A Green Label Alone Isn't Going to Sell Eco-Friendly Phones

ConSamsungReclaimGreen.closed.smallsumer demand will fuel a drastic surge in environmentally sustainable handsets, which could see worldwide shipments swell to 485 million by 2014 from 250,000 units this year, Juniper Research predicted in an oddly vague study released today. A less dramatic shift in the attitudes of mobile users could result in shipments of only 105 million units by 2014, however, Juniper said.

Like Katie over at Earth2Tech, I don’t think many consumers will buy a green-themed phone for the sake of the environment alone. Instead, manufacturers looking to target green-thinking users will have to produce phones that address environmental concerns along with meeting the typical demands of mobile consumers — and they’ll have to do it at a competitive price. That’s an opinion Juniper Research’s Dr. Windsor Holden seems to share as well. “With manufacturers only now beginning to introduce green handsets, shipment volumes are relatively low in all cases,” Holden said in Juniper’s press release. “Moving forward, we should not expect to see production lines of completely ‘green’ phones, but a gradual move to introducing green elements throughout devices.”

The green-phone movement has been disappointingly slow out of the gate. Uptake of solar-enabled phones has been extremely limited thanks to performance and price issues. Most manufacturers’ green intentions fade “like a wireless signal in an underground parking lot,” a December 2008 report from ABI observed. Production of environmentally friendly phones has gradually gained steam in recent months, with a handful of manufacturers sticking their toes in the water with green-themed phones, but there’s little evidence the handsets are finding an audience.

That will change as prices come down, performance improves, and consumers become more aware of mobile phones’ environmental impact. But for the near future, at least, the ever-increasing number of environmentally friendly apps on the market could be the best way to advance the green agenda in mobile.