause sometimes it doesn't want to charge, sent it in for repair 2 times. They giving me brand new replacement with 1 year warranty.! Can't complain about that!

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Apple is still better than others but...
May 20, 2017 6:02AM PDT

I've an iPhone 6 and now a 7. My dad is still using the 6 after 3 years with only a free battery replacement by Apple. I've had a Retina MacBook Pro still going like new after 4 years. I've found both to be much more reliable than Samsung and HTC Android phones that just stop being supported with no more software updates after 1 year or so. Also had various Windows desktops have premature motherboard failures. I've found the service from Apple to be far superior than other vendors though.

But in general, as others have observed, the quality of devices is falling - mainly because they become obsolete so quickly - so there's no point in making something last 10 years when it's obsolete after 2 years. Once a phone doesn't get software updates, or a PC can't run the latest version of Windows, or a printer no longer gets drivers made for the latest OS, it's only good for landfill anyway.

I've noticed the problem much more so with appliances like refrigerators. My dad's refrigerator is now 40 years old and going strong. Buy a refrigerator now and it will be dead in 5 years.

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Older isn't necessarily better
May 26, 2017 5:31PM PDT

I have had many Apple products. They're not perfect, but better than other brands. New tech is better in a number of ways. For example, if your dad had replaced his refrigerator 5 years ago, the savings in electricity would have paid for the new one.

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May 26, 2017 6:38PM PDT

I don't know why people can say Apple is doing what the other manufacturers are doing. Remember Apple charges a 30-40% premium for their products of similar spec. Don't you think they should make products that last a little longer. Furthermore, Apple's defects are design problem. Not even they can fix it. People had send in for repair up to five times and still the same problem. This kind of problem happened in the 15" high end MacBook Pro back in 2011 and the anti-reflective coating of the retina MBP flakes and results in horrible stain. This is happening to even 2015/6 MBP. Don't believe me, Google "staingate".

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Apple tactics..
May 27, 2017 10:40AM PDT

I figure the biggest advantage of Apple is the standardization of hardware - that is why their drivers and operating systems are so reliable - they don't have a gazzillion different gizmos and drivers to run them from umpteen different manufacturers. All they have to do is limit the model line releases, and standardize each model to a higher feature list, and they got success! Until Microsoft learns to do this, Apple will still have an edge on all other manufacturers who still churn out a billion different pieces of equipment every year, and sell them through thousands of different OEM and ISP retail sources - most of whom refuse to provide half the updates the operating system require for their latest jewel.

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I Did; You Should Too
May 27, 2017 2:49PM PDT

If you actually Googled "staingate", that issue was being resolved almost 2 years ago, according to 2015!

Post was last edited on May 27, 2017 2:57 PM PDT

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Not remotely I afraid
May 28, 2017 9:23AM PDT

Go to Facebook and search, the site was created a few years ago and haven't been kept up.

Before you say "most of these people have their screen replaced out of warranty", if you read further down, a lot of people had their screen replaced 2-5 times and still the same problem. Some people resolve to get the problem fixed and then flip it on Craigslist to unsuspecting buyers before the stains appear again. I'm not say Windows PC manufacturers don't have problems but at least you don't have to spend that much AND you have choices.

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No Landfill for Perfectly fine Hardware
May 27, 2017 2:20PM PDT

If a PC can't run the latest version of Windows,it is a blessing in disguise.

I am still running a desktop computer that I bought from Circuit City at the end of August in 2007. Almost 10 years ago. Partitioned the hard drive and installed a few different Linux-based operating systems. Some of the operating systems run lightning fast from the RAM. Even OpenSUSE Tumbleweed runs as fast as you could want (not run in RAM) with the LXQt desktop / user interface added in from the software repository.

I have even gotten a Compaq computer from 2002 to function decently for most applications but,that hardware was real low-spec equipment .... so it was pushing the limit there but,as long as we're NOT dealing with real low-end stuff,something from 8 to 10 years ago could still run well.

These giant corporations spread unnecessary greed driven marketing hype which contributes to the planet's electronic waste problem.

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Apple hardware quality declining???
May 20, 2017 12:32PM PDT

Well this certainly is my experience! An iPhone6 which died after 14 months (£620 new).
, and lightning charger cables only seem to last about 6 months before they stop connecting. Battery life leaves a lot to be desired too.

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Ever hear of 'Planned Obsolescence'?
May 21, 2017 2:42PM PDT

It's not just Apple and it's not just electronics. And it's been going on for at least 20 years, now. It looks like the electronics industry is catching up on this front.

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It May Not Be Entirely Apple's Fault
May 23, 2017 8:42AM PDT

Hi Fausto

Sorry to hear that you have experienced several Apple product failures over a span of two years (or know others who have). I’ll try to shed a little light on why IMO electronic gadget failures occur that aren’t user initiated.

I’ll start by saying the term Built –in Obsolesce (BIO) IMO is quite often misused to legitimize a devices failure. BIO really has more to do with a gadgets ability to be used in a future time. A prime example of BIO is when Apple switched to the Lightening Cable connector. That move effectively rendered all Apple devices using the previous connector obsolete because once the cable became unusable the device was relegated to paper weight status. The domino effect was that aftermarket cables would eventually become unattainable once the then current supply was depleted.

