Why You Should Hold Onto Your Devices For Longer

Day 24 of National Blog Posting Month #NaBloPoMo

My iPhone 8 is still going, four years after I bought it. That shouldn’t be a great achievement, but somehow it is. The battery life isn’t great (it’s already been replaced once), some apps are noticeably slower, and Apple have announced that the iPhone 8 won’t support the iOS 17 update, which means I’ll have to seriously consider upgrading in the not-too-distant future. I’m hoping to make it to the five-year mark, but we’ll see.

On Black Friday, it feels like we’re constantly bombarded with the latest deals to tempt us into buying new tech that we otherwise wouldn’t consider. But hardware has an environmental cost, both in its manufacture and it’s disposal. There is the embodied carbon associated with the manufacturing process, the chemical pollution, the rare metals used in manufacture, and the hazards of e-waste disposal.

Right to repair

Apple products have been criticised for their built-in obsolescence, and Apple has been accused of making it difficult for non-Apple technicians to repair their products, meaning that users often feel they have to discard old devices after a few years and upgrade. This seems to be changing slowly, with many people who recognise the appalling quantity of e-waste these policies cause pushing for the right to repair — although critics argue that Apple’s commitment so far doesn’t go far enough. In the UK, the Restart Project, campaigns for the right to repair.

The e-waste problem

E-waste is defined as used electronic devices with batteries or plugs that are at the end of their useful life. This includes devices such as computers, smartphones and tablets. It is estimated that humans generate over 50 million tons of e-waste per year, only a small proportion of which is recycled. Much of this waste ends up in developing countries, where it poses an environmental and health hazard.

Preventing e-waste

The main thing you can do to prevent e-waste is to avoid upgrading unnecessarily and hold onto your devices for as long as possible. If a device is no longer needed, consider selling or donating it, or if it can no longer be used then take it to a recycling facility or return it to the manufacturer.

This Black Friday, please consider the environment and maybe don’t buy that new device.

Learn more about greening the web

Join myself and Gerry McGovern on Thursday 7th December online for Smashing Meets Goes Green — a special, sustainability focused edition of the meetup!

Smashing Meet Goes Green

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  • @michelle We also need to demand that devices have easily replaceable batteries and other consumable parts as part of the design. We must stop living in a disposable society. Fixing and reusing must become part of what we do on a daily basis.

    - Joe Sabín
  • @michelle ???? very much agree! I used to always get a new phone at the end of contract, but now I've got a PAYG sim and buy second-hand. Back Market refurbish old phone so I went with them!

    - Lex Lofthouse
  • @ohhelloana Thank you Ana! ???? It’s crazy how difficult it is to recycle old electronics, it’s no wonder so many end up discarded ????

    - Michelle Barker
  • @michelle What's the goal here? If a million people adopted best practices for battery health and kept their phones for 5 years, what would be the impact on global supply chains? We've seen a million people die from covid in the US alone, and production hasn't slowed down.

    I think it's shortsighted to have conversations about reducing personal consumption that don't also discuss steps towards ending the extraction of minerals and production of lithium batteries entirely.

    I bought a refurbished phone that gets security updates for the next five years and I never let it get below 30% without plugging it in, but the main reason I do this is to save money. The shrunk personal footprint is an added bonus, but I think counting it as working towards the goal of eliminating tech waste and the lithium industry is naïve.

    The right to repair legislation is economically beneficial, potentially allowing users to purchase directly from lithium manufactures rather than relying on battery replacement services. But it still relies on that industry. How can we move beyond personal responsibility and work towards the end of this era?

    - Reck
  • @michelle I wonder what the carbon footprint of Apple releasing a new line of "Pro" machines with only 8GB of memory in 2023 is? I wish someone would put a number on it.

    - devolute
  • @ohhelloana @michelle As much as video isn’t my go-to medium for most things, I’ve found YouTube useful for repairs. iFixit is also great for very popular consumer electronics.
    In terms of skills, basic soldering can be super useful and is not that hard to learn. (But get plenty of practice before tackling a real device.)
    I’ve given up on fixing phones & tablets myself, too many parts are glued, & Lithium batteries are dangerous. So I leave fixing those to pros.

    - Phil Dennis-Jordan ????
  • @ohhelloana @michelle My current bugbear are Apple devices which are fine hardware wise but have fallen out of software support. If I didn’t have too many projects already I’d probably try jailbreaking and porting some kind of OSS UI environment to them. (Like… would Plasma Mobile work if I ported Wayland and a FreeBSD userland to XNU/Metal?)

    - Phil Dennis-Jordan ????
  • @michelle Other than not wanting to pay for a new phone yet, this is probably why I still have an ancient iPhone 8. It works just fine, and until it doesn't, or won't hold a charge, or is damaged, or I have an extra $1200+, I'll probably keep using it.

    Thanks for talking about this!

    - Apple Annie :prami:
  • @michelle In the last year or two I’ve rescued half a dozen supposedly “obsolete” computers and devices that are now in active use. It was initially scary to learn the basics of repair, but it’s been such an empowering and fun new hobby.

    - Tyler Sticka