Sustainable smartphones must be “sexy” to succeed. But how?

An uncomfortable truth is that most smartphones in the market have some dark secrets, with the manufacturing process buying minerals from conflict areas, causing pollution, and even exploiting children in factories. Ethicalconsumer.org has a good overview of the problems connected with smartphones and electronics in general, but we’ll look at a recent study that focuses on what can be done to improve things.

This study comes from German NGO Deutsche Umwelthilfe (DUH), which analysed many of the biggest players in the consumer tech market and their activities across the globe. But this study aims for a call to take positive action. Instead of criticizing individual manufacturers, DUH highlights positive examples and draws up recommendations for action for companies, consumers and legislators.

AndroidPIT Fairphone 2 8449 Due to its modularity, the Fairphone 2 is regarded as a pioneer in ecological smartphone design. / © AndroidPIT

Even with this positive agenda, however, don’t expect a feelgood story. Positive examples are rare, because companies only act as role models in exceptional cases. Mainstream brands don’t care too much about leading the way in terms of ecological practice.

The status quo is unsustainable

Unfortunately, the list of deficiencies in most mainstream hardware is overwhelmingly long:

  • Hardware upgrades are often not planned.
  • Repairs are complicated and rarely feasible for consumers.
  • Spare parts are often difficult or impossible to find.
  • Old appliances are often not returned.
  • Many of the materials used cannot be recovered.
  • Raw materials recovered from recycling rarely find their way back into new equipment.
  • Important software updates are not supplied.
  • Business rarely communicate how long they take to deliver software updates.

According to DUH study participant Michael Berger, things are only getting worse: “Unfortunately, the overall trend is negative. For example, the lifespan of smartphones and other electrical appliances continue to be shortened, there is little progress towards better eco-design, the ability of most devices to be repaired is diminishing, and the collection of old devices is also showing clear deficits.”.

But it’s not all bad news. The DUH study has produced a list of recommendations for action, and some of these can already be observed by our customers today. The following table is taken from the study, translated into English.

DUH recommendations for action for sustainability in the technology industry

For corporations For consumers For legislators
  • Improve eco-design, including durability, repairability and the use of recycled materials.
  • Focusing business models on services instead of resources
  • Offer used devices
  • Provide spare parts and updates
  • Take back old equipment and prepare it for a second use
  • Include environmental aspects in marketing
  • Use products for a longer period
  • Prevent damage, e. g. with protective covers, waterproof bags and display foils
  • Buy used devices
  • Pay attention to respectable eco-labels and good support when buying products
  • Repair defective devices
  • Sell old devices
  • Favor environmentally friendly products and services for tax purposes
  • Establish legal minimum standards for ecological design
  • Defend “Right to Repair”
  • Set target quotas for the collection and reuse of obsolete devices
  • Commit public procurement to used and environmentally friendly products

What positive trends do we already see today?

There are some positive approaches. There are numerous leasing models for routers, for example, which can be rented and returned. These old appliances are then used by other customers.

Then there are manufacturers who support returning used equipment, effectively letting you bring in old smartphones as payment. Apple, Honor, Samsung and others are already promoting this growing market.

Individual manufacturers focus on environmental friendliness.  Fairphone is no longer completely alone in trying to offer a sustainable smartphone. For some time now, German company ShiftPhones is also getting in on the eco-friendly smartphone niche.

Efforts to make sustainable, meaningful use of human and natural resources are manifold and are becoming more and more successful, of course with varying degrees of success. Companies like ShiftPhones and Fairphone are going to have to break into the mainstream (and inspire imitators) to really tempt consumers in this competitive market. Either that, or the bigger market leaders should offer consumers an ethical choice.

Some people are willing to pay extra for eco-friendly products. If it were not, there would not be a fair trade shelf in many supermarkets. Mainstream smartphone providers should not leave this relatively untapped market to outsiders.

