Let’s face it, once a new Android or iPhone comes to market, consumers are drawn to toss the old device into the junk drawer and pick up an upgrade right away. This “out with the old, in with the new” attitude results in consumers hoarding about $34 billion in old cellphones.
The lifetime of an electronic item is not proportional to the time it takes for an upgraded version to emerge. For example, in September, 2012, Apple released its iPhone 5. Just one year later, the iPhone 5S and 5C were available. Next month, Apple will release its newest device, the iPhone 6, leaving consumers to decide for themselves what to do with their out-of-date, yet slightly used, device. This proves a pattern of constant incremental smartphone upgrades even though the average life span of a cellular device is 18 months to two years. As consumers take advantage of having access to the latest and greatest devices, what is to become of the slightly used electronics they once loved? The answer is secondary markets.
Companies are gravitating toward electronic markets abroad; the appeal being rapidly developing countries with large populations. The demand overseas derives from restricted access to new electronics and limited financial means. Companies will collect used electronics in the United States, refurbish, repackage and remarket the devices overseas where they will be of more value.
One of the largest emerging markets, India, had been drastically benefiting from Apple sales. Being a price-sensitive country, India requires cheap phones, and a lot of them! This is the perfect market for companies to leverage with electronics remarketing of used and refurbished smartphones.
But, with electronics comes electronic waste. Is India the world’s latest e-waste hotspot? While sections of China and Africa have long been pegged as “dumping grounds” for e-scrap, India has recently become a bigger part of that conversation, thanks to a spate of media reports that have articulated end-of-life electronics worries in the world’s second most populous nation.
Fortunately, when R2 Solutions morphed into SERI this June, the group made it clear it was going to start taking an active role helping to push forward e-scrap processing infrastructures in developing countries across the world, and India was one of two countries the group was targeting immediately (Kenya was the other).
According to the SERI website, the group’s projects in India will focus on helping small and medium electronics recyclers develop environmentally sustainable practices.
Microsoft, specifically, is seeking to reduce the number of devices that end up contaminating the environment by extending the lifecycle of used electronics. The company has been encouraging Microsoft Authorized Refurbisher (MAR) and Microsoft Registered Refurbisher programs to look at the R2 certification as a way to improve their business rather than a burden or cost of doing business.
The utilization of electronics remarketing and standardized recycling in secondary markets allows smartphones to be accessible to consumers all over the world.