Once the consumer has purchased a Smartphone, part of the responsibility towards sustainability is passed to them. This responsibility is to make the device last as long as possible to prevent another phone being produced to replace it. This can be done in many ways, such as repairing the phone themselves, or simply being careful with the phone to extend the life of the phone. There are many factors that can affect how a user may treat their Smartphone; for example if a user does not have a very large income they may be more likely to look after their Smartphone as they may not be able to afford a replacement. The replacement of phones could be dramatically reduced if people were more careful with their phones, as Robert Nazarian (2015) explains, in 2015, 50% of phone users worldwide had experienced a cracked Smartphone screen at some point and 21% of Smartphone users had a cracked screen at the time of the report.
“Fifty percent of cracked or shattered screens come from a simple drop. However, there are other ways as well. 32 percent of people say their phone fell out of their pocket, and 27 percent say it fell out of their lap when standing. However, there are some crazier reasons too. 7 percent of people say their phone’s screen broke while taking a selfie, and 5 percent said it happened when throwing their phone at something.” (Nazarian, 2015)
As this breakdown shows, 5% of cracked Smartphone screens could have been avoided if the users took a moment to consider that they are throwing their phone. Also potentially 27% of cracked screens could have been prevented if the users had paid more attention to what they were doing.
Another way that the consumer can make their Smartphones last longer is to repair their phones instead of replace them. This can be easier to do on older phones as you can take off the back easily to get to the battery. For example the back on the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 can be taken off using your fingernail and it also has screws inside which allow you to open up the phone.
Daniel Pursall. 20/12/2017. Samsung Galaxy Note 4 with the back cover removed, showing the screws used to disassemble the phone.
The ability to disassemble the phone easily by yourself means that people are more likely to try to repair the phone themselves, whereas, newer models of phones like the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 and the IPhone X are glued together instead of having a removable back which despite, Samsung stating in their environmental report “Design products that are easy to repair, disassemble and recycle (Eco-design process)” (Samsung, 2017, p47) their latest phone is quite hard to open up considering the specialist tools required to open the phone.
As Scott Harvard et al. (2017) shows in his step by step teardown of the Samsung galaxy note 8, the phone requires a small range of specialist tools to take the phone apart as well as the application of heat to some areas to make it easier to break the glue, but you still need the correct kind of glue to put the phone back together as it is used to form a water resistant seal and is a structural part in some cases. However, once the screen and back of the phone is removed the only other part that has glue is the battery. All other parts in the phone are modular and can be lifted out or are screwed in. Therefore Samsung have made the phone easier to repair, once you have managed to open the phone, compared to older models like the Note 4. As the guide by Sophia et al. (2014) shows, there are more parts to remove inside the Note 4 and there are lots of delicate parts like ribbon cables and very thin wires that can be easy to break as well as parts that are glued in.
This shows that Samsung are moving towards easy to repair phones despite the glue used to form a water resistant seal. These guides also show that some people are willing to try to repair their phones, however difficult it may be. It may not be wise suggest that everyone should try to repair their own phone as Lance Ulanoff (2017) explains in his article, some people may be lacking the skill required to correctly fix their own phone, even some specialist repair shops may not have the expertise required to repair increasingly complex technology. An example of this that Lance Ulanoff has used in his article is that his co-worker took her phone to a company called iCracked who repaired her phone for her and shortly afterwards her phone made a pop whilst in the middle of a phone call and heated up in one corner. This then progressed into the screen cracking and the phone burning her ear.
Once a Smartphone has been released, the manufacturer of the phone continues to update their product to fix any problems that develop and to generally upgrade the software. Using software updates, the manufacturer can change anything in the software of the phone from changing the icon of an app to upgrading the operating system to the latest version. These updates can be crucial to the security of a phone as they can update the antivirus software. These updates also need to be regular as viruses continue to evolve as software develops, as criminals try to break through the security of devices to steal information. “Protect yourself from the more than 2,850 new threat discovered each day” (Avast, 2017) This quote from Avast about their mobile antivirus software shows how many attacks there can be on mobile devices and why it is important to keep your Smartphone security software updated. This is also a reason that people may replace their phones as the phone gets older because manufacturers stop releasing updates when phones get too old.
Statista. 2017. Historical iOS compatibility of every iPhone model to date.
This chart of iOS support for iPhone models shows that as the phones get older they are no longer supported by newer versions of the operating system. This can be for several reasons, when a new version of the operating system is developed, it can demand more processing power which older phones may not be able to provide.
“To make Android work on their hardware, device manufacturers (like Samsung, HTC, or Motorola) must write Android device drivers specifically for their phones. These are often closed-source, so they can only be updated by said manufacturer. Google can’t just release a new version of Android that works on all devices—they release the new version, then manufacturers have to go in and tweak it for each of their phones.” (Hoffman, 2017)
This quote shows that there is a lot of work to make an update for Smartphones, and this could be another reason why older phones don’t get new updates. The companies that produce Smartphones may not see the business sense in developing new updates for all of their phones. This means they may also stop making updates for older phones because otherwise people would have less reason to buy a new phone. For example, if the Samsung Galaxy S could do everything that the Galaxy S8 can do then there wouldn’t be much point in buying it other than for the newer camera, processing speed and phone body. However as the chart by Statista shows the newer versions of Apple’s iOS are being made available to a wider range of phones. For example iOS 4 was available to 3 versions of iPhone whereas, iOS 11 is available to 7 versions of iPhone. This could be that the technology hasn’t changed much over the last 7 generations of iPhone, Apple may be trying to extend the life of their phones or that there are too many people that still use the phones to stop updating them.
Apple has recently featured in the news due to the fact that a customer of theirs and a technology website conducted tests on older models of iPhone and found that apple was slowing down older iPhone’s.
“Technology website Geekbench then analysed several iPhones running different versions of the iOS operating system and found some of them did indeed appear to have been deliberately slowed down. ” (Foxx, 2017)
Chris Foxx (2017) also explains in his report that people have suspected that Apple slow down their older phones to encourage people to upgrade their phone and that Apple claim that it is to prolong the life of the phones battery by reducing stress on the battery that can speed up its deterioration. Despite Apple’s reason for slowing down phones, the fact that they have kept it a secret could show that they had been doing it to encourage people to buy newer phones. Either way the outcome has become the same as people will want to at least replace the battery in their phone to speed it up again, which will result in more waste being produced.