AndroidPIT FAIRPHONE 2 12 So, now imagine this again with Samsung or Apple’s “sexy” design. / © AndroidPIT

Smartphone manufacturers are missing out on opportunities here. Instead, Apple continues to drive obscene margins to satisfy shareholders. With glossy, “sexy” models such as the iPhone X, the Cupertino company leads the way in the discipline of psychological obsolescence. The competition is watching and learning how Apple encourages its customers to buy new products for no apparent reason.

Talking of obsolescence…

Whether planned obsolescence exists or not can hardly be proven. There always seems to be an excuse. However, today’s technology products and especially smartphones have weak points that no one can overlook. If a display wasn’t meant to break, it wouldn’t be made of glass. And if a smartphone should remain usable for a long time, its battery would be replaceable and there would also be a possibility to update the software without the help of the manufacturer.

Legislators do not have a handle on this situation and cannot keep up with the necessary regulations. However, this is to the detriment of the consumer and, in the form of environmental pollution, at the expense of his or her children. The status quo of the smartphone industry is completely unacceptable and certainly not sustainable.

AndroidPIT iphone clock ios clock 8580 $ 999 or more, and still obsolete in two years. / © AndroidPIT

Industry giants have all the power in the world to do better. There are millions of consumers who want to spend over a grand on a sleek sexy phone that isn’t even built to last. In the face of this, the idea that consumer simply just want everything at the cheapest price doesn’t seem to hold up. We already pay so much for what is basically lifestyle marketing. And more and more people want a ‘greener’ lifestyle.

If a Galaxy S8 or iPhone X style device, with all the snazzy features, would suddenly come into the shops under a green flag, I wouldn’t see such a bad chance for it.

Are you ready to spend more money on a sustainably produced smartphone? Let us know in the comments!

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Honor aims to conquer the global market: will it succeed?

Honor’s grand strategy

Remember Genghis Khan, who with his long beard (although not a hipster) led his armies to conquer Asia, including China, arriving in Russia, the Middle East and part of Eastern Europe and building one of the greatest empires in history?

Replace 1180 with 2017 and the brave Mongolian leader with Honor, the Chinese manufacturer. Of course, the juxtaposition may seem a bit excessive but the bold plan presented by George Zhao during the London event seems like a real strategy of conquest.

A conquest with different weapons, namely smartphones, technological innovations, marketing and pricing battles.

The global expansion strategy is clear: be one of the top 5 brands in three years and one of the top 3 brands in five years.

Honor first established himself in China, conquered home users and then entered other countries. In Russia it is currently brand number 3 in the market share with the Honor 9 as the best-selling smartphone.

AndroidPIT Honor 9 0811 Honor 9 has won over many users with a beautiful design and hardware inherited from the P10. / © AndroidPIT

During Black Friday in France, Germany and the United States Honor 6X was practically a steal, making it the brand’s best seller. Staying locked up in the Middle Kingdom would have been a pity and George Zhao understood this well, so he decided to reach the international market. Or rather, to conquer it. In fact,according to the the goal is to become the top brand in the different markets reached, as the president said during the London event.

The global expansion strategy is clear: to be among the top 5 brands in three years and among the top 3 brands in five years. How? Investing in more resources, relying on different partners and continuing to work on their products:

  • View Series: the most innovative and high-end series.
  • N Series: focused on aesthetics and functionality.
  • X Series: a low-cost flagship experience.
  • Lite Series: a sophisticated design at an accessible price.

zhao throwing 7x George Zhao drops the new Honor 7X to prove its strength! / © AndroidPIT

Artificial intelligence (and more) at a difficult price to beat

Honor Magic did not reach the international market last year, but Honor did not forget the promise made and the attention given. Now artificial intelligence, thanks to the Kirin 970 processor already used by Huawei, finally becomes widely accessible internationally with the Honor View 10. 

A promising device on the hardware specification side, updated on the software side, which does not forget gamers or photographers. A smartphone that adopts the latest technologies and features boasted by the recent top of the range and that looks to the future by immediately challenging the other rivals with a launch price of £449.99  If the Honor 7X is anything to go by, the View 10 could be even better value when it goes to sale in the US.

