After the dust has settled from the new development involved with a decade old DMCA law, we can take a closer look at what the ending of the unlock exemption means for everyone with a new or used cell phone. Upon it’s announcement people cried foul of the DMCA’s over broad definition of what is protected under copyright law. That any circumventing of factory installed software to get media is considered a breach of copyright. This is overly broad because you may just jailbreak a device to test your own programs, or unlock because you travel abroad often. But because you COULD use these processes to get to media that you typically wouldn’t, it is illegal under the DMCA. So why did this happen and how?
You recently got your new phone for free on a promotion at your local phone store. 3 months later you were drunk and left your phone in a taxi cab. The next day you proceed to go into your local Verizon store only to find out your phone is going to cost you $599.99 to replace the device. The sales person in the store says you are not eligible for an upgrade on your phone for another year and 9 months! The sales guy says the only reason you received your phone for free was because you agreed to a 2 year contract with your phone carrier. Oh no, what am I going to do you think to yourself.
Consumer Reports, one of the most influential product review magazines, has decided not to recommend Apple’s latest iPhone to consumers. The magazine giant, around since 1936, said the device has significant issues involving reception.
“When your finger or hand touches a spot on the phone’s lower left side — an easy thing, especially for lefties — the signal can significantly degrade enough to cause you to lose your connection altogether if you’re in an area with a weak signal.”
Apple has acknowledged that this is a reoccurring problem with their new device. They chalked the problem up to faulty software, but Consumer Reports seems to doubt that. The side rail on the housing of the phone is designed to be an antenna. Placing your fingers on it can disrupt your signal. Realistically, where else are you supposed to put your fingers? Apple has announced a software update to be released in the coming weeks, but has yet to fess up to any hardware issues.
The magazine offered a potential quick fix to those who have already purchased the phone and are experiencing problems. “An affordable solution for suffering iPhone 4 users: Cover the antenna gap with a piece of duct tape or another thick, non-conductive material. It may not be pretty, but it works.” Somehow, I don’t think that will go over well with consumers who just shelled out top dollar for the latest, greatest technology.
The magazine did give the phone high marks for its display and the phone’s camera, calling it the best they’ve seen on any phone. It also offers high praises for the devices improved battery life over its predecessor and several of the new features including the front facing camera.
The magazine says they will not recommend the device until “a permanent—and free—fix for the antenna problem” is delivered by Apple, until that time, they recommend purchasing the older, 3G model. If this influential publication’s review isn’t a wake-up call for Apple, I would expect a lot of angry consumers.
Newsweek has recently released a video containing facts that support the fact that purchasing refurbished cell phones is a very Green thing to do. Obviously, purchasing second hand anything is good for the environment as it eliminates the demand for new materials to be usurped in order to produce new products, but most people don’t understand how important it is to purchase refurbished cell phones until they actually see the numbers.
According to Newsweeks’s video, eight out of ten people in US own a mobile phone, which means more people in the US have cell phones than passports and Internet access. Newsweek claims that if mobile phone users made up their own country, it would be bigger than the US, China, India, Russia, Mexico, France, and Japan combined. Because the average life of a cell phone before it is replaced is approximately 18 months, there are more than 500 million cell phones in the world right now that will be thrown away. If these phones were recycled into refurbishment programs, we would save the world more than $40 million in copper, $61 million in silver, and $392 million in gold.
The best part about purchasing refurbished cell phones, besides the fact that it helps the environment so much, is that refurbished phones are of the same quality (functionally wise) as a brand new phone. Sure a refurbished phone may have some minor cosmetic scratches on it, but you can save a boat load of money and help the Earth by purchasing refurbished as opposed to new. Most refurbished phones have brand new housing on them anyway, so the majority of refurbished phones look brand new as well. So if you can’t afford to solar panel your house or purchase a Prius, do yourself and the environment a favor and purchase a refurbished phone the next time you need to upgrade.
Mobile Matters on Newsweek
There is a lot of material on the internet these days explaining the benefits of purchasing refurbished cell phones as they function like new, save the creation of hazardous material for the environment, and cost a fraction of the price of new phones, but there isn’t much information about why a phone is refurbished in the first place. Because consumers are often hesitant to purchase products of which they no little about, I have compiled a list of the most common reasons for a cell phone to be refurbished.
First of all, refurbished means that an item has been purchased and then returned for some reason. Returned products are examined and fixed (if there was actually a problem with the item), but, by law, they can never again be sold as new. Most cell phones that are returned have nothing wrong with them. The customers simply change their mind about their purchase and decide to take the item back. So most refurbished phones are virtually brand new as they have hardly been used, if they have been used at all, and they have been cleaned for sanitary reasons after they were returned.
When a customer returns a phone because it has actually malfunctioned, the technicians in the refurbishment department take the phone apart, run a diagnostic exam to determine the problem, and the replace any part that is not functioning properly. Parts that are most often replaced range from motherboards to speakers or microphones. The most common part of a phone that is replaced is the LCD screen. Because LCD screens are so delicate, they are easily cracked if a phone is dropped or slammed into something. If a phone is returned because the screen no longer works, the screen is simply replaced with a new screen, the phone is then tested for full functionality, and then the phone (which now functions as new) is sold for a fraction of the original cost.
Besides the internals that are often replaced, there are several common external problems that lead to refurbishment. Most common would be simple external, cosmetic wear and tear. If the internals of a phone test successfully but the outside of the phone shows wear, the outer housing is simply replaced with a brand new one. Another external part that often needs to be replaced from wear is the charging port. This is another simple fix that just requires the replacement of the port.
The issue that seems to concern consumers the most in regards to purchasing refurbished phones is water damage. Often, phones are exposed to water, whether it be that the phone was dropped in a pool or simply caught a few rain drops. If the water happens to make its way to the “Water Damage Sticker” that is located in the housing of each phone, the sticker will turn red. Water damage often affects little more than the sticker in reality, but phones returned with water damage are, just like all other returned phones, fully inspected, and any damaged parts are replaced. Customers, however, often see the red sticker and immediately assume that they have been taken advantage of but in reality, the phone functions as new.
Let’s say the insides of a water damaged phone are fried, but the housing still looks brand new – in this case, the insides will be scrapped and replaced with new parts, but the housing will be placed back on the unit. The internals of the phone are now basically brand new, but the sticker will still indicate water damage.
Batteries also have a water damage sticker, which is extremely sensitive. If a customer purchasing refurbished items receives a battery with a red water sticker, they should test the battery before beginning to worry. Often, batteries are purchased in large over stock lots consisting of hundreds of batteries in a container, which has been sitting on a shelf in a warehouse for an extended period of time. If the batteries are exposed to high levels of humidity, the stickers will activate and indicate water damage even though the batteries still function as new. These types of batteries are often wiped down after being taken out of their containers to remove any dust that has accumulated from the warehouse, which will also often activate the stickers.
Because any phone that has been truly refurbished will function like new, any retailer selling refurbished phones should offer some sort of warranty on the device. When shopping for a refurbished phone, make sure to purchase from a retailer who has enough confidence in the refurbishment of their phones to offer you a customer satisfaction guarantee so that you can rest assured that you are purchasing a fully functional phone for a fraction of the original price.