In less than twenty years, mobile phones have gone from being rare and expensive pieces of equipment used primarily by the business elite to a pervasive low-cost personal device which is an important element of our everyday lives. The continued development of mobile phone features like WAP, Java, MP3, Bluetooth, megapixel cameras, mobile TV, etc are increasing our dependency on them. As these features grow and as mobile phone fashion changes, owning the latest mobile becomes essential.
It is reported that the UK currently has over 65 million mobile phone subscribers which equates to more phones than people. This has become possible due to users having multiple phones.
UK Networks heavily subsidise the price of mobile phones to lure customers into committing to airtime contracts typically 12-18 months long. In this period Networks hope to recoup the cost of the handset via line rental, airtime, sms and content usage. It is common for UK Networks to subsidise handsets worth hundreds of pounds to the point that they are given away free when signing a contract.
On average, UK mobile phone users upgrade their phone every 18 months. That equates to over 20 million phones being replaced every year. A very small percent of those which have been upgraded are put into use. In general the large majority of them are discarded and forgotten about.
It is estimated that 50 million mobile phones are hoarded in cupboards and drawers around the UK. If each handset is valued at an average price of £20, then the UK is hoarding £1 Billion pounds worth of old phones! Enough to pay every single person in the UK £17.85!