Why You Should NOT Buy an iPhone 8
There is a new iPhone going on sale today, for no better reason than it is September and Apple puts out a new iPhone every September. But people, you should not buy the new iPhone 8 just because there is a new iPhone 8.
Oh, I’m sure you’ll just die without the new glass back that doubles your chance of cracking your phone. And I’m you’re stoked for that wireless charging which by the way you have to buy separately, it does not come with the phone because Apple fucked up. But the brief sugar high these alleged improvements might bring to your everyday life comes with a considerable global downside. The environmental and consumer costs of disposing of 130 million smartphones every year in the U.S. alone are staggering.
Phone manufacturers and telecom companies have created this bullshit expectation that a normal person needs to discard and upgrade their smartphone every year, even if the phone is not cracked and is still in good working condition. The consequences of this pointless, fraudulent, manufactured consumer need are wrecking the environment, driving income inequality and making the world a more genuinely worse place.
Whether you’re an iPhone, Android or Windows Phone person, you should not upgrade your phone every year just for the fuck of it. Here is why I say this:
ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT OF TOO MANY SMARTPHONES
I’m sure many of you do the responsible grownup thing and hand in your old phone to be recycled whenever you buy a new one. But have any of you tracked what actually happens to recycled phones after you hand them in? Jessica Dolcourt at CNet did. She found that 79 percent of recycled devices still end up in the trash.
Ths contributes to the enormous global problem of e-waste. The United Nations estimates that 50 million tons of electronic waste will be dumped worldwide in 2017. “We are witnessing an unprecedented amount of electronic waste rolling out over the world,” said UN Undersecretary General Achim Steiner. “Not only does it account for a large portion of the world’s non-recycled waste mountain, but it also poses a growing threat to human health and the environment, due to the hazardous elements it contains.”
And all of you doing the responsible grownup thing and recycling your old phones? The EPA estimates that only 12% of you actually are doing this. That’s plenty of benzene, and mercury creeping onto our land and into our drinking water.
HUMAN IMPACT OF TOO MANY SMARTPHONES
Hey, did you know that US smartphones are made of materials mined by “children as young as seven-years-old who labor in horrendous conditions”? Yeah, they are.
All of these smartphones require tungsten, tin, tantalum and gold and we get these minerals from central African nations like the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The trade of these conflict minerals funds massive genocide, rape and social instability in the Congo at the hands armed militia groups that control the mineral trade in central Africa.
But smartphone manufacturers are delighted to do business with these militia groups, because times are good and US consumers need themselves a new smartphone every 12 months.
Apple proudly claims that 80% of their minerals are conflict-free minerals, though the methods of determining these percentages are notoriously unreliable. Still, I’m not sure that “only 20% genocide-backed minerals” is really the optimal target figure that a business ought to shoot for these days.
CONSUMER COST OF SMARTPHONE UPGRADES
Has anyone’s phone bill ever gone down after upgrading to a new phone?
That’s not an accident, you guys. Phone upgrades are a reliable scam for the wireless service carriers, enabled by your lack of desire to read every bit of that 18-page monthly cell phone bill. Remember that time they sold you a new $600 iPhone but you paid supposedly only $200ish dollars with a 2-year commitment to a certain carrier? They still charged you that other $400, they just did it on the sly.
“When you pay $200 for a device like a new iPhone, the wireless provider isn’t altruistically swallowing that $400-plus loss,” Tony Bradley wrote at Forbes. “The remainder of the cost of that device is built in to the monthly plan you’re paying for.”
This still holds true with the iPhone 8. Your monthly rates will increase with each device upgrade, in ways that your carrier will never adequately describe to you. Because underachieving telecom executives gotta get overpaid somehow.
Sure, you can stand in line like a circus poodle to get your new iPhone 8. You can even have a TaskRabbit be the circus poodle for you. Perhaps you can afford it… at this snapshot in time, when VC monopoly money is flying around like airborne mercury poison in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Maybe one day some Silicon Valley genius will invent this year’s to-die-for smartphone that magically changes into next year’s to-die-for smartphone when next year rolls around. That would be a true “miracle device”. Until then, we ought to hold this industry more accountable for the human and environmental tolls of excessive consumption and disposal of smartphones.