Opinion by Jessica Murgia

The pricing of the Honor View 10 is a direct challenge to the OnePlus 5T.

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The battle cry sounds: Honor is poised to conquer the international smartphone market. And if formerly the target audience of Honor were young people, now they are all those who opt for a young lifestyle, who love music, sports, the net. These active customers want a good device without spending too much. Honor’s stores (available in France, Spain, Italy, India and Russia) also show the brand’s new image: beyond shop windows, one finds lounges and social spaces to hang out in. 

AndroidPIT honor view 10 front detail The Honor View 10 arrives in Europe at a truly competitive price. / © AndroidPIT

An conquest that will face strong resistance

The smartphone market is crowded and competitive. The Honor View 10 is a flagship and, in this category, there are several fierce, well-equipped enemies to beat (Samsung Galaxy S8 and LG V30 are just two of them). Then there is Xiaomi, also making a bid for the thrifty customer.

Let us also not forget Huawei, close to Honor but still championing its own range of devices such as the P10 and Mate 10 Pro. The Honor View 10 offers a better equipped alternative on the one hand, because compared to the Mate 10 Pro, the Honor View 10 offers a mini headphone jack and microSD card slot. Two features that, for some users, can tip the balance in Honor’s favor. And where does this leave OnePlus? The OnePlus 5T is no longer the cheapest flagship in the fight.

In short, it seems that Honor has thought of everything. The grand strategy for expansion has been studied, proclaimed and implemented. Now it’s up to the opponents to decide how to respond to the attack and you users to decide which smartphone to focus on. The coming war will be merciless.

What do you think about Honor View 10? Would you buy it compared to one of the other recent flagships on the market this year?

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Why will Android Go succeed where Android One failed?

Android Go is yet another attempt by Google at creating a more fluid operating system for smartphones that contain less powerful hardware, and which are consequently cheaper. In 2014, Google launched Android One, which was intended for the same target audience – users of lower-end devices. So, having tried once already in the past, will Google be able to reach its goal this time?

I would like to try playing games with a TV box.

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During the Google I/O 2017 keynote presentation, Google’s Vice President of product management, Sameer Samat, said that “every seven minutes, a Brazilian activates an Android device.” Samat was alluding to Android Go, a basic version of Android O, which aims to encourage the market for entry-level smartphones in Brazil and India, among other countries with a user base that tends to favor low-end devices. Thus, it will offer a user experience for basic models only.

For those who might not remember, in the 2014 Google I/O event, Sundar Pichai announced Android One, which targeted very cheaply manufactured smartphones and which had the goal of getting Android up to the two billion user mark. At the time, the idea was to provide manufacturers with a model that had a good quality standard design and software based on pure Android, which would cover the user’s more basic smartphone needs.

Opinion by Camila Rinaldi

Android Go is going to work, because this time Google understands that standardizing hardware doesn’t create competition.

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The fact that Android Go has now come out in 2017 is basically confirming that Android One didn’t pan out. This begs the question, why would Android Go work if Android One didn’t? The difference between the speeches during the keynotes is pretty obvious to me. In 2014, Google was focused on acquiring more users, and it was talking about attaining “the second billion”. 

It all seemed very aggressive. What Google has done in 2017 is completely change their tune: now it is going to improve the user experience on smartphones with 512 MB or 1 GB of RAM.

google io 2017 195 Android Go wants to be an entry-level option. / © Screenshots: ANDROIDPIT

The reality is that Google, a division of Alphabet, still needs more users, but now it understands that standardized hardware doesn’t create competition and so it won’t appeal to manufacturers. Now Google has realized that what could work is leaving hardware construction to the manufacturers, however basic that may be, and instead offering its solution as a product consisting of software that can run on entry-level smartphones with basic specs.

