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Bring old cell phones!

Bring old cell phones!

Do the Swiss often fix their cell phones? And the young rather than the old? Swiss researcher wants to know this. Photo: Shutterstock

Bring old cell phones!

3 years maximum: This is the only time the Swiss have used their smartphones – and now their lifespan will be extended.

Gabriella Jordan / CH Media

Constantly creating new names for smartphones should not be an easy thing for the big tech companies, as they are now teeming with many models – Ultra, Pro Max, Neo, or like devices from Samsung, an Apple And Co. are all hot. Every year companies bring at least one new cell phone to the market, often even a new generation. And every year consumers all over the world want a new cell phone with a better camera and other great functions.

Hence, the hardware life span is much shorter than it technically would be. With consequences for people and nature: Searching for needed resources means that they are promoted under problematic conditions. There are 60 different raw materials in a cell phone, including minerals such as copper or aluminum and rare materials such as coltan or Go. To reach them, habitats were destroyed, primitive forests cleared, mountains blown up and workers exploited. In the Congo, in Indonesia, or in the Dominican Republic.

If smartphones are used for a longer period, that would lead to a big improvement. This is exactly where a Swiss research project comes in: a multidisciplinary team from ZHAW and the university Zurich It examines various measures to extend the service life of smartphones and other mobile devices. The team is led by ecologist Jan Blumer of the ZHAW Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (see framework for other projects).

Replace the screen instead of buying a new device

“Unlike refrigerators, for example, where most of the environmental impact occurs during operation, the longer service life of cell phones and other portable devices is always worth the effort,” explains Yann Blumer. “The production of chips has the biggest impact on the environment. It makes perfect sense to replace a broken screen instead of buying a new cell phone. ”According to rough estimates by studies and industry experts, Swiss are currently only using their smartphones for a period of two to three years.

Jan Blumer, environmental scientist. Photo: ZHAW

After all, this is a little longer than it was a few years ago: “We know from discussions with retailers that consumers are likely to keep their devices for much longer these days. Part of this is due to a higher level of environmental awareness, but more importantly is that The leap in innovation from one model to another is not that great these days, “says Plumer. “A useful life of four or five years would be better – and often technically possible.”

To find out exactly how long the Swiss have been using their smartphones, the team surveyed 1,400 people. They were also asked whether their equipment had been repaired, moved or sold, or whether they would buy used devices themselves. Because: the service life can of course be extended by using it again. In the survey, the researchers also tried to find out the barriers to prolonged use, and whether there are differences between device types and between young and old, rich and poor, women and men, etc.

Old cell phones will not be re-traded

Concrete results will not be published until June. Based on previous research, Blumer could already say: “When it comes to used cell phones, demand is higher than supply. This is because used cell phones are not often recycled. Rather, they collect dust in a drawer in the house.” There are also concerns about this Aggregate Role. Means: People often don’t sell their cell phones because they fear that their photos, contacts, or conversations are still somewhere on the device.

So how can you convince the Swiss to use their cell phones for longer or resell them? Blumer mentions several options, for example media campaigns, longer warranties, or buyback programs by manufacturers or dealers. The most effective measures will soon be tested in a field study – with an industry partner. Which one is not ready yet to be decided upon.

It is envisaged that used mobile phone deals are placed prominently on the website. How consumers receive this will then be investigated by the researchers. “At the same time, it should be attractive to companies,” says Blumer. “Because they decide in the end whether or not to take the measures.” Telecom companies in particular are interesting partners: they primarily want to sell subscriptions and not necessarily new devices. And: “No player in the market can handle this Sustainability Is still ignoring today. “

Are cell phones still good enough after a few years?

It will take about a year before the final project results are available. Despite all the efforts, the unimportant question still remains: Are old cell phones still working well enough? Ultimately Apple and Samsung They have already been penalized many times for using software updates to slow down their old cell phones in order to convince customers to purchase new models (planned obsolescence).

Blumer emphasizes that this is not the focus of the project, as it focuses on the measures that are part of the Switzerland Can be implemented. But the manufacturers clearly wield a great deal of influence here. However, in the meantime, they are giving more weight to the service aspect. And if someone is still satisfied with their equipment even after a few years and receives spare parts without any problems in the event of damage, the chances of retaining them are greater. “

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