Older Phones Work

This is a picture off older flipphones, blackbery phones, and early smartphones. The image is from 2017 and was taken by Chris Jackson, a photographer.
“Not dead yet.” photographer: Chris Jackson. Getty Images (2017)

Dear Ms. Smartphone: In the last post, you and the reader (Zack) seemed to yearn for the newest, latest phone. I have the opposite case. My husband has had the same phone for four years. He refuses to upgrade when I get a new one, even though the store is offering me a 2 for 1 deal for new phones. Is he wrong to want to stay put? Lacy, San Francisco.

Dear Lacy: It’s in the air this Fall : those stories about three hole picture taking and origami phones that fold and practically fly! It’s hard to resist them if you like to stay on top of new technology, and fuel the engines of Silicon Valley (and Korea). The replacement phone-cycle requires less money and commitment than the new car-cycle mentioned in the last post.

However, I see two reasons why your husband might be resistant to new phones even when there is no additional out-of-pocket expense. It is often time-consuming and onerous to switch from one phone model to another. It’s not like they come with instruction manuals! The new Apple phones lack a home button, so it will take swipes up and down to figure out what apps are opened and closed. The Android 10 also does away with the navigation buttons in favor of a gesture-based system. Until a user gets comfortable with these new features, they may make them error-prone and slow down their everyday communications. If you want your husband to get on board, you may need to show him how.

And, his reluctance may be one about consumerism at large. I found an interesting statistic (from 2017) that worldwide, the average global smartphone replacement cycle is only 21 months! Moreover, the rate is highest in emerging consumer markets. Some old phones end up in sock drawers. A few get handed-down. But, it’s reported that in the the US alone, 416,000 cellphones enter landfills or incinerators every day, where they release toxins into the air, water, and soil. And, add to the mix the old cords and adapters. There are environmental reasons why consumers hold on to phones longer, and seek less for the newest-latest-shiniest.

That said, it’s still more sustainable to recycle a phone every two years, versus a car. I am in favor of moving-on, and no user should be left fully behind.

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