Enough: A Counter Argument

A few months ago I wrote about not upgrading to the iPhone 4, regardless of its new features or the fact I’m eligible for a free upgrade.

This turned out to be something of a radical position yet I enjoyed the discussions with some of my friends that followed. Kris emailed me a number of well-considered counter points, so I promised to publish them here.

Kris’s points were as follows:

  • The ratio of energy consumed in producing one new handset is comparable with the energy wasted charging an inefficient battery every day for the next 12 months.

  • There are economic benefits to be had from investing in new technology. Jobs are created for the people producing newer devices and the components found within them, most of which are manufactured in poorly developed countries who I’d be supporting by upgrading.

  • Investment in new technology encourages innovation, innovation increases efficiency, increased efficiency reduces wastage – consider the business contracts once emergency couriered that are now emailed instead. Technological advancement is good, but it needs people to invest in new technology to keep competitive innovation going.

  • Whilst my current device still works so I would be aggrieved to throw it away, there are plenty of options available to ensure it doesn’t become needless waste. I could submit my handset to a mobile phone recycling website where it would be reconditioned and placed back into circulation. I could get in excess of £70 for my old handset through Envirophone – perhaps I could donate those proceeds to charity?

  • The person who ends up buying my current handset is likely to be someone who simply can’t afford to purchase a new iPhone, thus making technology available to someone less fortunate than myself.

These are reasonable points, but I’d suggest they are no less valid if I delayed my upgrade by another year.

Indeed, this debate reminded me of ‘The Story of Stuff’ and the cyclical nature of our consumer driven society, where profit is valued over the longterm sustainability of our planet. I’ve embedded the video below, and I encourage you to watch it too.

Kris did make one suggestion that I hadn’t considered however. He reminded me that I was paying a tariff that included the price of the phone, even though my original 18 month contract had expired. I’ve now moved to a cheaper SIM-only plan, saving me at least £10 a month – yet another benefit to be had from not upgrading.