Smartphones have completely replaced PDAs

Germans are hoarding almost 200 million old cell phones

  • Number has doubled in five years
  • Almost two thirds of users have already disposed of an old device
  • The challenge of data protection: only one in three resets old devices to the factory settings

Berlin, April 16, 2020 - Whether as a replacement device or because of the many stored photos: German citizens are currently hoarding a total of 199.3 million old smartphones or cell phones unused in cupboards or drawers. The Bitkom digital association calculated this on the basis of a representative survey of 1,004 people in Germany aged 16 and over. This corresponds to an increase of 60 percent within two years and a doubling within five years. In 2018 there were 124 million old phones, in 2015 100 million and in 2010 only 72 million old cell phones that were lying around unused. Currently, 85 percent of German citizens have at least one unused cell phone or smartphone. In 31 percent there are two and in 51 percent even three or more discarded cell phones. “In the rarest of cases, smartphones are replaced because of a defect. Many people buy a new smartphone in order to use improved and extended functions and keep their old device just in case, ”says Bitkom CEO Dr. Bernhard Rohleder. “The old devices contain a large number of valuable materials, including high-quality raw materials and rare earths, the extraction of which is energy and resource-intensive. It is all the more important that unused devices are reused or professionally recycled as far as possible. "

Almost two thirds (64 percent) of German citizens state that they have disposed of or sold a cell phone or smartphone in the past - 21 percent, on the other hand, keep their old devices without exception. The rest of them are currently still using their mobile device or generally do not have one. Half (50 percent) of those surveyed who always keep discarded smartphones at home do so in order to have a replacement device ready in case the actual phone breaks. 37 percent are worried that the data on their phone could be stolen, 36 percent seem to be too expensive to dispose of or sell. Almost one in four (24 percent) feels that backing up photos and other data in a different location is too complicated. After all, one in five (19 percent) admits that they do not know how to properly dispose of old cell phones or smartphones. The respondents were able to specify several options here. "Under no circumstances may old devices be thrown into the household waste," emphasizes Rohleder. “Like all other electrical appliances, cell phones or smartphones can be disposed of in recycling centers. All major cell phone companies, manufacturers and dealers are also taking back the devices. "

Majority resells old cell phones

Every second person (50 percent) who has already scrapped an old device has sold it to a private person - and 9 percent to a professional dealer. 41 percent took their old mobile phone to a collection point for electronic waste and 17 percent returned it to the manufacturer or dealer. One in four (25 percent) has given away an old device, 5 percent donated it. Only 1 percent state that they have already disposed of an old mobile phone in the household waste.

9 out of 10 German citizens (91 percent) who have already disposed of or sold an old cell phone or smartphone have previously taken measures to back up data: 80 percent have removed the SIM card, 57 percent have stored their data elsewhere. But only one in three (29 percent) has reset the device to the factory settings. 14 percent had the data deleted by a special service provider, 9 percent overwritten it with special software. Rohleder: “Above all, it is important to better educate consumers. Not only about the disposal options, but above all about how important and sensitive data can be backed up and reliably deleted on the device. "

Bitkom provides information about the disposal of old devices

Disposal via recycling centers

Old or defective cell phones must not be thrown into the household waste. However, like all other electrical appliances, they can also be handed in at municipal waste collection points. From there, the manufacturers are responsible for the devices, who ensure environmentally friendly disposal or reprocessing by certified recycling companies.

Disposal via the mobile operator

All manufacturers as well as the large mobile phone companies and retailers are taking back old devices. These are best handed in on site in the shops. The “ear” foundation also offers a directory of all collection points. In addition, customers can request postage-free envelopes on the Internet or pick them up in the mobile phone shop.

Erasing private data

Before passing on or returning old cell phones, users should delete private data such as the address book, user profiles from social networks, online banking access or photos and video clips. The easiest way is to completely delete all of the phone's user data using the appropriate functions ("Device reset"). The device should be encrypted beforehand if possible. On newer smartphones, this is preset at the factory. With older devices, the encryption can be set in the settings for the internal memory or under the item Security, where there is the item "Encrypt device". Important: Don't forget the SD card! It is best to remove them or overwrite them with special tools before selling or redistributing them. And don't forget your SIM card either: remove it or enter both the PIN and the PUK incorrectly three times to make them unusable.

Electrical Equipment Act

The Electrical and Electronic Equipment Act (ElektroG) has obliged brick-and-mortar retailers and online retailers with a shop or storage area of ​​more than 400 square meters to take back old electrical devices since 2016. With the 1: 1 return, you give an old device back free of charge if you buy a new device of the same type. If the edge length of the old device is less than 25 centimeters, dealers must take it back even if consumers do not want to purchase a new device. Some electrical wholesalers also offer redemptions via machines, through which the consumer receives a voucher in return.

Methodological note: The information is based on a survey that Bitkom Research carried out on behalf of the Bitkom digital association. In January and February 2020, 1,004 people aged 16 and over in Germany were interviewed by telephone. The survey is representative. The questions were: "How many old cell phones or old smartphones that you once used personally and no longer use are lying around at home?"; "Have you ever disposed of or sold an old cell phone or smartphone in the past?"; "How did you dispose of your old cell phone / s or smartphone / s in the past?"; "Before you disposed of or sold your old cell phone or smartphone: Which of the following measures did you take?"; "Why do you keep your old cell phones or smartphones and dispose of or not sell them?"