Weekly Update

A Good, Green Smartphone

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My first cell phone, which I acquired in 2000, was a Qualcomm QCP-2760, and to be honest, I’m not much further up the mobile innovation scale today. Earlier this year, I briefly used a T-Mobile G1. It was a hand-me down tester from a friend at Google, so it was a little buggier than the devices that were rolled out to the public, but its battery life issues went beyond just that. After a month of winding up with a dead phone by lunch time, I ditched the device and went back to my old standby: the Nokia 2610 on T-Mobile.

But with all the hype about the new smartphone releases, I’ve been thinking about upgrading my phone again. Unfortunately, the green-tech geek in me isn’t thrilled with the options available. Today, most green phone efforts have focused on greener materials and less packaging waste, but in my opinion, a good, green mobile would, first and foremost, allow consumers to customize it according to their needs.

Because innovation in the mobile space is happening so fast and because phones are dropping in price, there are more opportunities than ever to ditch a phone that doesn’t quite meet your needs for one that comes closer. That constant “refresh” of our devices is contributing to a tide of toxic e-waste. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

While app stores have given our smartphones a little more personalization, there’s still very little flexibility when it comes to the hardware on your phone. I may be a sucker for “texting, calling and a good battery,” but everyone’s different. As James Kendrick often points out, phones are extremely personal devices. We all have different ways of living and using them, and there’s no one-size-fits-all solution.

Imagine a cellphone landscape that’s a little more like today’s car market. You can opt for a basic, fuel-efficient compact and add some nice features: a CD player and air conditioning, say. Or you can opt for something that meets more robust needs: a heavy-duty truck for hauling, with GPS and high-quality shocks for navigating back-roads. Today, most smartphones are like that heavy duty truck — or, more accurately, a Ferrari. They’re crammed full of high-end displays, multiple wireless radios, MP3 players, multi-megapixel cameras and more.

Unfortunately, all those added features require more power from the phone’s battery, and we’re often left with a dead battery by the end of the day (not to mention a balooning national energy bill from charging up our dead devices). While I’d like to have some additional features on my phone, I don’t need everything that most of today’s smartphones offer, and I certainly don’t want to sacrifice the things that matter most to me — battery life, in this case — to get them.

So, now that I think about it, my old 2610 has two major things going for it: Its battery rivals those in the Hubble Space Telescope, and it’s practically indestructible; it’s survived falls, throws, spills and untold violence in the front of my shoulder bag. Add to that the fact that it performs its basic tasks — fast texting, excellent reception — far better than any smartphone I’ve seen, and maybe sticking with what I’ve got is the best good, green mobile available — at least until handset makers let me design something better.

Question of the week

What do you want in your good, green mobile?