When is a phone a dinosaur?


Technology’s on my mind this week. First it was our Internet connection; now it’s our cell phone. We just received one of those offers from our service provider for a free new phone if we sign a contract for another couple of years with them.

Yes, I’m using that in the singular: phone. My husband and I were late getting cell phones and when we did, we opted to share one instead of getting two. It’s cheaper and almost always, with minimal negotiating, it serves both our needs. Of course there are times when we utter painful groans and say "If only we had two cell phones!" But overall, it’s usually clear that one is enough.

So, should we take the free new phone? Not only are we sharing one phone, it’s about four years old. It works fine. We’ve got all the settings adjusted the way we like them. If we trade up, our old phone will (as we learned from the Edward Burtynsky documentary we watched) probably end up in China, poisoning the groundwater of the unprotected workers who take it apart for recycling. And the new phone will represent that much more mining, energy for manufacturing, and energy for shipping.

Environmentally, it seems like a pretty clear choice. Technologically, I’m sure there are many wonderful things that a new phone could do that we’re currently missing out on. Our previous phone, for example (which we used from 2001 to about 2007) now looks so outdated that it might as well be carved from rock.

I’m sure there’s a balance to be struck between keeping up with the times and minimizing waste. But isn’t it crazy that four years is a "long" lifetime for something as complex as a cell phone?

How often do you trade up your phone? What are the new features that make it worth it for you?