Should the lifespan of the smartphones be extended as long as old feature phones?

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

Manufacturers’ views:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  1. 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 Outdated software results in poor performance, lags, low definition media playback and software crashes.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.
  1. Smartphones’ technologies develop faster than regular PCs, so their hardware will be outdated within 2 years.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.
  1. 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:

  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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 .
  1. 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

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15 thoughts on “Should the lifespan of the smartphones be extended as long as old feature phones?

  1. “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”. Based on this (if it is true), I would agree to extend the lifetime of a phone. The trade in value of second hand phone that has been used for a year or two is way less than half of RRP. It is not worth it to change a phone every two years especially with the price that we are paying.

    “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”. What had been written here that disagree with the extension of phone life time. If you look at it the other way round, 49% of iphone user and 60% android user does not want to change their phone even when new technologies are introduced. I personally would not change my phone because any improvement made in a year is minimal.

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  2. Good job!
    This is the best report I have read forever!
    The words are unbelievable funny and accurate!
    Fantastic author I have not seen ever before!
    Well done

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  3. From the manufacturers’ view, launching new, attractive phone models to boost sales and revenue are more important to extend the lifespans of the model.

    When the models are made with a more durable design, some consumers like myself would be less interested in purchasing a latest mobile phone when my own is still functional.

    Extending the lifespan is a conundrum for the phone manufacturers.

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  4. From the manufacturers’ view, launching new, attractive phone models to boost sales and revenue are more important to extend the lifespans of the model.

    When the models are made with a more durable design, some consumers like myself would be less interested in purchasing a latest mobile phone when my own is still functional.

    Extending the lifespan is a conundrum for the phone manufacturers.

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  5. On one hand, the shorter life span of current generation mobile phone pushes the need for new and improved software plus hardware. It forces companies to review the sales of their product, and thus strive to make it better.
    On the other hand, this enables companies to pump out models after models of phone, keeping some features for the upcoming phone to pull in revenue.

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  6. Personally, I wouldn’t change my phone whenever a new model is out. As such, it would be preferable for the phones to have a longer lifetime. From a manufacturer’s perspective, however, a shorter phone lifespan would mean quicker turnover and also increase in sales. Obviously, this would be a huge influence on their products. Furthermore, in today’s culture, getting the newest as soon as it comes out has become quite the norm. This means that a long phone lifespan does not really pose a concern.

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  7. The lifespan of smartphones should be extended. Technically, the quality of smartphone’s components can be greatly improved with a slight increase of the material cost. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), each smartphone contains more or less 40 chemical elements, including hazardous elements such as lead and mercury. Only 27 of these elements are economically recoverable. The statistics shows that more than 1 billion of new smartphones would be purchased by the consumers each year. Only 3% will be recycled and usually more than 4% will end up in landfills. In other words, short lifespan of smartphones associated with rapid technology change contribute to the increasing amount of electronic waste among the globe. By extending the lifespan of smartphones, the volume of electronic disposal is likely to be reduced at a significant rate. Not all consumers are interested in buying the latest and newest smartphones. Cost is still a major factor for them. And by looking at this, most consumers are likely to stick with their old smartphones until the smartphones no longer work.

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  8. Good concern about the development of Smart phone technology! It may also include the lifespan analysis of different brand of smartphones ,such as the common brand, apple, samsung, HTC.. The comparison of these brand of smartphones can be worked out, and used to understand the overall lifespan of the whole smartphone industry. Covering some of the pricing, factory details, company background and the smartphone lifespan, to see are there any relationship between them.

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  9. I think smartphone updating too frequently these days. Manufacturers keeping push out new products with various new functions to attract customers, although they might don’t even know how to use them. Many people get new phones just because they want to follow the trend. So i think is not necessary to extend this lifetime of smartphone. Different product has different selling point. Some people choose new technique, conversely some people choose durability. Customers can make their choice from various products.

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  10. I have to say, that is the general trend. I would agree to extend the lifespan of the smartphone. Sometimes, I do miss my old Nokia, that’s because of the quality, you wouldn’t be surprised if the screen of your Nokia still intact when it drops from your hand, but think what will happen when the same thing come to your iPhone. This is not alarmist,this is the truth that every mobile phone manufacturer needs to think about.

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  11. I think it is necessary to extend the lifespan of smartphone. It is right that everything is developing , as well as the phone technology. However, this kind of development which is unstainable and result in waste. In long term, it would significantly affect the sustainable development of the global. In addition, from the term of customers, it is unfair to pay like 1000 pounds to purchase one iphone which could only use one year or two years. Moreover, the update version of the smartphone always seem to just a bit change, It is money waste to purchase them and the current version is enough for customers’ daily life. The companies of smartphones should make efforts to extend the lifespan of smatphone with their high profits.

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  12. I think it is necessary to extend the lifespan of smartphone. It is right that everything is developing , as well as the phone technology. However, this kind of development which is unstainable and result in waste. In long term, it would significantly affect the sustainable development of the global. In addition, from the term of customers, it is unfair to pay like 1000 pounds to purchase one iphone which could only use one year or two years. Moreover, the update version of the smartphone always seem to just a bit change, It is money waste to purchase them and the current version is enough for customers’ daily life. The companies of smartphones should make efforts to extend the lifespan of smatphone with their high profits.

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  13. Somehow I would say yes for this view, however, on the other hand, if the lifetime of smartphone attain some extension, how it would be? It’s a big doubt, cause too long may deter the development, and too short may cannot make people satisfied

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  14. I should admit that the topic of this article is thought-provoking and I never think about it before.
    Yes, the upgrading rate of smartphone for nowadays is super quick. I’m quite shocked when I read the part that the period of replacing smartphone in China is about six months. Is it real or the data is wrong here? In spite of this, I think all the manufacturers are now launching new products more frequently is to make sure they won’t be placed in a backwards position in the competition of the market. We should not blame the phone manufacturers as this is an inevitable result of market competition and development of technologies. Also, I think that the smartphone is not that easy to be broken physically but people may decide to change their smartphone due to the slow response time or bugs of the phone after being used for a long time in which software engineer is liable for this.

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  15. I think the lifespan should be extended. Smartphone is not cheap, more frequen smartphone change means economic burden.

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