Dear manufacturers of smartphones, PCs, tablets, connected objects…
What if you started to really care about environmental issues?
I am 35 years old, a child of nearly one year, and I am a journalist specializing in new technologies. I love technology, I love gadgets, I love innovation. I have been writing for more than ten years on technological advances but today my outlook on this industry has changed.
For several years now, I haven’t seen any real technical advances that really upset our daily lives. And yet, you tech giants have never been better off. You sell more every year in defiance of the emergency we all face.
The new technologies industry also weighs in the destruction of our ecosystem, much more than other sectors. Tons of rare metals, factories running at full speed with “dirty” energies such as coal, inhuman working conditions, this is the hidden face of the technological industry. Finally “hidden”… We have known behind the scenes of this industry for several years now: armed conflicts, child labor, low wages, inhuman working conditions…
Change must be joint, not isolated.
So yes, technologies will remain at the heart of our lives. The question here is not to stop everything in an anarchic way. But don’t you have a role to play in the upheavals that await us? I think so. I even believe that you should initiate the movement rather than placing all the responsibility on consumers.
As buyers, we obviously have a key role in your success, your excellent results and the good health of your shareholders. As long as there are people to buy, why would a company stop pursuing its quest for growth? This reasoning seems to me a bit simplistic. If I am ready to adapt my consumption patterns, I also expect a global approach so as not to have the feeling of fighting alone. Change must be joint, not isolated.
If I call on you to take your responsibilities, it is because I have observed for 10 years a frantic race for infinite growth, a model which obviously does not work. Our planet is burning, our land is drying up, territories will be under water faster than we think, human beings are dying. I do not pretend to be a scientist, I am repeating here what specialists have been telling us for decades now.
However, in the face of this climate crisis, you, Apple, Samsung, Xiaomi and others, continue your march forward, against all odds, even if it means sacrificing future generations.
In 10 years, Apple (which boasts of being greener than a pea) has doubled the number of smartphones launched each year. Since the first iPhone, it’s even four times more. In September 2022, the American launched an iPhone 14 almost identical to its predecessor. Why ? The experience brought by this model brings nothing more than the iPhone 13 (or very little).
We flood the market and see what works.
By Tim Cook’s own admission, the same model will be available in three iterations at the rate of one range per year. Four new models every year, with minimal improvements, while the average renewal cycle for a smartphone is three years. Why ? For growth?
Despite everything, Apple is not the worst student. Emerging brands do not hesitate to multiply models throughout the year, in defiance of any ecological consideration. The worst student in this area is undoubtedly Xiaomi, whose line up has become unreadable, even for the press professionals that we are. Xiaomi (including its Poco brand) is almost a new smartphone per week.
Besides, the brand assumes it completely. In an interview with Presse-citron, the former Managing Director of Xiaomi France explained that the strategy was based on volume. “We flood the market and we see what works”, he explained. Hey, we’re talking about floods.
Your green washing, no thanks
To say that you tech giants don’t care about the environment would be a lie. When it comes to communicating to display your good intentions, the environment matters. As soon as it is also a question of removing the chargers from the boxes (without lowering the prices, just to further improve the margins), the environment matters. Finally on paper.
It took until 2022 for the European authorities to impose a single charger on you.
Before taking this very interesting decision for your margins, you did not even take the time to study the market (or very badly). Results : consumers will probably have to buy new chargers, sold separately (what a bargain for you) that will ultimately require more transportation. Cheer !
You weren’t even able to find a consensus together to integrate the same connections in smartphones. It will have been necessary to wait until 2022 for the European authorities to impose it on you. Meanwhile, homes have been filled with chargers and cables that you have to juggle with to find the right combination. iPhone owners will have to go back to the checkout to equip themselves with USB-C or wireless chargers from 2024.
And meanwhile, Apple proudly announces that its partners will soon have to show signs of their social and environmental commitment to continue working with it. Who are we laughing at ?
If I speak to you today, dear tech giants, it is because we are in an emergency situation more than ever. You have an obligation to change things. You have the human and financial means.
Some of you have already started to really work to improve the situation. I am thinking of OPPO, which offers four-year software monitoring on its smartphones, which has invested heavily in the repair of its terminals and which plans to further reduce its already very short ranges, recently entrusted the brand to Presse-citron.
I am also thinking of Samsung, which has considerably reduced the number of smartphones offered each year, going from more than a hundred to ten. I am also thinking of Apple which, despite everything, invests enormously in clean energy and ensures the best durability for its products (up to 6 years!).
I am also thinking of all those who are increasingly using recycled materials (the latest Pixel 7 from Google for example) for the design of their devices.
You must agree to sell less, even if it means selling more expensively.
But all this remains minimal compared to the stakes of this industry. Everything must be redesigned. A new chip every year? No need, a 3 year old chip still does the job just fine. Ditto for the photo which only improves thanks to the processing algorithms. Ditto for autonomy, performance etc.
In 2022, a three-year-old smartphone perfectly meets the needs of a consumer. But with a lot of marketing operations, you create the desire, push to the act of purchase, make consumers believe that they need the latest model, even if it is false. This is the basis of marketing you say. That’s true, but doesn’t the current situation show that this model is not virtuous?
To reverse the trend, you must agree to sell less even if it means selling more. Consumers are ready for this. Proof if necessary, the average budget allocated to the purchase of a smartphone has increased from 240 to 350 euros in just 5 years. At the same time, the renewal cycle has increased from 2 to 3 years.
Consumers are ready. And you?