Whether you like it or not, there are a lot of smartphones out there. Like, a lot of smartphones. Fun fact: the number of smartphone users worldwide is supposed to hit the 5 billion mark by 2019. That’s almost 3/4th of the freakin’ world population! and last I checked, 2019 is just 3 years away. That statistic might raise some questions, though.
If there are that many smartphones on this planet, how are they all maintained? and, more importantly, are there any negative impacts to this exponential growth? Well, I’m planning on answering all of those questions. But, one seemingly important effect is undeniable. The lifetime of a typical smartphone is going down. And it’s going down fast.
How many years do you think you can hold onto your current smartphone?
What do you think the typical lifetime of a flagship smartphone is? Well, most of you would probably say 1 year, and you’re right. But, that has remained constant since the days of old. To rephrase the question better, how long do you think you will take to upgrade from your current smartphone? Now, we’re talking!
That number has reduced dramatically over the past few years and that’s really not a good sign. The average time a person would hold onto their smartphone is, wait for it..
18 months. You read that right. Just 18 months.
Well, for the tech savvy people out there, which constitutes a majority of the population nowadays, that number is bound to go down real fast. To the point where you’re actually thinking about buying a new smartphone just 1-2 months after purchasing it (that’s my guess, anyways).
This is not a good sign. Buying a new smartphone just when it comes out was reserved for the fanboys since forever. But now, it’s considered the norm.
So, what are the typical options for the older model when the newer one comes out?
Well, the most obvious one is to sell it and use the money to purchase the newer model. Or, you could trade it back to your carrier. Furthermore, you could trade them back to a trade-in company who would probably take it in, if it’s still in pretty good condition. But there are actually some folks who just chuck their old phone straight in the bin (stop doing that, by the way). I’ll explain why in a later segment.
There’s no right time to buy a smartphone
Imagine you’re pondering getting a phone upgrade. You just bought a smartphone almost a year ago, and you believe that the time is right for a new machine in your hand. For you, the most obvious thing might be to buy the next iteration of your current smartphone. It’s what you’re used to. Then again, another tech manufacturer would release their next iteration after 2 months. Better safe than sorry, right?
2 months go by, and then you’re prepped to get your previous choice, but the harsh truth dawns on you. It’s only 10 more months before the unveiling of the, yet again, next iteration, and you wait it out. And you just man up and buy it anyway, regretting your choice after a brief period of time. And this goes on, and on, and on..
So, what can we learn?
There’s no right time to buy a smartphone. No matter how much a company says it’s always in the best interests of the consumers, it’s what it is. A company. And companies always want profit.
So, there’s nothing you can do about this. Companies will just keep on churning out smartphone after smartphone, and will not care whether a vast majority of its consumers will like it or not. Why?
Crazy money, fools!
The obsolete mindset
All of the aforementioned drama stems from one particular type of mindset which I affectionately refer to as the obsolete mindset.
The idea that your smartphone suddenly becomes obsolete because a newer version was just unveiled is a seemingly trivial matter,now you think of it. People think of their device as ‘old’ or ‘obsolete’ to rationalize buying a new smartphone and maxing out their credit card in the process.
If you check up the meaning of the word ‘obsolete’, you’ll find that it means:
no longer produced or used; out of date.
And at that point, your smartphone is probably neither of those things. A good way to remove this feeling is by contemplating on why you bought your current smartphone. Was it its form factor? its camera? its screen?
All of those reasons have not changed. They only have so because you put it beside something that is bigger than itself.
So, please try to avoid this mindset, and you’ll be on your merry way. Oh, you’ll probably save a couple hundred bucks too. (Just sayin’)
The Apple conspiracy
The above reasons contributed to one of the greatest conspiracy theories in tech history. Now, every company cannot be squeaky clean, but, with a good track record like Apple, everyone’s bound to trust them.
After the inception of the original iPhone, Apple began releasing their smartphones on a yearly basis; a tighter schedule, if you will. But, that didn’t tempt enough users to purchase the newest iteration of one of the best consumer appliances ever.
Sure, Apple could advertise more, but that would translate to a lot of money. So, here’s what people (Apple users) say what Apple did.
If you’ve not been living under a rock for the past few years, you must know that Apple releases a major software update along with their newest product. This software update could be used on older models, but, users claim that it actually made their device slower and more sluggish than when their device was on their previous firmware.
This kinda aggravated the obsolete mindset that I mentioned earlier. But, only this time around, it was not placebo. It was the real deal.
The internet wouldn’t be the internet if things didn’t blow up. Needless to say, this story blew up, real fast. Apple was convicted of practicing ‘planned obsolescence’ , and there’s a lot of evidence to suggest this.
Effects on the environment
I hate to admit it, but you using that smartphone of yours has adverse effects on the environment. There’s no way you can sleep better at night knowing full well that the energy that you use charging and recharging your phone is not a lot.
Research shows that the energy used is barely a fraction of the amount of energy it takes to acquire the raw materials and transform it into your smartphone.
So, the best way to play your role is to actually stick to your old smartphone, and not chuck it in the bin. Or, alternatively, you could recycle it by giving it to a recycle plant.
This can make all the difference in the world. (literally)
The U.S. generates upwards of 2.37 million tons of electronic waste materials each year. And the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) says that recycling just 1 million laptops could power 3,657 U.S. homes. By the way, did I mention that these statistics are from 2009?
The EPA also assumes that we can salvage around 35,000 pounds of copper, 772 pounds of silver, 75 pounds of gold, and 33 pounds of palladium for every million cellphones. This, along with the fact that the earth is going down on resources is good news.
Or it could be good news if we actually did something about it. That doesn’t mean there is no one to take action. Many societies will be happy to take away your old electronics if you aren’t using them anymore, although these are slow to come up.
In the end, the choice lies with the end-user, and hopefully that will be the choice that makes all the difference.