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The amazing iPhone blazes the trail … to waste?

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If one in three of the iPhone 1Gs are still ticking, what happened to the remaining 4 million units sold?

By Greg Seaman, Eartheasy Posted Apr 29, 2010

iphoneThe headline in today’s AppleInsider reads, “Nearly 30% of Apple’s first-gen iPhones are still in use.”

My first thought was, what about the other 70%? After all, the iPhone is a relatively new product isn’t it?

Mobile advertising firm AdMob released its monthly Mobile Metrics report today, which included information on the hardware and software used by owners of Apple’s handsets in the month of March. The data revealed that just 2 percent of all iPhone OS-based handsets that accessed the AdMob network were the first-generation iPhone.

Philip Elmer-DeWitt of Fortune Brainstorm Tech took the data one step further, and factored in Apple’s announced total of 85 million worldwide iPhone and iPod touch sales. After it debuted in June 2007 until the iPhone 3G came out in July 2008, the first-generation iPhone sold 6.1 million units, which is about 7 percent of the 85 million total handsets sold.

“If 7% of those iPhone 1Gs are driving 2% of AdMob’s traffic,” Elmer-DeWitt wrote, “that suggests that nearly one in three is still ticking — and visiting the Web.”

But if one in three of the iPhone 1Gs are still ticking, what happened to the remaining 4 million? This product was debuted in 2007. In just three years, have they already lost their appeal as newer models offer more features?

Though the first iPhone has been supported since its release, Apple earlier this month announced that its forthcoming iPhone OS 4 upgrade will not be available for the first-generation device. In addition, the iPhone 3G, first released in 2008, will not have the mobile operating system’s multitasking support available for the faster iPhone 3GS. So now the iPhone 3G , less than two years old, is already on the road to obsolescence.

I must admit that the iPhone is a very attractive item. As is the iPod, the Blackberry, the Palm and similar mobile devices. And of course there is a valid place for these products in our modern lives. But before buying any of these devices, we need to step back for a moment and envision how this is going to actually improve our lives. Beyond the cost to our pocketbooks, each device incurs the costs of resource extraction, manufacturing, packaging, shipping, and, in a few short years, waste management. And while some components are recyclable, the savings in resource and manufacturing from recycled components are only applied to new models.

A few weeks ago, while waiting for my wife in a mall, I stood by a booth selling iPhones and other similar devices. An eager young salesman quickly engaged me, asking me to show him my cellphone so he could compare it with the newest offering from Apple. When I told him I didn’t own a cell phone, he was aghast – the expression on his face was priceless. “Well then, he spluttered, people can’t get in touch with you when they want to!” “Precisely”, I replied. As I walked away, I could see him hurry to his co-worker to share his consternation.

Separating needs from wants is perhaps the very essence of sustainability. Maybe someone will invent an app to help us figure this out.

Posted in Science and Transportation Tags , ,
  • harlan

    People should never buy the first generation of any tech product. Let them work the bugs out first.

  • http://bhandarigroup.in/ Rajeev

    In my point of view, the first generation iphones are better than the new 3G's. iphones are loosing market shares as they are not much useful for the user as they thought of while launching of the iphones.

  • Seo Firm

    I have used both first generation and 3G's iphone and I found the first generation iphones much user friendly than the 3G's.

  • Teresa@debtsetlemnt

    Personally, I really adore the 3G iPhones. Although I am leaning towards Blackberry now, it still doesn't lose its appeal to me. What I do like about iPhones are their contnuous efforts to keep their software applications up-to-date

  • Janet

    Not only do we have no cell phones in our family of 5, none of us even owns a watch! Vive la difference!

    • http://eartheasy.com/ Greg Seaman

      Wow, I thought I was the only one in the dark ages without a cell phone. Having no watches is extraordinary – I wonder how it impacts your day having no reference to the exact time.

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