back to article Half of us have old phones STUFFED in our drawers

Fifty-five per cent of Brits have an old handset or two lying about the place, as despite the charities happy to recycle them we're surprisingly reluctant to let them go. Quite why we won't give up our old hardware isn't clear, but figures from Comscore put more than 28 million of them knocking around with more than 12 per …


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  1. P. Lee

    I keep mine in my shirt pocket.

    1. LarsG

      I have 11 including my first ever nokia brick phone from 1995. They make great children's toys ....

      Maybe one day they will become antiques

      'Did people really have to hold it next to their ears to make a call Great Grandpa?'

      As my nephew asked me the other day, 'what kind of video games did you play?'

      My reply ' on with a square white ball and two white lines to bounce them off'

      How things have changed.

      1. Magister


        There was a comment on a previous article (I think)

        A man showing his daughter one of the old rotary dial phones (from c. 1965). She looked at the phone with some puzzlement then asked "how do you send texts daddy?"

        It's old fart time again

      2. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

        with a square white ball and two white lines to bounce them off'

        Isn't that a Win 8 application? :)

  2. edge_e

    Another reason for keeping a phone

    I keep one old handset so I can use it if I break my new one.

  3. Steve Brooks

    And the rest of them don't know how to delete the compromising pictures stored in the memory so they don't dare pass them on!

    1. JetSetJim Silver badge


      My 3 "old" phones are a Nokia 8210, a Motorola V500 and a Motorola PEBL - 1 with no camera, and the others with one that can do no more than render a blur. No incriminating pics whatsoever.

      I wonder what their batteries are like, though - suspect they won't hold much of a charge nowadays.

  4. Ossi

    I don't know if this is a trend, but phones I've bought recently just haven't proved to be as rugged as old phones (including, ahem, a 'Defy' that couldn't 'defy' normal use). So, like the previous poster, I keep an old phone around for when the inevitable happens.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    I wont let mine go because

    they are still useful technology and worth more to me than the pittance these companies will pay.

    I have a nokia N79 hidden in the car with a PAYG sim. It has a piece of software running that means i can dial it and get a set of GPS co-ords so i can pinpoint my car. Usefull for parking in strange cities, as an anti theft and as a subtle reminder to the garage that taking my polar bear killing car for a joy ride is not a good idea!

    I have a N95, great camera, great spare phone. A spare Motorola running fandroid as a OBDII interface for the car (torque, GREAT app) and a spare N8, once again, superb camera and DAB radio...

    The recycling companies wanted to give me about 30 quid for em....Piss off.......

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I wont let mine go because

      +1 for N95 love, mine is my bicycle computer

      +1 for Torque love, excellent OBDII tool, worked well with el-cheapo BT dongle too

    2. dogged

      Re: I wont let mine go because

      You can pry my V3 RAZR and 6310i from my cold, dead... sock drawer.

    3. Annihilator Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: I wont let mine go because

      "The recycling companies wanted to give me about 30 quid for em....Piss off......."

      ^^ That. If they value the phone at less than £20, it's barely worth my time spent going to the post office to get proof of postage. It's also worth more to me as a spare phone.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I wont let mine go because

      To add insult to injury, just look at what they resell them for!

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I have two Android phones in a drawer that no longer get updates so are effectively junk - will dig out a charity envelope. Android is the friend of the phone recycler - my wife has an iPhone 3GS (now over 4 years old and still supported). Green?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "that no longer get updates" - why not find some and apply them yourself? My HTC Desire still gets regular updates... that's kind of the joy of android isn't it? Even when the manufacturers stop supplying updates (afaik, HTC stopped at Froyo?) you can keep applying them yourself. My Desire is happily running CM10 JB..

      1. sisk

        I can't even go find updates for my old Droid anymore. Even Cyanogen dropped support for the thing. Fortunately it still happily plays Netflix over wifi, so my kids love it.

  7. WylieCoyoteUK

    Not all are acceptable

    Maybe I use mine for too long. I checked on a website up a while ago, and all the old phones I have are not considered suitable for recycling.

  8. Wokstation

    I use mine until they die. I've not yet bought a phone when I already have one that works.

    The old, dead, ones get used by the kids as pretend phones... or spaceships.

    1. sisk

      Ditto here. The kids love them. I actually have a bag phone (remember those?) in a toybox somewhere (no, I didn't keep it that got piled in with something I actually wanted at an auction.)

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why is it so surprising?

