As Apple, the world’s second-largest smartphone producer, prepares to sign the death warrant of the wildly popular iPhone 6s with the rumored launch of multiple new models later this month, Back Market — the largest marketplace exclusively dedicated to bringing thousands of refurbished electronic devices and appliances from certified professionals to consumers — has launched an awareness campaign rallying the public against planned obsolescence.
The #HereToStay campaign features a very “Apple-like” video that reintroduces the iconic smartphone and the still-impressive features that have allowed it to define a generation of smartphones. The video anchors a microsite offering the world’s largest selection of certified refurbished iPhone 6S models at prices up to 3X cheaper than new.
At its heart, the campaign reaffirms Back Market’s commitment to give consumers an alternative option to new devices, which are introduced at an unsustainably rapid pace for no logical reason. The resulting millions of tons of e-waste not only have disastrous environmental consequences but also wreak havoc on consumers’ budgets — and without adding much in the way of must-have features or innovations to make the new models worth tossing away the old.
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"Apple is releasing a new series of iPhones as it does every year, and just like previous models, they will have an unspoken expiration date built in,” says Thibaud Hug de Larauze, CEO and co-founder of Back Market. “This is the crux of the problem and the iPhone 6s is the perfect example: In spite of the revolutionary design that introduced us to the 12-megapixel camera and 3D Touch technology, its disappearance from the Apple store is enough to render it obsolete in the minds of consumers.”
de Larauze echoes veteran Apple watcher Ewan Spence, who wrote in Forbes ahead of the 2018 launch: “The latest leaks around Apple’s new iPhones show that very little has changed in the twelve months since the launch of the iPhone X.”
And as Business Insider pointed out, back in May: “The iPhone 6s is an example of how recent iPhones have longer lifespans when it comes to performance — and that we don’t need to spend top dollar for the new models.”
Say “no” to forced retirement of devices
Custom dictates that the release of a new iPhone model should mark the disappearance of the iPhone 6s from Apple’s catalog — a mere three years after a release with much ado. This well-oiled mechanism has been in place since the very first iPhone and, Back Market points out, Apple has conditioned its consumers to happily accept this pace of obsolescence.
Faced with the scheduled disappearance of the iPhone 6s, Back Market wants to call attention to the scourge that is planned obsolescence, reminding people that despite what the company calls Apple’s “psychological warfare against their common sense,” the iPhone 6s still retains the qualities that have made it one of the most popular smartphones ever, with over 80 million sold worldwide.
For Back Market, these 80 million phones still have good years ahead of them. In its three years in the market, the iPhone 6s has taken the lead in the marketplace. Back Market proudly stocks more than 40,000 of them, each expertly refurbished and warrantied by certified professionals, and selling for up to three times cheaper than new and at a fraction of the $1,000+ price tags of the latest models Apple is introducing.
Unprecedented electronic waste
"The goal of this campaign is to convince consumers to stop systematically turning to new models. This fight against what we can accurately call a kind of new device bulimia — where new models are gobbled up and then soon enough purged — is an effective way for us to combat the overproduction of electronics, the overexploitation of natural resources, and the explosion of e-waste. Everyone needs to be made aware of it,” explains Vianney Vaute, co-founder of Back Market.
The number of smartphone users in the US is estimated to grow to more than 230 million in 2018, which corresponds to 10 percent of the estimated number of all smartphone users worldwide. With each phone having a lifespan of only 18 months to 2 years, that’s a lot of natural resources unnecessarily relegated to landfills or people’s drawers. The US is the second-largest producer of e-waste in the world, putting out 6.3 MT of e-waste in 2016 — an 85 percent increase since 2012 — and still increasing its pace.
Certified refurbishing is a proven and reliable way to extend the life of electronics, keeping them out of the landfills. Market research firm Counterpoint Research reported earlier this year that one in ten smartphones bought last year were not new and the sales of refurbished phone are growing at a rate of 13 percent globally (as compared to virtually flat new phone sales).
Apple has taken recent steps to improve the sustainability of its devices — in 2017, it committed to develop a closed-loop model for its supply chain by focusing on using only renewable resources and recycled materials and eliminating conflict materials from its value chain. The tech giant has already incorporated artificial intelligence — a robot called “Liam” — to aid in the disassembling of products and recovery of components that can be recycled; and hopes to encourage more consumers to return products to be recycled and made into new equipment through its Apple Renew recycling program. But relatively low repairability scores, combined with the continued breakneck pace with which it continues to churn out new models — thereby rendering its lightly used devices from previous years obsolete — are ultimately antithetical to its ambitions to be truly sustainable.