Yesterday’s celebration of Earth Day saw a certain amount of bandwagon jumping. Google created a new logo for the day on its homepage, and many dozens of articles and press releases, such as this one saying that users would happily pay more for ‘green’ phones, presciently appeared. Listening to Costing the Earth on Radio4 yesterday afternoon made me consider whether such Eco-friendly mobile telephony is anything other than a distant pipe dream.
The industry seems to be caught in a dilemma.
Network operators need to squeeze every ounce of value out of their customers and so need to make the mobile internet an attractive place to be.
To acheive this, handset manufacturers have to develop and build devices can deliver a satisfying internet experience. So phones need bright colour displays, good quality cameras, GPS, loads of memory, ultra-fast processors, great graphics rendering – the list is almost endless.
Of course, all of the new but now essential parts of a phone require power. Lots of power. So batteries drain more quickly, and hence require charging more often. And frequent charging means more people leaving their chargers plugged in and switched on for convenience’ sake. Hardly a recipe for planet friendly phone use.
One option is for the operators and manufacturers to educate customers about the need to switch chargers off when they’re not in use, but that’s hardly palettable for two reasons. Firstly a device with a flat battery cannot earn revenue for the network, and fewer chargers plugged in will surely result in more flat batteries. Secondly, there is a risk of demonising heavy users, and it is heavy use that the networks are trying to inspire in us all.
The second option, however, is even less likely. Ripping out functionality to reduce battery drain. But would anyone really want to pay more for a device that does less?
Unfortunately, as with all ‘green’ issues, less is more. Probably the greenest phone ever was the Nokia 6210i, which only seemed to need charging once a week no matter how heavily it was used. The downside (if it can be seen as such) is that beyond voice and SMS, the phone was completely useless.
My question then is this. What functionality could you easily do without? For the planet’s sake.