    My modern smartphone can last half a day without charge and has temperamental reception.. My old Nokia can last about a week, 2 with the spare battery, can take most sims, pick up a signal from nearly anywhere and is damn near indestructible.

    Any questions?

    1. pPPPP

      Re: Why is it so surprising?

      The biggest problem with some of the older phones is they don't work in all countries. Not so great if you go abroad a lot. Fine if you don't though.

      I've still got my 3210, just in case. It's in perfect nick though. Looked after that one a lot more than I look after them nowadays.

  10. Anonymous Custard Silver badge

    Likewise here, as back-up in case the current incarnation dies/wibbles/takes a dive in the toilet. Also a somewhere handy to store the second battery (same as that in the primary phone) without risk of it getting shorted out by any of the other junk in the drawer. But the comment above about current build quality and hardiness to everyday life is the aposite one here.

    That said given the physical state of the things after they've been in use for a while even the most desperate charity probably wouldn't touch them as even a poor African would turn their nose up at it. But I'm sure the kids would enjoy using them as play-toys.

  11. Katie Saucey

    All trash..

    ..if not equipped with a micro-usb connector. I just couldn't stand keeping track of each different proprietary charger (LG/Samsung/Sony were all guilty at some pt), so they got chucked. Seem to be fine with my SII on me and backup HTC in the car. That said, everyone I know has gone through at least 5 or more phones in the last 10yrs, the various stray batteries alone have got to be enough to wipe out a good number of pandas/whales etc...

  12. mrjohn

    I have two, the kids play with them.

  13. auburnman
    Thumb Up

    It's been said above already, but decent phones from the pre-touchscreen era are kept as they are good rugged backups. My one old Android phone sits on my bedside cabinet as my alarm clock which also serves as a mini tablet if I can't sleep or need to look something up/make notes etc in the middle of the night. With no SIM in the card, I can leave it in flight mode and it lasts ages on one charge.

    As spare droid handsets get more common I can foresee a growing number of people repurposing them for pet projects like media centres, mobile security cameras etc. Wired already have an article about some boffins who are using one as the brains of a DIY drone.

    We might even see Google sponsoring a hacking competition for best re-purposing?

  14. Pete 2 Silver badge

    Love a granny

    > Those with children can pass them on generationally

    Good luck with that. You'd have more chance of a child accepting your old clothes (sometimes they come back into fashion) than your old phone.

    However old phones, the simple: press buttons, talk to people types, are ideal for the grannies of this world. They have fewer functions and longer standby times (assuming the battery isn't completely knackered) which is appealing. They also tend to have larger buttons, which for those with failing sight or arthritic fingers is also helpful.

  15. Beavercheese

    Urban Mining

    1. Hoarder mentality - well, it may come in handy in case newest one gets kerplunked accidentally whilst doing a Chewbacca impression in the lav.

    2. Personally don't really trust that the phones will be used for the charity purpose and wil be more likely to be harvested for the precious metals which are prob worth far more than the phone (several Billion pound industry with the rise in gold, copper, iridium etc etc) - You don't think all of the sudden influx of adverts for phone recycling is down to a philanthropic outgushing do you ?!

    3. It would be wrong for peeps with any technical ability or even mild levels of geekery to not have SOME defunct tech sat somewhere !

    4. Oh I appear to be losing the signal..going through a tunn...

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Precious metals...

      Tom's Hardware did an experiment to recover gold from circa 1990 PCs, where the metals were used in larger quantities, using some nasty, expensive chemicals. After all their efforts, they recovered a pea-sized amount. IIRC their conclusion was that on a large scale, it might economical to recover gold from older PCs at 2012 gold prices.

      I would imagine that the tiny component size of modern phones would make it uneconomical to recover metals from, but I'm not certain- any ideas?

      1. Beavercheese

        Re: Precious metals...

        Been going on for years and the prices/results just get higher/better....

        5 second web result...

      2. jonathanb Silver badge

        Re: Precious metals...

        A pea sized amount of gold is worth about $500, so I would say it is definitely worth recovering.

        My workings - 1 cm diameter sphere = 0.53 cm^3

        at 19.3 g/cm^c, that works out at about 10 g or 0.33 troy ounces

        At $1725.23 per ounce, that is $569.32

  16. RachelG

    the two old iphones i have in a drawer are dead, nonfunctional, in different ways that have resisted repair. (one was dropped on a slate floor; computer still works but screen is dead. the other had a dead mute switch which i tried to treat by jailbreaking (to replace it with a software switch) but ended up bricking it.

    would they be interested in those?