As electronics become more sophisticated to do more of what we want (or don’t) to supposedly make our lives more enjoyable and less stressful IMO creates a dichotomy of internal and external components to work together in perfect harmony. Electronic gadgets (or components) can fail for any number of reasons the least of which being user abuse.

To be clear I am not an engineer of any sorts. I just read a lot so I can share what I have learned with others. Most of the information I’m going to share can be found on the internet. In some areas I will provide examples in others not; as they are IMO self-explanatory or easily reasoned.

My research reveals that most electronics fail near the beginning or near the end of the lifetime of the individual components that are combined to make the whole (i.e. final product). Without getting into a lot of scientific mumble jumble I’ve learned that failure of an electronic gadget can be attributed to not just one but several factors. To use a term commonly reserved for Hard Drives let’s assume that every component used to create the gadget for use in the real world has a MTBF rate (i.e. Mean Time Between Failure). Let’s begin.

Packaging Failures
A gadget’s exterior casing aside; consider the covering of a wire designed to reduce interference with other internal components. The material used while adequate under most conditions may not be the best choice in a small electronic component to block interference which may have an adverse effect on another internal component (i.e. iPod).

Contact Failures
Faulty soldering to connect circuits and other components resulting in “whiskers” as they are called in the manufacturing process that can cause short circuits in other components.

Printed Circuit Board Failures - Most of you already know what those are – no need to explain.

Relay Failures
This type of failure is more common in products that are electromechanical in design (i.e. opening and closing of contact points) which excludes most of the handheld gadgets used by consumers. I just thought I mention it for general knowledge.

Semiconductor Failures – too involved to go into detail.

Passive Element Failures – Think resistors

The bottom-line is that the failure of an electronic gadget can be attributed to a number of factors and/or individual components. The component that fails may not be faulty; but could be the result of contamination by another component that accelerates its failure process.

The biggest and most common threat to all electronics is Heat. As you know heat build-up can be caused by external environmental conditions and/or internal components such as a battery, display, power supply, Hard Drive and yes even an SSD but to a much lesser degree. Truth...excessive writes and rewrites on an SDD may tax another component incapable of handling the stress. This type of contamination failure if most prevalent with an aftermarket HD to SDD DiY replacement project.

Manufacturing Cost Controls foster the use of cheaper materials that have a shorter MTBF rate. Cheaper materials will impact the MTBF of the gadget as a whole. All manufacturers (not just Apple) are guilty of this to improve profits. Factor in component out-sourcing of a similar product to perform the same function and the MTBF equation becomes even harder to establish. While Apple may control the assembly process of the end product it does not necessarily exact total manufacture control of its suppliers.

Samsung is a prime example of accelerated MTBF rate with its battery sourcing from different suppliers used in the Galaxy Note7. Although, Samsung was able to determine from whence the sub-standard component came (i.e. which supplier)…the damage had already been done. Suppliers can make changes in their products without the buyer’s knowledge that can dramatically skew the results of initial product testing. IMO Samsung was a victim of such change.

It’s sometimes hard to gauge a failure attributable to the end-user who swears they have never dropped their device or exposed it to water. Did you know that taking your phone into the shower room at home; so that you don’t miss a call, will trigger water damage caused by the increased humidity (i.e. air moisture content) in the room? Unless you purchase Accidental Damage in conjunction with an extended warranty you won’t be covered.

In conclusion to answer your question….Overall I still believe Apple products to be well designed but that’s not to say that they don’t fail. My current iPhone 6 Plus sometimes makes me want to throw it – although it hasn’t crapped out. I was an owner of the original iPad which I had to replace under warranty. I’ve had three since then all with no problems. Every Dell laptop I’ve owned (6) including the XPS models had to have a component replaced within warranty. A Sony flat screen had to be replaced at 13 months. My current Samsung Plasma had to be replaced at 14 months (under extended warranty). However, I own a 9 year old Panasonic Plasma that has given me great service. I hope the plasma gods continue to preserve the Panasonic a while longer.

All said speaking objectively, IMO the longevity of a product’s usability before failure while not necessarily decreasing has a maturation point. A 3 year extended warranty (with A&D) for a high ticket item (iPhone) that doesn’t exceed 30% of the cost is probably good insurance. It should be understood that there is an acceptable failure rate (percentage) for every product manufactured. Only the manufacturer knows what that percentage is. I’d hazard to guess that 3 – 7 years of use depending upon the product (handhelds on the low end - laptops on the high-end) at X-hours per day is a starting point. Less use translates into increased customer satisfaction maybe extending to several years of use beyond what is expected. Increased use…well you get the picture. Keep in mind I’m referring to use before failure and not BIO.

Great discussion Fausto.

Together Everyone Achieves More = TEAM

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About Whiskers. Isn't that all about the Lead or Pb?
May 23, 2017 9:22AM PDT

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