Welcome to Brown’s Bytes! Your weekly insight from Mobliciti’s CTO Andy Brown. Follow #brownsbytes
18th February 2022
I’m writing this sat at my desk in the South East, currently waiting for Storm Eunice to blow through… there is an eerie quiet outside (well apart from the wind) – thanks to remote working there is virtually nobody out there and no cars on the road. I’m reminded of the early lockdown, but windier!
In this kind of moment, it’s only natural that thoughts turn to the environment…
Environmental, Social & Governance (ESG) has become a top table agenda item for most organisations now. All companies are now eyeing their work through an increasingly green lens with IT spending and projects an area under rising scrutiny.
How ‘green’ is your phone?
It has become an accepted norm that phones get replaced regularly – on average every 2-3 years each phone will be replaced. This is the norm both in the personal and Enterprise space – that’s a lot of phones being bought every year… and a lot of old phones to be dealt with.
Except they often aren’t!
Since the beginning of the mobile phone, this problem has been quietly getting worse and worse as the pile of old phones literally multiplies. Hands up if you have a drawer/box/cupboard of old tech in your personal life. The same is sadly true for many organisations also.
There have been attempts to look at this e-waste in the past, but they were more focused on security and wiping of data usually. Times are definitely changing…
We held a Webinar this week where we went into this in some detail, but a key stat is that your Smartphone can be measured by a CO2 equivalent… the amount of CO2 that goes into its production and use. Up to 100KG of CO2-e per phone – multiply that up and the footprint of a Corporate Smartphone estate can start to look pretty significant. And the majority of that 100KG is the manufacturing of the phone – so each time you buy another one, the CO2-e jumps up again.
Rise of the ‘Envirophone’?
There have been a few attempts to sort this regular churn of hardware replacement, mainly through the use of modular designs that allow individual components to be upgraded/replaced over time rather than the whole phone. The best attempt I’ve seen so far is the current offering from Fairphone. The Fairphone 4 is a decent enough phone – it won’t set the world on fire when it comes to specifications vs price, but the environmental considerations of the phone are arguably now starting to be priced in by them. They even have a spare parts page where you can see just how much of the phone can be serviced to keep the phone running over time…
However, the dream of a long life phone is still some way off. Even Fairphone only support their phones for 5 years max… because they’re constrained by the other big problem:
Long Term Support and Patching
Any device has a window of support and patching built into its price. As I’ve mentioned many times before, Apple leads the way in this space. An iPhone 6S from 2015 will probably get its last updates later this year -.a 7-year lifespan. But then, Apple hardware is harder to service and maintain than a Fairphone.
Fairphone runs on Android and, sadly, major Android versions create significant overheads for all phone manufacturers when it comes to releasing it onto old hardware. So, a handset manufacturer usually has to ‘price in’ 1 major release, but if you’re going to try to keep your phone longer then that model falls down.
This is because a major release of Android usually lasts about 4 years before it is no longer security patched; Android Oreo came out in 2017 and had its last patch in 2021. But of course, it takes time for an OS to reach devices in Android world and there is also the problem that you can’t always be buying your phone at the beginning of the release cycle. That means the 4 years is probably more like 3 or less… hence why Fairphone probably land on 5 years (with one major update priced in).
There isn’t an easy answer to this at present. Even Fairphone acknowledge that you’ll be buying phones regularly, if less regularly maybe than before. But, we can help in another way…
Check out our Webinar for more information, but we’re now offering that the CO2-e for any phone you buy from us will have all of its Carbon offset by us planting trees that will actually offset it during the typical lifetime of the device. This is among a whole array of ways we can help with ESG for Mobile going forward.
Get in touch to find out more. It’s important for all organisations to start measuring and thinking about how to deal with this issue.