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'd be interested to see iPhones in a drawer vs Android phones in a drawer. iPhones seem to keep going for longer (unless as one person said they get dropped or bricked). My bet is because Apple seem to support them for 4+ years there is far less need to upgrade them - indeed I know several people still running an iPhone 3GS every day and apart from Siri and a few things they do not care about it's still a perfectly good phone. Unfortunately can't say the same for the Android phone - not dead but totally unsupported by either the telco or manufacturer.

  18. Tim Worstal

    For years now

    At least two, possibly three, I've been urging El Reg, at the very highest levels, to run a Chrissie charity collection thing.

    "Dear El Reg readers, please post us your mountain of old phones. We'll sort through them, send off for reuse, send off for metals processing, whatever, give the money to charity".

    Not managed to convince the higher ups yet......

  19. Rob

    Just moved

    After moving house a couple of months back we been quite ruthless at clearing out stuff. I finally decided to bite the bullet and get rid of all my old Windows smartphones going right back to the Orange SPV.

    Packaged up 7 of them to Asda Tech recycle and got £20 in total for a few of them. The only phone I kept was the old breeze block phone circa 1992 with a rubber aerial so big you could whip someone with it.

  20. Neill Mitchell

    Not helped by rip off unlock fees

    I've just upgraded and wanted to give my wife my now out of contract HTC Desire HD. Still a perfectly decent phone. I thought I'd do it all properly and phoned Orange for the unlock code and was told that it was going to cost a £20.42 "admin fee". Plus, after paying this rip off fee I would have to wait up to 20 days! (Orange's way of getting round the cooling off period law perhaps?)

    Yes, I know there are other ways of getting the phone unlocked, but most normal users won't want to, or be able to go down those routes.

    So now do I bother? I have paid for that phone fair and square, so being charged over 20 quid for a 20 day wait is bollocks, especially as I want to make good environmentally sound re-use of the phone.

    1. auburnman

      Re: Not helped by rip off unlock fees

      You have a few options. The phone helldesks are useless, more interested in getting rid of you than helping you.

      1) Try visiting an Orange store and asking for the unlock code, if you're still in a contract with Orange after your upgrade they'll probably not try to charge a fee (don't mention it if they don't!) They're less likely to not give you what you want if potential punters can overhear the kind of service you're getting. Plus a store assistant can't hang up on you if they don't want to talk to you*.

      B) Try looking for an independent phone accessories shop in town or in the market. They'll likely charge, but they should do it then and there and you can probably haggle them down to about a tenner.

      iii) Google around online a bit and see if you can get an unlock code. I'd pick this as a last resort option, as a fair few sites try to look like free help sites that describe all the steps you need to find your EMEI number etc but ask for money just before they give you a code. Add in the possibility of conflicting, misleading or just plain wrong information out there and you could brick your phone.

      *Like they did to me last week. Grrr.

      PS if you are still with Orange you'd do well to check your bill. I just discovered they've been massively overcharging me for data.

  21. The Quiet One

    I've for about 20 handsets of various Makes/Models stowed away. I hasten to add the marjority are my wife's old handsets. However, they all still work (right down to the old faithful Nokia 5110) and should the Zombie Appocalypse be upon us a fully charged Nokia will be a hell of a lot more useful than any smartphone i can lay my hands on.

  22. imanidiot Silver badge

    Nokia 3310

    I've been using a 3310 for the past 12 years. Apart from a few new batteries (cheap chinese Li-ions for roughly $2,00 a pop) and 2 new screen modules (managed to fall on it while ice skating, repair it, then the next year repeat that process) it's still in perfect working order. I'll keep using it until it has fallen apart, stopped working and is unrepairable. (And a lot of the parts are still obtainable through flea-bay. Only the main circuit bord seems to be completely unobtainable now)

    *Nuke, because I'm pretty sure the damn thing could survive one*

  23. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

    you'll only get my v3i RAZRs..

    .. when I'm dead. Stupid OS, idiotic shiny keyboard, but FANTASTIC compact and very elegant fits-in-any-pocket clamshell design, almost a week's worth of battery standby life (with a battery that is as old as the phone) and cracking good reception. They sadly don't make 'em like that anymore.

  24. 2FishInATank

    Good grief

    Dear Bill,

    It's 'drawer' not 'draw'.

    You'rs discustid,

    Tunbrige Wels

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