Are smartphones becoming thought of as disposable items these days? Research from one UK-based online auction site, BidGrid, would seem to suggest that Brits at least regard their gadgets, including mobile phones, as such. Indeed, BidGrid goes as far as to state that the UK is a throwaway nation with the average lifespan of consumer electronics tumbling as users rush to replace them with newer models. Mobile phones are the gadget most likely to be unceremoniously dumped before their real end-of-life, with customers on rolling phone contracts upgrading regularly in order to keep up with emerging tech and wow factor features. Old items are, BidGrid says, sold, dumped or left in a drawer to rot.
The research revealed that the under 21 age group was most likely to change phone handsets just as soon as a contract allowed, and would take up early upgrade offers when available. For this particular group, the average lifespan of a mobile phone was just 23 months. Compare that to the over 30 years group, and you find that they keep a phone going on average for four years. Interestingly, the 21 to 30 year olds in the middle keep theirs for nearly as long; three years on average.
Things start to get more interesting when you look at where the old phone handsets actually go. Although BidGrid has not released details linked to age group, which would have been really interesting I think, the fact that the majority (33%) just dump the hardware in a drawer and forget it is worrying. I can understand the 27% that sell their old phones, not least as this helps to fund the upgrade cost while keeping a perfectly functional piece of technology in circulation. Equally, I can understand and admire the 15% who choose to give the old handset away to someone else. What I really find difficult to comprehend are the 16% of users who simply throw their old phones out with the rubbish, and why do only 4% (the lowest of all the options) recycle their hardware? With so many charities, at least here in the UK, offering freepost envelopes that take a mobile phone and help to both raise funds for whatever cause they are involved in and prevent handset components from adding to the growing amount of toxic landfill the planet has to deal with, I find it sad that so few consider this as viable.
But then, when the BidGrid research also reveals people are 'reluctant' to repair damaged items unless forced to by contractual obligations or warranty, maybe I shouldn't be so surprised. "Prices of gadgets are so low these days, customers prefer to buy new rather than send off a broken item for repair" a BidGrid spokesperson said "unfortunately, many people don't know how to dispose of electronics properly, so they're often thrown straight into the bin." Thankfully, small electronic item collection bins are now appearing in recycling centres and car parks across the UK, and these do help raise funds for charities.
So what do you do with your mobile phone? I have used the recycle option, the giveaway option and the keep it as a spare option (which is my version of stuffing it in the kitchen drawer) in the past. Since moving into the high-end smartphone market, however, I put my hands up and admit that the new iPhone upgrade is generally funded by selling the old one. How about you?