It won’t just be a success for Google and manufacturers, but for the user as well. Perhaps you’ve also heard of YouTube Go? The service allows, above all, that users can download videos (when there’s Wi-Fi, of course) on their device to be watched offline whenever they want. But it also comes with different features, such as being able to choose the quality and size of the video and sharing content with other devices by Bluetooth. All of this improves streaming and uses up less data.

google io 2017 196 Optimized data usage helps users rein in their data plans. / © Screenshots: ANDROIDPIT

Imagine, if you will, that Android Go will do the same, but on a system level. Apps like Gboard, YouTube, Google Chrome and the Play Store will be streamlined to save power and data. I’m taking a wild guess with what I’m about to say, but it’s possible that the software will be so good that devices running Android Go will get their system updates first.

Opinion by Camila Rinaldi

I’m excited to see the first devices launched fully with Android Go

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I think Android Go will work because it will offer a decent software experience to be combined with low-cost hardware. Above all, manufacturers can compete in different areas of the entry-level category. I just hope that they don’t all band together and level out the price above $ 150. That’s what we have Android for.

I’ve been writing about all things Android for a long time now and there’s nothing worse than seeing a user spend their hard earned salary on a smartphone that delivers a bad experience. Especially if this is the only platform available to connect to the rest of the world via the internet. That’s why I will welcome Android Go with open arms.

Do you think Android Go will work? What do you think of Android One? We’d love to know your thoughts in the comments below!

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Can a modular Galaxy S9 succeed where LG and Lenovo failed?

We all know that nine comes after eight, and that is exactly what we look forward to with the Samsung Galaxy S9. Word on the street has it that the Samsung Galaxy S9 will depart from the traditional design of its eight previous iterations by jumping aboard the modular design bandwagon.

I only read this article because I was bored at work.

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Yes, we are well aware that the Samsung Galaxy S8 and the Galaxy S8 Plus are not even a year old yet, but at the pace of which technology progresses these days, it comes across as no surprise at all to hear rumors and leaks of upcoming models months before it even hits the market. The flagship Samsung Galaxy S8 has definitely done its fair bit to impress consumers upon its release, quickly consigning memories of the Galaxy Note 7 to a mere footnote. This leads to the question of whether Samsung is willing to continue with a winning formula or tweak the form factor by introducing a modular design to the Samsung Galaxy S9.

AndroidPIT Samsung Galaxy S9 rumor HUB Could the Samsung Galaxy S9 come with a modular design? / © ANDROIDPIT

Eldar Murtazin has revealed that such a possibility exists. With rumors of a modular Galaxy S9 floating around, it would not be surprising to see Samsung take a page out of Motorola’s MotoMods book after seeing what the Lenovo Moto Z range has achieved in terms of modular design. This will translate to magnetic pins being located at the back of the new Galaxy S9, which will be able to keep the external modules in place with ease.

It is not impossible to recover from a design flaw or idea in a particular smartphone model for one generation, as proven by LG with their modular LG G5 that failed to light up the market despite having some impressive performance capabilities and potential. LG ditched the modular design concept with their 2017 flagship release, the LG G6, and it looks like consumers are not too hot on the idea of a modular smartphone at the moment.

AndroidPIT lg g5 friends 0428 The LG G5 with its “friends” – the modular phone wasn’t as successful as LG would have hoped. / © ANDROIDPIT

Perhaps a modular design fails to work with the smartphone because of the increasing speed of obsolescence. Imagine having state-of-the-art parts with the latest modular accessories, a couple of years from now, but having the main body that is behind time by a couple of hardware cycles. This certainly does not go down well with the thought of wanting to own the latest and greatest at all times in order to parade an image of being hip, cool, and connected.

I think that the Samsung Galaxy S9, should it come with a modular design, will be a “third pillar” in the Galaxy S series. This translates to having a regular Samsung Galaxy S9, Galaxy S9 Plus, and the Galaxy S9 modular edition so that those who are brave enough to take the plunge into the experimental world of modular design can always do so, while leaving the vanilla versions of what’s tried-and-tested intact for everyone else.

What do you think? Would this be a major mistake on the part of Samsung or do you think the company has a shot?

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