The smartphone caught up by its environmental footprint

Year after year, the smartphone is a must for sales, end-of-year celebrations or other “French Days” and “Black Friday”. Just over 16 million new units were sold in France in 2020, according to the GfK institute. A figure certainly down 8% over one year, but which shows that the desire for a trendy mobile remains irresistible for many. While a device could on paper serve up to ten years, the most common use remains to use it only two to three years before moving on to the next, noted the Regulatory Authority for Electronic Communications and Communications. posts and press distribution in a report released Monday, July 12.

This overconsumption poses a vast environmental problem. “When we analyze the life cycle of a smartphone, we see that the manufacturing phase represents around three quarters of its carbon footprint”, explains Erwann Fangeat, a specialist in these issues at the French Environment and Energy Management Agency. Blame it on the multitude of materials required for their design, including around fifty metals, which are sometimes complex to use. “It is thus estimated that to manufacture a smartphone of 200 grams, it is necessary to extract more than 200 kg of material”, he explains.

The main avenue for “greening” the industry is therefore to extend the life of devices, which are more robust and easier to repair. From this point of view, “There has been a small evolution among manufacturers in recent years, under pressure from some of their customers and regulations”, observes Laetitia Vasseur, co-founder of HOP (Stop programmed obsolescence), an association which fights against overconsumption.

Among the good pupils, the Dutch Fairphone

The latest versions of Apple’s operating system, iOS, are thus supported by older iPhone models. Samsung, meanwhile, has strived to get good marks on the new repairability index, which gives French consumers an indication of the possibility of having their purchase repaired in the event of a problem. But the most interesting experiences in this area are found on the “Brands that have taken on these issues much better, even if everything is not perfect”, we loveme Vasseur.

Among the good students, we find the Dutch Fairphone, who wants to speak better socially, by working on its supply chains to avoid those which fuel conflicts or rely on child labor in certain regions of the world. Its models and those of the French Crosscall also display repairability indices (mandatory on smartphones since January) among the highest: the Fairphone FP3 + scores 8.7 / 10 and Crosscall’s Core X-4 reaches 8.8 / 10, ahead of the Samsung Galaxy S21 + (8.2 / 10), where the iPhone 12 tops out at 6.0.

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