In the past decade, smartphones were invented to replace feature phones. However, smartphones are usually broken within one or two years, while the lifetime of old feature phones was much longer and could last for at least five years. Some studies showed that most smartphones were broken due to some tiny components and phone manufacturers could produce better quality of phones with a little addition of cost In this document, both sides standing for manufacturers and customers are considered with their judgement.
The lifetime of smartphone models does not need to be extended
- In this fast-paced decade, many people upgrade their smartphones to more advanced versions for the latest technologies. This occurs regardless of whether the smartphone is broken, so it becomes meaningless to extend the life of the products. According to Gallup, 51% of iPhone users traded up for the new model as soon as their wireless carriers allow them. Similarly, 40% of Android users did the same.
- In China, the world’s largest smartphone market, analysts indicate that on average, users replaced smartphones much more frequent than Western users (around every six months compared to every two years). This demonstrates that users are more inclined towards to replace their smartphone as soon as a new model is released, rather than purchase a new one when the phone becomes unrepairable.
- Software updates are an integrate part of the smart phone system. Outdated software results in poor performance, lags, low definition media playback and software crashes. This not only gives a bad user experience but is exploiting more vulnerabilities to hackers for taking less effort to control over smartphones with an outdated version of operating system.
- Smartphones’ technologies develop faster than regular PCs, so their hardware will be outdated within 2 years. With thousands of apps being released every year, hardwares need to be constantly developed accordingly and improved to operate these new apps without any noticeable lag. Therefore, it is unreasonable to expect manufactures to design expensive hardware. Smartphones are also exposed harsher daily life environments and subject to more extensive wear. This causes them to degrade much faster than a stationary PC.
- Cost vs smartphone lifetime vs customer value: Increasing smartphone lifetime will increase cost. Such an endeavour could increase smartphone lifetime up to 5 years. However, customers may not want to use the product for such a long time as technology is continually developed and new functions are introduced. If the cost increases, eventually either customers or components suppliers will pay for the extra cost. Customers may have a high expectation on low retail price and could be unwilling to pay for the unnecessary expensive products.
The lifetime of smartphone models should be extended.
Views of the customers and environmental organizations:
- It is a waste of material, once a smartphone is scrapped, it is very difficult to recycle it. According to Greenpeace, many hazardous elements exist inside a mobile phone. When they are disposed to the landfill site, these hazardous materials will damage to the local ecological environment.Therefore, if the lifespan of the smartphone can be extended for longer, less amount of hazardous material will be disposed. In the past, mobile phones had an average lifetime more than 5 years, which massive reduced the disposal volume compared to smartphones.
- Many users only buy a new smartphone because their previous phone is no longer working or their phone is out of date. According to the survey, 30% of people would buy a new smartphone because the previous one was no longer working. As a result, users were forced to buy new smartphones. However, it did not mean all of them were interested in buying the latest and advanced smartphones. Cost was still a factor for these users. Most users would not use all the functions or find all features be useful on the smartphone, even though it may be a strategy for the smartphone companies to include all features in their models in order to rise the selling price.
- In most cases, tiny specialised components in the smartphone are the first to be damaged, which causes the lifetime problems. One of the major reasons of the short lifespan of smartphone is the battery. Battery capacity drops as number of cycles increases, hence causing power supply issues. Most of the time, a new battery replacement returns the performance of smartphone back to new. In addition, smartphone maintenance after-sales services provide a large amount of job creation opportunities for society.
- The material cost of a smartphone is less than 10% of selling price and the product cost takes average 65% at sale. It does not cost significantly much to improve the quality of a component. The distributor has already created large profits. Even though the sale price increase a bit for longer smartphone lifespan due to the improvement of the part quality, this can still be accepted by the public and most users hope to utilise their money for a more long lasting product .
- The obligations of protecting the environment are the responsibility of everyone in the supply chain from manufacturers to distributors. Consumers also have the duty to take good care of their devices and recycle them if possible. Therefore, increasing the phone usage lifetime is a natural response to this.
Group 30: Soon K Gan, Liang Y Lim, Chi Yung Tse, Qifan Yang