After years of innovation in technology, it would seem that smartphone providers and consumers are starting a reverse trend that leans more towards sustainability than spending. After all, the world’s e-waste problem is growing year on year – so much so that tech giants such as Apple are committing to change in a bid to tackle it.

You’d be forgiven for thinking that smartphones and sustainability don’t usually go hand in hand. Yet far from using sustainability as a buzzword, there are mobile phone providers out there implementing real change in the way mobile phones are used, purchased and sold.

One example comes from telecoms giant Vodafone, which announced a partnership with Fairphone in 2019 to offer a ‘more sustainable phone’. Based on a design that allows key elements like the camera and battery to be easily replaced, the idea behind the phone was to extend the life of the device and minimise its environmental impact; that is, a reduced need to get an entire replacement phone and less precious materials wasted in the process.

In line with a changing purchase model, retail giant Carphone Warehouse also now offers a ‘flexible leasing’ subscription model for mobile phones which lets their customers ‘enjoy total flexibility, keep control of your finances and the latest smartphone every year’. This means the customer doesn’t own the phone – a new idea for the smartphone industry, but a smart one that could eliminate old phones lurking in dark drawers (something that is a bigger problem than perhaps many of us realise). It’s in keeping with an era in which ownership is less sought-after, be that with the vehicles we drive or the music we listen to or in countless other ways.

Then there’s Raylo. In a bid to shake up the smartphone industry, London-based Raylo launched in 2019 with a subscription-based model that’s ‘better for your pocket and the planet’. As well as offering contracts for the latest iPhones, Raylo collects old phones once a contract is up and then refurbishes them ready for a new life in a new pair of hands. This is all part of a push to embrace the ‘circular economy’ and keep materials in circulation for longer, especially important at a time when green issues are at the top of the news agenda and people care more than ever about the impact of their consumption.

Raylo CEO Karl Gilbert said: “Consumers are increasingly worried that the pace of technology innovation is quite literally costing the Earth. Yet none of us can really imagine a world where we would be willing to give up our mobile phones.”

With new sustainable models such as that from Raylo, Carphone Warehouse and Vodafone, consumers will soon be in a position where they don’t have to choose between technology and the environment. Technology has been engaged in a race to get smarter in the last couple of decades – the race for sustainability is now just as pressing.