Consumer Technology

Published on September 14th, 2012 | by James Ayre


iPhone 5 — Is It ‘Green’?

September 14th, 2012 by  

The iPhone 5 was announced by Apple yesterday. The new phone was given some pretty noticeable upgrades and changes, but is it ‘green’ to buy a new phone every year? Is the iPhone 5 itself ‘greener’ than its predecessors?

The major upgrades are a larger 4-inch Retina display, a thinner overall device, and a host of new features and design changes. Some of these changes make it slightly more green, but others, definitely not.

One of the main pros of the new phone is that it uses a faster and much more efficient processing chip, the new A6 chip is nearly twice as fast as the old chip, but it also is much more efficient in its power use.

As a result, the battery life is expected to improve to the equivalent of “8 hours of 3G talk time, 8 hours of 3G browsing, 8 hours of LTE browsing, 10 hours of Wi-Fi browsing, 10 hours of video playback, 40 hours of music playback, and 225 hours of standby time. That’s a nice increase compared to the 4S, which comparatively offered 6 hours of 3G browsing, 9 hours of Wi-Fi and 200 hours of standby time,” Megan Treacy of TreeHugger reports.

Another nice improvement is in its durability — they are switching back to a metal back rather than the glass one used for the last couple of models. This should go a long way to decrease the waste from easily broken phones.

There is also a better camera. “While it’s the same megapixels as the improved 4S camera, the new camera is supposed to be better in low lighting situations, have reduced noise, be 40 percent faster and also offers a panorama feature. If it hasn’t already, this could mark the full replacement of a point and shoot camera for iPhone users, which means one less gadget being consumed.”

The cons are all pretty significant though, many leading to greatly increased waste.

“The only major hardware change that makes it to the con list is a pretty significant one. The new, smaller dock connector renders all existing speaker docks, accessories, and charger/syncing cables using the previous 30-prong design obsolete. Apple says it will offer an adapter and adapter cables for $19 to $39, but most likely we’re going to see a bunch of ditched speaker docks and cables. Accessory makers like Bose, JBL, and Bowers have stated they’re already working on new models to work with the redesign.”

If you are going to be replacing your phone for the new model, I, like Megan, strongly encourage that you recycle your old phone by “reselling it to one of the many sites that are itching to pay you cash for your old model, like Gazelle, NextWorth and ReCellular.” As Megan adds: “While you’re at it, resell any of your 30-prong accessories too. Electronic resellers pay more when you include cables and chargers and eBay is always a good option for speaker docks and larger accessories. Keeping these items in the consumer stream extends their life and prevents them from becoming e-waste and gives other people a used option to buy instead of a new one having to be manufactured.”

Still, the question remains: is it green to upgrade your phone every year? I think the jury is still out on that one.

Source: TreeHugger
Image Credits: Apple

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About the Author

's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy. You can follow his work on Google+.

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  • files, move the files to an external hard drive, CD, DVD or flash drive. Empty your Recycle Bin when you’re finished by right-clicking the bin on your desktop and clicking “Empty Recycle Bin.”

  • Getting a replacement LCD for iPhone is not very difficult. While this replacement part generally costs you more than most other parts in a cell phone, it is possible to find one for less.

  • It is possible to buy all kinds of iPhone parts online, not just the iPhone 2G SIM card tray. Other common iPhone replacement parts are the battery, front panel, display assembly, antenna cover, USB charger, the earpiece speaker, the LCD screen, the mic & speaker phone modules, the dock assembly the mainboard assembly, the SIM car holder, the wireless antennae & antennae pad, the camera modules, and more.

  • If you have an iPhone that is old or has damaged digitizers, then it will be worth upgrading to a new device.

  • You have probably had your iPhone for a very long time. It has probably been in your hands for three years or more. It is only natural that you would find it hard to say goodbye to your current phone.

  • Pingback: The iPhone 5 Dilemma: Features You Don't Use - CleanTechnica()

  • Nicholas

    iPhones are among the worst phones, environmentally.

    This is because Apple forces you to buy everything from them (even the charger now), you can’t replace the battery, so you have to replace the phone every time the battery dies, but, that is the least of it, they make you upgrade to the new one every year, so consider that the equivalent of people throwing away a phone every year (they will eventually throw away the old ones).

    Most devices can last a few years, in other words, Apple products end up causing a few times more electronic waste than the rest, so that is a substantial environmental footprint which no amount of efficiency improvement can compensate for.

    • dbcnyc

      I agree with some of your points, but no one forces you to upgrade every year. I’ll be keeping my 4S until iphone 6 comes along, or until it completely dies. I had my last phone for 5 years and I still use it when I travel overseas.

    • i was under the impression that, if you didn’t sell your old phone (as i imagine most people do), Apple would take it back, dismantle it, and recycle almost the whole thing.

  • Smart phones emit more cancer causing radiation than other phones. This is a smart phone. Since it causes cancer, it is not green. It’s that simple folks.

    Very unlikely that it was designed to be green in the first place.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof.

      Please furnish some.

  • RobS

    You’ve missed the major point on greenness, the shift to tablets and smartphones is seeing plummeting utilisation of laptops and even desktops. Since buying my iPad I’ve had may laptop out a few times in12 months where previously I used it daily. A laptop uses 8-10 times as much power then a tablet and 20-30 times more power is used by desktops. Smartphones are significantly lower again. Anything which increases the functionality of a phone or tablet to further replace desktops, laptops and even televisions will see enormous decreases in energy consumption.

  • Luke

    The new cable to me is a pro. And an a sign of technology moving forward. The old 30 pin dock connector is roughly a decade old, and has numerous pins which are obsolete anyway, relics from the FireWire days.

    The new lightning connector is smaller, fits in a smaller space, and is lighter, making shipment of it easier. Not to mention there’s probably a tiny reduction in power consumption.

    Let’s get this straight – they haven’t thrown in a new connector for the sake of it people…

    • dbcnyc

      I think most everyone could agree with that—new technology is great. The sad thing is that a lot of people will ditch—instead of adapting—various accessories. That’s a real hit to the environment. Personally, if there’s an adaptor or cable that will keep speakers or other accessories working, I’d opt for that. Saves money and the environment.

  • For me it is mostly irrelevant how the new iPhone is greener or not. I just don’t buy their products.

  • Anne

    “is it green to upgrade your phone every year? I think the jury is still out on that one.”

    I don’t think the jury is out on that one.

    • Wim VS

      I agree, I can’t see any pro coming near the massive con of people dumping their slightly-less-awesome phone for what appears to be a trivial upgrade.

      • Luke

        They added LTE, they added a more powerful CPU, the camera & flash has been improved again, the FaceTime camera is now 720p, they increased the screen size, they made it lighter, they made it thinner, they improved the battery life.

        What more did you want out of this years iPhone? Lasers?

        It’s almost impossible now to add new features to the iPhone because technology only evolves so much in a year.

        • Wim VS

          I’m sure the slightly increased screen size will greatly enhance the quality of everyday life. Point is: I don’t care and I shouldn’t have reacted.

          • Luke

            Well okay then. You may not care, but others might. Consider other opinions.

    • AOK

      Seriously, I was about to make the same comment. There just isn’t any way that replacing anything in a short period of time could be considered green. I am confident that an analysis of the energy savings would not supersede the environmental impact of manufacturing and waste.

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