This holiday season, 33 million new smartphones1 will hit store shelves, and people everywhere will upgrade to new devices. Mobile phones have an average lifespan of 18 months, so what happens to old phones, and the personal information on the phones, when they’re retired for the new, hottest device?
Lookout (www.lookout.com), a mobile security leader and makers of an app that helps people safeguard their phone and their data, conducted a survey to learn more about the growing old phone problem. They found that there is a mountain of unwanted, unused mobile phones in households across the country. If the unwanted mobile phones in the U.S. were to physically be lined up, there would be a mobile phone trail from San Francisco to the North Pole and back.
Sixty-two percent of those surveyed said they have at least one unused mobile phone in their household (21% have one, 21% have two, 9% have three). Some hoard more than others: 11% said they have four or more unused old mobile phones in their household.
Despite an increasing number of alternatives to dispose of old phones, there are a number of reasons why people leave them unused in drawers and cupboards. Nearly 1-in-3 said they just don’t know what to do with their old phones,
Thirteen percent said they’re concerned about the information on the old phone being exposed, and 17% said they have not yet erased the information on their old phones.
“We were surprised to learn how many people hold on to old phones. People are concerned about the personal information living on the device, and we suspect it contributes to why people are still holding on to it,” says Jenny Roy, mobile safety advocate at Lookout. “Before you donate, resell or recycle your phone, it’s important to take steps to remove the data so if your phone gets a new owner, your information doesn’t get exposed.”
In the U.S., it’s estimated that fewer than 11% of discarded mobile phones will be recycled. However, people are not against letting go of the device. Nearly 52% of people Lookout surveyed said they would give their phone to a charitable cause, while 22% said they would trade it or sell it for money.
According to Comparemymobile.com, the average mobile phone owner has an estimated $160 worth of unused phones in their household. Lookout recommends that people take a few steps to protect their data and privacy before letting go of an old device:
° If desired, first save the data. Some might want to save photos and other content from an old phone, and there are several options available, depending largely on device type.
° Don’t forget to ditch the SIM card. If the phone has a SIM card, remove it to ensure that your information cannot be passed on to a potential future owner.
° Once the personal data is removed or erased, Lookout urges people to find a productive way to dispose of their old phones. Cell Phones for Soldiers is a charitable organization that collects unwanted mobile phones and provides troops abroad with free calling cards so they can connect with their families at home.