Mobile Phones

MOBILE PHONES has been one of the most interesting subject areas we have so far investigated. We discovered that it is not the actual use of the phone itself that uses much electricity, but the manufacture and data centre infrastructure behind the scenes that is so energy hungry. You may find this a fascinating section…

Use your phone as a digital notepad, diary and calendar, thereby saving paper

Make your battery last longer by powering off your phone entirely at night, if you’re in a movie, on an airplane or somewhere else you know you can’t be reached.

Most of the major mobile phone manufacturers have now adopted the microUSB connection as standard, the idea being to reduce the number of redundant chargers thrown away. Unfortunately the chargers themselves differ from manufacturer to manufacturer which can mean that if you use a charger from a rival supplier your battery may suffer. Once the mobile phone industry sorts a standard charger which works for every model from every manufacturer there will be an even greater drop in electronic waste.

Turn off the wi-fi and bluetooth features when not needed. The networking transmitter uses quite a bit of power so even when your device is not connected to a network, it will continue to search for one on a regular basis, thereby draining your battery more quickly.

Use the GPS app on your smartphone for directions when driving. Save drive time and fuel by taking the right route first time!

The carbon footprint for the manufacture of mobile phones varies between 16kg and 70kg of CO₂ per phone. Not too bad until you realise the number of mobile units sold to end users in 2014 was 1.2 billion.

Do not constantly change your mobile – only replace when necessary and recycle your old one when you do. The carbon footprint of a phone can be roughly broken down as follows: Production – 85%, Consumer use over 2 years – 11%, Transport – 3%, Recycling – 1%.

The amount of energy required by a data centre for you to watch an hour of video per week for a year on your mobile consumes the same amount of electricity annually as a standard refrigerator.

In 2014, the average iPhone customer used approx 19GB of data. Research says each GB requires 19 kWh of energy, meaning the average iPhone uses 390kWh of electricity per year: 361kwh for data, 23kWh for connection and 6kWh for charging = 183kg CO₂ – huge compared to the tiny amount to charge your phone!!!

In Falun in Sweden, the EcoDataCenter claims to be the world’s first climate-positive data centre, taking its power entirely from renewable sources including solar, wind and water power and secondary biofuels. It will also redirect excess heat generated by its equipment to warm local buildings through the district heating system.

The energy requirements of operating smartphones goes far beyond manufacturing and battery charging. Smartphones are driving a huge boom in internet traffic and processing, all web information requires huge data centres, which reportedly number more than 3 million worldwide. By 2020 they will consume around 3.5% of all electricity produced in the world and by 2040 up to 14%. We will need to put a cap on this if we hope to keep climate change in control.