by Titti Santamato
Fall is the season of the year when tech companies launch new smartphones. A few days ago we saw what the new iPhone will look like, the new phones from Google will soon arrive, last month Samsung presented its foldable devices. In between, a slew of brands, from Oppo to Huawei, from Motorola to Xiaomi, churning out models. But what would a smartphone be like if it could last 10 years? The question – in times of energy and component crisis but also of environmental awareness – is posed by the New York Times, which emphasizes the theme of planned obsolescence.
Just a few days ago, the EU presented the draft of a new directive designed to increase the cycle of mobile phones. “It is really very difficult for a mobile phone to last a decade, as suggested in the article. Today, even PCs and laptops hardly ever last 10 years, work tools designed to be expandable by replacing components and updating software – Giovanni explains to ANSA. Miragliotta, professor at the School of Management of the Politecnico di Milano and senior director at the Digital Innovation Observatories – Starting from accurate data analysis, perhaps it is possible to increase the current average duration by 50%, but be careful not to impose obligations on producers that would not be reasonable for the market. Smartphones are produced with a much more personal use, a consumer choice, an expression of one’s own vision on information technology, innovation, in constant evolution “.
The NYT interviewed Don Norman, Apple’s former vice president of technology and author of dozens of books on design: he explained how smartphone makers are guilty of treating consumer technology like fashion, introducing products that could be repaired every year. “Consumers have a lot of power when they come together,” he added.
The reflection on the replacement of phones is grafted into a smartphone market that is not exactly rosy. Between April and June 2022, according to data from Canalys Research, global sales fell by 9% compared to the same period last year. For analysts, the reasons for the slowdown are geopolitical uncertainty, the economic crisis, inflation which reduces purchasing power. And there is the will of the European Union to force smartphone manufacturers to increase the life of the devices. A few days ago Brussels presented the draft of a directive designed to increase the cycle of mobile phones. The Commission also aims to reduce the environmental pollution created by the production of various smartphone components, especially batteries.
Google in the past had put Project Ara on track, to make a modular phone like Lego, with parts like processors, displays, batteries and cameras that could be replaced. But it was canceled in 2016. At the moment the only more durable phone is called the Fairphone, produced by an Amsterdam start-up, whose components can be replaced. “I think it is necessary to condemn the behaviors of obvious planned obsolescence and push towards more sustainable consumption styles also through a longer duration of the devices – concludes Miragliotta – but it is important in the regulatory context to define reasonable objectives”.
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The life of a smartphone can be extended by 50% – Hi-tech
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