The future of mobile phone design


This article was first published onFriends of the Earth by Nithya Natarajan

© istock
© istock

What exciting innovation would you like to see in your next mobile phone? Bendable glass, super-fast-charging batteries – these concepts are not far from our shops.

Mobile technology is moving fast. It would be great to see companies developing phones that reduce their impact on people and planet. We’re not asking for the impossible – compare today’s slim smartphones with clunky 80s handsets.

Here are 5 steps to greener phones, from Professor of Sustainable Design and Consumption Tim Cooper.

  • Energy-saving batteries
    There are lots of ways for mobile phones to use up less energy. A great example is the organic radical battery (ORB). It uses no heavy metals that can be harmful to humans, and charges in just 30 seconds.
  • Changing contract length
    Most companies offer contracts that encourage us to keep upgrading and getting the latest models, even if our old phones are still perfectly usable. By offering customers savings if they take on longer contracts, or exploring other options like fixing or leasing, phones could live for longer and help the industry become more sustainable.
  • Phones designed to be easy to repair
    Many phones are deliberately glued shut or have special screws that stop users from opening them. Designing phones so they are easier to take apart, to repair or replace parts would make a big difference.
  • Apps to encourage greener behaviour
    Organisations like Our Mobile Generation, sponsored by Vodafone, are pioneering new apps that will encourage people to live greener lives. I like the “Walk Mate” app from Sony Ericsson Elm, which works out how far you’ve walked and the petrol saved by not driving.
  • Phones made from greener materials
    There are some amazing alternatives to plastic and metal out there, including polylactic acid plastic (PLA) which is made entirely from corn starch or glucose and is renewable and biodegradable; recycled plastic, made from the new plastic you throw into your recycle bins, and natural materials like bamboo.