Why You Should Just Give Up on Smartphones For Now
The Consumer Electronics Association estimates that the average lifespan of modern smartphones has now reached 4.7 years, and their batteries, 7 years. In terms of sheer functionality, people would only need to replace their smartphones about every five years. However, despite the durability of today’s smartphones, over 100 million of them are made obsolete every year. When adjusted to accommodate consumers’ love of keeping up with the newest and best smartphone technology available, the actual average lifespan of a smartphone is just 18 months.
Like automobiles, new and improved models of existing smartphones are introduced nearly every year. Also like automobiles, while useful and convenient new features are occasionally developed, the difference between this year’s model and next year’s model is often little more than a higher sticker price. That difference is often big enough that people are willing to wait until 2017 to get the newest 2016 features at a lower price. Consumers have begun to employ similar strategies in response to the rising cost of the newest widely-publicized flagship smartphones.
The cost of smartphones varies widely and revolutionary new features that consumers are willing to pay top dollar for are still occasionally developed. However, the list of new features continues to dwindle even though prices continue to rise. In addition to more powerful batteries, more ROM and RAM, and better cameras, some top-of-the line models now boast being waterproof, dustproof and drop protected. Other models include features that make having a smartphone like having a complete portable home theater, featuring Dolby Audio surround sound and a full 5-inch high definition screen.
In addition to waiting until next year to purchase this year’s newest model, consumers have also begun to explore other options. The latest and most impressive new smartphone features were once only available from the biggest manufacturers with the biggest budgets for technological innovation, like Apple and Samsung. The average smartphone user is as unlikely to feel deprived of the few new exclusive features offered by expensive flagship models as they are to fully understand the technical differences between 4G and LTE. Today, smartphones that offer most, if not all, of the most desirable features are available from smaller manufacturers, and at a much lower cost.
While these manufacturers don’t launch huge marketing campaigns like some of the bigger players in the field, their products have begun receiving some pretty impressive consumer reviews. Meizu and Xiaomi make smartphones that offer most of the same features as their much more expensive flagship counterparts. OnePlus has been praised for its OxygenOS Android interface operating system and its great battery life. Necessity is said to be the mother of invention, and the necessity of competing with industry giants has even resulted in some new innovations. For example, the Redmi Note 3 incorporated a metal case, fingerprint identification, dual channel RAM, a faster graphics processor and an improved fast-charging battery, all of which only increased the weight of the phone by 4 grams.
Taking into consideration the fact that the actual average useful life of a cell phone is only 18 months, many people are beginning to question the wisdom of making such a large financial investment in their phones. That large initial investment may also be the reason that so many people find it difficult to let those phones go ever after they’ve upgraded to a new one. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that in the U.S. alone, 130 million mobile phones become obsolete every year. In Australia, the current number of unused mobile phones is estimated to be 16 million. According to recent statistics, as many as 75% of these obsolete smartphones worldwide are taking up space in junk drawers rather than being recycled.
Experts estimate that more than 90% of the raw materials used to build today’s smartphones can be reused to build tomorrow’s. Recycling can prevent depleting natural resources including cobalt, cadmium, cobalt, copper, gold, nickel, and silver to keep up with consumer demand. Whatever amount you prefer to invest in your smartphone, and however often, recycling it at the end of its life is an investment that helps us all stay connected—both to each other and to our common future.