Designed obsolescence is an almost natural practice in technology, particularly electronics. Making sure that a product will not last for an extended period of time ensure return business, especially if it is a market where you normally would not receive return customers. I, however, believe that is both irresponsible and unethical. Designing products to either break down or not meet future requirements is a waste of resources and diminishes the positive impact of the product. Those products will eventually be replaced and will have to be disposed of, or will lock away valuable resources in garbage.
While many would make the claim that this is an abuse of the environment, I would also say it is an abuse of people as well. People do not buy products to replace them or simply to consume, they purchase products to fill needs. If a company knows their product will not fill that need adequately or misrepresents their product, it is in direct violation of duty ethics and their need to respect people and their rights. Making a product inferior to what is possible also diminishes its possible outcome and while it may not directly violate utility ethics it certainly would not be considered the best option. Virtue ethics is harder to define as it is so subjective. I would argue that designed obsolescence is a violation of virtue ethics as it is socially irresponsible. Most would agree that a virtuous person would respect and be favorable to people, and that person would not sell them substandard products simply for profit.
Beyond the impact to people, the impact to the planet is significant. By creating products that will break down, a company is contributing to the buildup of plastic and metal waste. This irresponsible use of resources also removes them from the natural environment for others to use. While a human-centered view may put less emphasis on the environmental impact, there is no denying that the removal of natural resources compromises the possibilities for future generations and violates that ethical code as well. Overall I believe this practice to be entirely unethical and irresponsible. I do not believe any ethical worldview can completely justify this practice and therefore must condemn it. Designed obsolescence is disrespectful to people, harmful to the environment, compromises our sustainability as a civilization, and is an unethical way of boosting profits. For an engineer, it is their ethical responsibility to oppose this kind of design and uphold their moral and ethical values.