Hand-Me-Downs in a Digital Age: A better life for our old devices

We live in a world obsessed with the upgrade. From second wives to super-sized fries, it’s hard to stick with the old devices we have when we think it could be better. Undoubtedly, the impulse to upgrade is at the root of much cultural and technological advancement; it encourages us to build things harder, better, faster, stronger.

The cycle of consumption

But now the most common cycle of consumption—purchase, use, declare obsolete, discard—has begun to bend under the weight of constant improvements and iterations. Because of the nature of digital products and how quickly new versions are issued, we rarely leave behind the unusable pulp of an old device when we upgrade.

Instead, we drop old possessions for ones that essentially accomplish the same job in an (often minimally) innovative way. The result is a quickly growing influx of leftover usable devices, and, subsequently, a fundamental shift in the place that hand-me-downs and used tech has in our lives.

iPhone upgrades

Loyal Apple customers are particularly susceptible to accruing devices that have been made redundant by upgrading. Making older generation devices look outdated and obsolete is quite possibly the key to Apple’s empire. Even before the iPhone 5s and 5c release date was made public, almost half of iPhone owners were planning on upgrading. And here in Canada, you can subscribe to wireless plans that allow annual smartphone upgrades, with similar plans existing in other countries. I can’t help but think that junk drawers across North America are now being filled with used phones and old devices along with the usual fare of batteries and bungee cords.

The upgrade is incomplete

So what does this tell us? In some sense, it tells us that the way we’ve been thinking about the upgrade is incomplete. We focus on what we’re getting and forget about what we’re leaving behind.

That means there is a growing number of forgotten devices that could really be doing more than just collecting dust. Luckily, there is a burgeoning movement that promotes a more well-rounded approach to dealing with our discarded gadgets. You can tap into an expanding wealth of knowledge on how to repurpose your old iPhone, turning it into a wireless music system or a host of other cool things.

The Orchard way

Admittedly, we are also advocates for old devices. We built an app that helps you price and list your used devices as part of a service that simplifies buying used iPhones (and selling!). We are proud to join the effort of many others who are pushing for a better life for our old devices; embracing “hand-me-ups” instead of “hand-me-downs” and rejecting the early death that comes with being placed in the junk drawer.

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