The Right to Use

Our hardware is being crippled

November 5, 2021

There are several reasons why I will never buy a Tesla car, I've written about some of those before, but the biggest reason why I will never, and nobody should, buy a Tesla is that even when you own a Tesla you don't have full control over it, Tesla does. The first thing about it that came to my attention was that the fast charging on it was only enabled if you paid for the subscription to it, most people don't notice this because when you buy a new Tesla it comes with a few years of that feature so by the time the first owner is tired of owning an electric car (which happens to nearly everyone) it has yet to expire, but most of the time that doesn't carry over to the second owner who will be forced to pay extra if they want to be able to only spend twenty minutes on a road trip stranded in the middle of nowhere rather than an hour and a half (assuming that middle of nowhere town actually has a charger capable of fast charging).

But while that whole thing does sound a bit unfair you can make an argument because while you own the car you don't own the charging stations so it isn't completely unjust, the thing that with Teslas these days that makes no sense is charging extra to unlock extra performance on them, Tesla makes some of the fastest production cars on the market but in order to unlock sport mode, or whatever they call it, you have to pay a monthly subscription (I don't have internet right now to fact check this) and when you get this subscription nothing changes about your car, it still has the same motors, the same battery, the same aerodynamics, the same weight, etc. the car, the object you supposedly own, undergoes no change, but all of a sudden the software that owns the car lets you drive faster. This issue goes beyond the things commonly argued when talking about right to repair, this is a right to own issue.

But me complaining here about Teslas is not all that important, I of course don't own one and I doubt many of you out there reading this do either, but something I do own, along with nearly all of you, is a smartphone, which is where the most issues that relate to what I'm choosing to call the right to use happen (although that term already exists and relates to something else so somebody who isn't in a car typing on their Thinkpad in the middle of nowhere like I am will have to come up with a new term). The way I see it, if you own a device then you should have access to all the features built into that device, if your car it capable of going from zero to sixty in one second then you shouldn't have to pay an extra fee to make it do that.

But again lets get away from cars and talk about the mobile operating system that has the biggest right to own issue, and contrary to what most of you think I'm about to say it is Android. When Apple releases a new version of iOS it is immediately available to all users of phones which have good enough hardware to run them which will usually include iPhone models that are five years old (of course updating isn't always a good idea but that's a different conversation). For Androids this is not the case (although Google Pixels may be an exception to this, I'm not really sure and I don't care to look it up), when Google releases an Android update there are of course hardware requirements for said updates and while many five year old Android phones won't meet those requirements (because unlike iPhones, every Android phone is not a flagship) the older flagship phones that would have cost more than anyone should actually pay for a phone should often meet those requirements. But it is not Google, the maker of the software, who determines whether or not you can get the update, neither it is the manufacturer of your phone who decides, and neither it is you, the owner of your phone, who decides but it is your cell phone provider, a company that has nothing to do with the programming of your phone's software or the engineering of its hardware, that can decide whether or not you can get the update that your phone is more than likely able to run, it is within their power to withhold a software update from you in order to push you into buying a new phone, that you don't need, from them.

But this is something that most people can live with, it is my belief that you should only update software when a new update contains features that you actually want or need, so if I had a phone I wasn't allowed to update I probably wouldn't care too much and neither would most people since they don't like having to re-learn how to use software once it is updated. But what I don't like is when I get features that my phone is capable of taken away. Today I was in a car wanting to type up an article that I'll probably get around to tomorrow and needed to look something up on my computer to do it so I went into the settings of my phone to set up a mobile hotspot to connect my computer to the internet. When I found the right part of the settings menu it wanted me to log into the account for my cell phone service provider to activate it. This is something that I've done on an occasion before without having to do that so I was surprised when I had to do this but I realized that my phone plan got switched up which may be the reason for that. But when my phone plan switched a Verizon technician didn't come to my house to remove whatever chip from my phone that allows it to be used as a hotspot, it still has that capability and I should be able to use it. We pay cell phone companies for internet, it should not matter how we use it, if I'm allowed to watch Baby Shark in 4K on YouTube on cellular data I should be able to use that same cellular data to browse the internet on my laptop, it's the same data and browsing the internet on one device puts no more strain on the cellular network than browsing on another does.

Not being able to use devices that you own the way that they are capable of being used is ridiculous and we should avoid doing business with companies that cripple our hardware with software.