Opinion: Nokia’s periodic subscription service is a promising initiative, but can manufacturers go further to take care of the lifecycle of their products?
Technology gives us so many new possibilities, and nowhere is it more evident than the development of the smartphone over the years, a product that is now so ubiquitous that it is hard to imagine life without it.
However, there are obvious downsides to having such a huge amount of tech devices, and one of the biggest is definitely the environmental impact. We may want to keep this out of the top of our minds, but the truth is that the plastic, glass, and rare metals that go into making these phones often have a negative impact on the well-being of our planet, something that only intensifies when consumers choose to upgrade them on a regular basis.
This year at IFA, HMD Global (the parent company of Nokia) revealed its own solution to this undoubtedly difficult problem with the launch of a new subscription service called Circular. Under its terms, you can pay a monthly fee for the phone, and as a result you’ll get points every six months that you can invest in environmental causes, and at the end of the scheme, the phone will be recycled and refurbished, or donated.
It is noteworthy that Nokia’s commitment to the environment does not start and end only with this scheme; Its latest phone, the Nokia X30 5G, has a 100% recycled aluminum body, 65% recycled back cover, and its discounted packaging includes a 100% FSE certified box made of 75% recycled materials. It’s built to last, too, with an IP67 rating against ingress of water and dust, and a durable Gorilla Glass Victus display.
This scheme is a very positive innovation that we hope will draw more attention to the sustainability issue among smartphones, and something particularly refreshing is to see the manufacturer stepping onto the board and claiming responsibility for the entire life cycle of their product rather than washing their hands. Once the sale is completed. However, this program is just the beginning, and we hope to see more steps taken on this path in the near future.
One potential drawback is that Nokia phones will still have somewhat limited software support. While the X30 will get three years of monthly security updates and three full operating system updates, it looks like support will end after that, meaning you’ll likely have to get a new phone if you want it to be secure. as possible.
This three-year plan is by no means unusual among Android manufacturers — in fact, it’s pretty decent by those standards, and it’s nice to see Nokia ahead from the start on its future support — but it pales in comparison to Apple’s record. For example, the iPhone 6s, which was launched in September 2015, will only lose a new OS upgrade for the first time this year, as iOS 16 will not work on the phone.
To be fair, Android manufacturers have only recently begun to take this issue seriously, and even the best Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra (which costs over $1,000/£1,000) is still limited to four years of major Android software updates So we’ll be keeping our eyes peeled over the coming months in the hope of making overall improvements in this score.
Another potential pitfall is that this scheme, which uses charitable donations as a hook to attract customers, is likely to appeal more than anything to those who are already environmentally savvy and are doing their part to curb the excesses of consumerism; Circular may struggle to attract apathetic or indifferent customers, yet this is exactly the most important target group if we are going to see significant change across the industry.
For the reasons above, Circular is a very refreshing new initiative from a major manufacturer that is guiding the entire industry in the right direction, and I wish you all the best; However, it is just the beginning. If we also see a greater impact, I’d like to see longer support for programs, along with an incentive scheme that can reach and touch a wider audience.