How many phones are sold each year? Millions? Think bigger. In 2021, a total of 1.747 billion mobile phones were sold globally, equating to 22.2% of the total global population having purchased a mobile phone during that year. And that’s just phones. What about the number of computers, smartwatches, tablets, and cooking appliances sold each year?
Let’s be real, the amount of tech the world buys each year is staggering, and I’m not sure it’s warranted.
How much different was the iPhone 14 from the iPhone 13? Business Insider said, “They have nearly all the same features, they’re the same size, and run the same apps.” Did Apple Watch 8 really outshine Apple Watch 7? According to MacRumors, “the Apple Watch Series 8 is a very minor upgrade over the Series 7.”
It’s important to remember that as consumers, we hold a significant amount of power in the tech market due to the fact that it’s our money that ultimately drives the industry forward. However, tech companies also play a role in driving unnecessary purchases by constantly releasing “newer” versions of products that may not necessarily offer any significant improvements and by relentlessly marketing these products to us.
In today’s fast-paced and competitive tech industry, it’s all too easy for companies to get caught up in the race to make a quick profit. But this short-sighted approach not only uses up tremendous resources and contributes to technological waste, but it also fails to create a positive impact on the world. In addition, this can lead to a mentality of “release and discard,” where companies release new products or updates quickly and then discard or ignore the previous versions, rather than taking the time to ensure that their products are sustainable and socially responsible.
Instead of producing average products each year because that’s been the norm for so long, perhaps like Apple says, it’s time to think different.
One example of a company that prioritizes social responsibility in its technology production is Fairphone. Founded in 2013, the Dutch company set out to create a smartphone that was both ethically and environmentally responsible. They achieve this by sourcing materials from conflict-free mines, using modular design to make it easier for users to repair and upgrade their phones, and supporting fair labor practices in their supply chain. This not only sets a new standard for the industry but also sends a clear message that it is possible for technology companies to prioritize social responsibility and still be successful in the market.
Another example of a technology company that does not release new products every year is the Raspberry Pi Foundation. The Raspberry Pi is a series of small, low-cost, single-board computers. They are developed and manufactured by the Raspberry Pi foundation, a UK-based charity organization. The Foundation releases new versions of their Raspberry Pi boards every couple of years, with incremental upgrades and improvements, but the earlier versions continue to be available for purchase. They also provide software and resources for users to learn about computer science and electronics. The focus is on providing a low-cost and flexible solution for educational and personal projects rather than encouraging constant upgrades. This approach also encourages users to learn how to maintain, troubleshoot, and fix their devices, reducing the amount of e-waste generated by constantly buying new ones.
It’s fair to say that the issue of technological waste could be laid at the feet of consumers, but it’s also important to consider the impact of companies releasing products on a rapid schedule. Just like the quality of the Lord of the Rings trilogy may have suffered if Peter Jackson had rushed to shoot and release the films in quick succession (he spent eight years filming the trilogy), tech companies pushing out new products at a breakneck pace can also lead to subpar products.
Game of Thrones fans, you know what I’m talking about.
Just as fans would likely take to social media to tear apart a filmmaker for prioritizing profit over quality, why do we give tech companies a free pass for doing the same?
The onus is on technology companies to take the lead in shaping a sustainable future. As more consumers become aware of the environmental and social impacts of technology production, they will be more likely to choose products from socially responsible companies.
It can be alluring to prioritize short-term gain over long-term considerations, but it is crucial for companies to consider the ramifications of their decisions. This applies to consumers as well, as it is essential to resist the urge to purchase unnecessary items or be swayed by rebranded versions of the same product. All that glitters isn’t gold, especially when it comes to tech.
All opinions expressed in this piece are the writer’s own and do not represent the views of KrASIA. Questions, concerns, or fun facts can be sent to [email protected].