Why Cellphones Should Be Expensive And Not Free.


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426,000 cellphones

In the United States alone, 426,000 cellphones are retired each and every day for various reasons – but do you think that number would be that high if people actually had to pay for their phones? I certainly don’t, and I would love to see manufacturers start charging real money for their phones so that people will not be so quick to just toss them aside after a few months of use because a shinier version came out with a new gadget installed. Every major cellphone company subsidizes most of their handsets, so you can get almost any phone you want for virtually nothing if you just sign up for a new plan every 2 years. Sure, some of them get recycled, but imagine if we could cut the amount of e-waste we create in the first place, meaning that less of it would even have to be recycled!

One of the biggest problems with this is the issue of where do the phones go when they are no longer needed – the companies have not instituted real recycling programs, and only some communities have e-waste days a few days of the year – so where does the rest of this waste go? Right in the garbage, to be incinerated and buried along with the rest of our garbage. However, e-waste is laden with heavy metals like lead and mercury, which slowly work their way into our groundwater and our air, making for more and more pollution.

So what is my solution? Make cellphones expensive, like the iPhone. I have an iPhone, and it will be a very long time before I get a new phone because it was not cheap. It does everything I need it to (and more), and even though a new model just came out, mine works just fine, thank you! If everyone had to cough up real money for their phone, they might think long-term about which model they were buying and get something that will last them a few years rather than a few months. We could keep millions of toxic cellphones out of our landfills, cleaning up our environment; companies could cut back on the natural (and unnatural) resources that they use to make these hundreds of millions (or billions) of phones each year; and we could really think about what we are buying instead of blindly picking the newest “latest and greatest” every 6 months because we are so concerned about what people think of our phones. How long would you keep your cellphone if you had actually paid good money for it?

426,000 phones thrown out every day X 365 days a year = 155,490,000 phones discarded in the United States alone each year. That is a scary number!

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  1. Actually, Tom, I had a Treo for 3.5 years that finally broke and no longer worked. Is that ok with you? And I don’t know a single person who paid $600 for an iPhone.

  2. Awesome! One question: Is this your first mobile phone, or did you already have a phone when you plunked down your $600 for the iPhone?

  3. You make an excellent point. I have a prepaid phone, and even though my initial phone was fairly inexpensive (around $100), if I ever want to replace it, I will have to pay full retail for it. For those who don’t know, full retail is the actual cost of the phone, not the waaaay discounted rates cell companies charge to those establishing a new contract. Because I don’t have a contract, I’ll have to pay $300-400 if I want a new phone that has any features. That alone means I’ll be keeping my current phone for a loooong time. And recycling it whenever I do decide to get rid of it.

  4. I have to admit that I got a free phone with a 3 years contract. These phones are crap, mine is falling apart. If it wasn’t of that, I would have kept it for at least another year. So it’s not just about wanting new features, there is a reason why these phones are free, they are crap, and nobody would want to pay for that. When my phone won’t be usable anymore, I will buy the iphone.

  5. There’s a great organization called Eco-cell (http://www.eco-cell.org/index.asp ) which runs a strict no landfill cell phone recycling program. Approximately 80% of the phones collected will be refurbished and reused by first-time users abroad or by selected local organizations, such as hospital patients for emergency 911 calls. All unusable cell phones and accessories are recycled under strict EPA guidelines by certified recyclers. I was impressed with them when I researched where to recycle my old cell.

  6. The ironic thing is, at the end of your article, there was an AT&T advertisement for a free LGCF360. Now I’m not normally the type to laugh when its inappropriate, but I did let myself grin.

  7. What? Are you serious?! Your statistic is way off! Not everyone who retires their cell phone end up throwing them away. Many are kept aside, given away or resold. There are recycling programs for cell phones too. Using expensive cell phones as a scare tactic to keep us from producing waste is stupid. The wireless companies and cell phone makers make more than enough money off us so why pay them more?

    1. A. The cellular companies do not make nor profit from the phones.
      B. The phone price is subsidized by ETF’s and other discounts. Otherwise, you would be paying full price for the phones.

  8. Please. Cell phones are made like junk these days. I only get my free upgrade every two years, but each time I’m eligible, the phone is already working terribly and is banged up, scratched up, and generally crappy looking. If I didn’t have to upgrade it, I wouldn’t. But since the phones aren’t lasting me more than the time in between upgrades (if that), heck yes I’m going to take advantage of the free or discounted upgrade (I always go for the free ones, myself).

  9. This article is ridicules. Cell phones are expensive and are used to entice people to sign contracts. To get a free phone. The Companies make cheap phones that don’t last that are overpriced so people just keep coming back to them. Every new phone they make does not us the same power cords or accessories that the previous models did so you cant reuse those either. So the plan is to reward the companies that are making the garbage to make more money. That makes sense!!!! You want to find out whats wrong with the world always follow the money.

  10. I am an environmentalist and a conservationist. I am all for protecting our natural resources. I am all for workable solutions to reduce pollution and waste.

    The smartest environmental solutions are ones that are low cost and affordable, and integrate easily into people’s everyday lives.

    The author of this blog post would seek to enforce compliance by imposing an economic hardship to induce a behavior modification.

    Not only would it be ineffective, the burden would be shifted unfairly on lower income families for whom the difference in price makes a big difference in the household budget.

    1. First of all, many areas of the country have free recycling of old phones.

    2. Many areas already have laws on the books (that are enforced) prohibiting people from simply throwing out any electronics along with the rest of their normal municipal trash. Have an old computer? You can’t throw it out, you have to take it to a recycling center.

    But your right, perhaps such incentives are not enough because they do not encompass the entire country.

    Here is what I propose. What we apply to cans and bottles, apply to cell phones.

    Create a deposit/redemption program. You buy a phone, it has a small nominal deposit fee. When you return your phone for the next new hot phone, you get your deposit applied to the next phone or cash if you are not renewing.

    Will you get 100% compliance? No. But it will be better then either jacking up the price of the phone or simply trying to guilt people into reducing ewaste. And its better then a straight tax because getting money back is allways a good motivator for behavior.

  11. Cell phones should not be expensive.

    Now you folks probably don’t care about poor people, but I don’t have much money and I’m glad I paid only 20 bucks for a cheap Tracfone. I use the phone primarily what it was designed for–making phone calls.

    I will use this phone for as long as I can.

    For all you rich people worried about waste, stop buying more phones. Just because you have a spending problem doesn’t mean that poor people should suffer with higher prices.

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