Fun fact, I haven’t had a firsthand phone since 2013. I’ve actually only had four firsthand phones ever. My first phone was your classic early noughties brick, which lasted for multiple years, and then I had three others until around the age of 20, as I did the standard phone contract upgrade deal every couple of years.
Come 2013 however, I switched to secondhand. This wasn’t motivated by sustainability at the time; iPhones were starting to become a commonplace thing and I couldn’t afford to get one, however my mum had a work phone, and when she was upgraded they were happy for her not to return the old model. I received a hand me down iPhone 4 in 2013, and a hand me down iPhone 5 in 2015.
It is this iPhone 5 that has been with me since, as my mum retired in 2016 and the hand me downs were no more. Having been used by my mum, wiped and handed to me, I’m surprised this phone lasted as long as it did to be honest. Apple’s planned obsolescence is one of the things that infuriates me most about them as a company. All in all the phone lasted five years, three of them with me. For about the last 6 months the phone barely worked, and froze every two seconds, but I reluctantly clung on because I couldn’t quite afford a Fairphone, and there was no way I was buying some unsustainable, ethically murky model just because it was cheaper.
The final straw came in Japan, when my phone finally gave up. All in one go Instagram, Facebook and Google Maps stopped working, the latter of which was the most pressing issue for navigating Tokyo (thank goodness for my dad’s phone which worked much better!). The incessant storage notifications had already prompted me to delete Twitter, Google Drive, Kindle, Youtube, The This American Life app… essentially I could make calls and texts but that was it. Back to 2002 burner phone status. Which is fine, if you don’t have a job that incorporates social media into the role.
I lay on my tatami mat that night wondering what the heck I was going to do about my phone situation, when a tv advert buried in the deep recesses of my mind came to the forefront. Envirofone. I’d looked at this site once before, years ago, because you can sell your old phones to them to be sold on again. At the time I hadn’t done it because my phone was pretty worthless to them, but the name had stuck around. I looked on their website and found a secondhand iPhone 6 (still miles behind the rest of the world I know, but I really don’t mind) that I could buy for £200 with a years warranty, and I went for it.
When it comes to sustainability, secondhand is often the best choice you can make, as you simply extend the lives of items that already exist in the world. No more energy is put into manufacturing of products, and you keep them out of landfill a while longer. Envirofone takes old phones, refurbishes them and sells them on again. Within hours of ordering my phone was shipped, and it was on my doorstep in a matter of days, waiting for me when I got back from Japan. The phone came in its own box, along with a charging cord. It was completely reset, and refurbished as if it’s brand new. I simply had to charge it and set it up, and I was good to go. If I hadn’t already known it was secondhand, I literally wouldn’t have been able to tell.
And so far my experience with this new phone has been pretty great! The battery life isn’t amazing, but then again it never is with an iPhone. Although I do plan on making the eventual switch to Fairphone, this has turned out to be a great option that’s both cheap, sustainable and circular. I’m glad that the name Envirofone randomly stuck in my head, both so that I had this option available to me, and so that I can spread the word now. It’s so common to hop onto my facebook feed and see friends looking for people selling phones, or declaring that theirs has suddenly died so they can only be contacted by messenger until further notice. I find myself repeating ‘hey, have you heard of Envirofone? It’s way cheaper and so easy to use!’ over and over again, to the point where I decided writing a blog post about it was just going to be easier. So next time you or someone you know is thinking of getting a new phone send them this post, and tell them that secondhand is probably going to be an easier option every single time.