A New Eco Phone Subscription Service – Curiously Conscious

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Collage of images showing Besma reviewing Nokia Circular eco phone subscription service

It’s time for another eco tech review! Over the last few years, I’ve invested in a number of devices that help facilitate my work – writing, content creation, and copious amounts of emailing – and I’ve made a real effort to source them as sustainably as possible. (You can check out my eco tech collection here). Well, after recently learning that Nokia – yes, they’re still around – had launched an eco-friendly subscription service, I had to try it. Introducing, Nokia Circular!

What Is Nokia Circular?

Nokia Circular is a mobile phone subscription service offered by Nokia Mobile UK. The aim of the service is to provide customers with access to latest Nokia devices, and encourage them to keep them in use for longer. Over time, customers earn rewards, called ‘Seeds of Tomorrow’ credits, which can be used to support the user’s preferred charitable causes.

Subscriptions on Nokia Circular start from as little as £9/month, with Nokia’s top of the range phone – the X30 5G – costing just £22/month. However, unlike mobile financing, your subscription continues month to month until you are ready to return the phone to Nokia.

While on the Nokia Circular subscription, you’ll also benefit from hassle-free replacements if your phone is damaged or stolen (terms and conditions apply). And, at the end of its life, you can return the phone to Nokia who will ensure it is reused or recycled.

Trialling Nokia Circular In Five Days

In order to try out Nokia Circular, I was sent a giant Nokia Circular calendar with five doors representing five key moments across a Circular subscriber’s experience. I don’t typically do unboxing videos, nor treat myself to beauty calendars, so this was a real treat!

When researching for this review, I was shocked to discover the average lifespan of a smartphone is 2.2 years. My last phone was with me for just over four years, and even then, I felt a little guilty replacing it! With Nokia Circular, hopefully this figure can be extended – especially if it’s sold in to corporate customers, who use their phones for even less than time on average.

Here’s how I got on with the calendar – circular in form and in nature – showing what it’s like to go through the entire process of a Nokia Circular subscription in just five days…

Day 1: Welcome To Nokia Circular

Nokia has a reputation of building unbreakable phones. My first phone was a 3310, and that phone lasted for years! At first, it made my sceptical that Nokia Circular was just a money making scheme – they highlight how they’ll happily fix phones if they break, but their phones simply don’t! Saying that, this is the first Nokia smartphone I’ve ever had, so I’m not sure how it will measure up to the Nokias of old…

Upon opening Day 1, I found myself with a brand new Nokia X30 5G. This is one of their top smartphones, and even the phone itself has a more sustainable angle, being made from recycled materials and coming in fully recyclable packaging.


Nokia X30 5G Overview

8 GB RAM, 256 GB Internal storage, Dual SIM

The X30 is Nokia’s most sustainable phone to date. The body is made with 100% recycled aluminium and 65% recycled plastic. It’s the jewel in the Nokia Circular crown, which when combined, provides environmental incentives and a take-back scheme at the end of its life.

In terms of performance, the phone boasts a crystal clear 6.43” 90 Hz PureDisplay, and a powerful 50 megapixel rear camera, accompanied by a 16 megapixel front-facing camera. It’s made for content creation, with a range of camera modes, and the GoPro Quik App installed as standard.

The phone also comes with a 3-year warranty, 3 OS upgrades and 3 years of monthly security updates from the date of the product launch.

Nokia X30 5G in box made of recycled materials

Also behind Door 1 was a shocking statistic: smartphones account for 12% of global e-waste. Circular is Nokia’s attempt to reduce that figure.

Once I finished my work day, I set the phone up pretty quickly. As an Android device, it linked to my Google Account straight away, which gave me instant access to my Calendar, Drive, YouTube, and more. I also quickly installed my favourite social media apps through Google Play Store, and customised the phone to feel a bit more ‘me’.

Day 2: My One Year Anniversary

On Day 2, I was excited to try out posting to Instagram from the X30 5G! This phone has incredible cameras, and both the front and back camera make for very crisp, high quality photos and video. I did feel a little slowed down by the speed at which the phone moves, but so far I’m chalking it up to my WiFi – which can be a little unreliable – rather than the processing power of the phone itself.

Under the door of Day 2, I discovered I was celebrating the one-year anniversary of my X30, and with it, my first set of ‘Seeds of Tomorrow’ credits, which were demonstrated with actual basil seeds (yum!) Nokia Circular’s ‘Seeds of Tomorrow’ credits are awarded to Nokia Circular users over time, incentivising them to keep their phone for longer. According to the calendar, after a user’s one year anniversary, you’re awarded two Seeds of Tomorrow credits, which can go towards projects like planting trees through Ecologi, or alleviating digital poverty through The Unconnected.

Day 3: Uh Oh! My Phone Got Damaged!

On Day 3, I found out my phone had been damaged (it hadn’t, but for demonstration purposes, let’s go with it). Thankfully, phones provided through Nokia’s Circular subscription are covered by Nokia, so I can simply return the phone to them, and they’ll issue a replacement free of charge (terms and conditions apply, so be sure to check this before taking out a subscription).

Behind the door was a scented candle, and the invitation to ‘sit back and relax’ as my phone is taken care of. Pretty nice!

Day 4: My Replacement Phone Has Arrived

On Day 4, I opened the calendar to find a clear phone case, and was informed my replacement phone had arrived. In actuality, I was now feeling very at home with my X30, and very glad to have a phone case because I’m the kind of person that immediately buys all the protective gear whenever I get anything new (shoutout to the kneepads I’ve only ever worn once when I tried out roller skating…) While I’ve always used Apple devices, I was starting to understand why my boyfriend insisted on always having an Android phone – the customisability, speed, and functionality are great. We actually discovered the X30 rivals the specs of his relatively new Samsung, while also having a much, much better camera!

Day 5: An (Edible) Thank You Note

Besma opens Day 5 door on the Nokia Circular Calendar

On my final day of the Nokia Circular calendar, I found a thank you note hidden behind the door. It came in a seed-paper envelope, and was printed on edible potato starch paper, which was very eco, less… tasty. However, it was the message on the paper that was most important:

“Circular is designed to help people get the most from Nokia devices while leaving the smallest possible footprint on the planet. If 1 million people held onto their smartphone for an extra year, they would save the same CO2e as needed to power 5,353 homes for a whole year.”

It’s a bold mission, which I like. So, the question is, will Nokia Circular *actually* encourage people to hold onto their phones for an additional year?

My Overall Rating For Nokia Circular: 5/10

E-waste is the fastest growing waste stream of our time. It threatens the health of people and planet, with toxins like lead and mercury leaking into soil and water, and precious metals being virtually unrecoverable. It’s high time that tech giants do something about it, and I’m so pleased Nokia has made a start on it with Circular.

At the same time, I believe the scheme needs some improvements to really prove a success and ensure people do use their phones for an additional year or more.

Subscribers Shouldn’t Pay For The Cost Of Circularity

First off, there’s the potential added cost to users for choosing Nokia Circular (especially if users keep their devices for longer than the average 2.2 years). With traditional mobile phone financing, once the device has been paid off, payments stop, and you keep the phone. With Nokia Circular, the subscription costs remaining the same month-to-month, meaning there is no end to payments, nor the earned ownership of the device.

In the case of my X30 5G, which retails for £399 but is currently being sold by Nokia for £279, the device would effectively be paid off after 13 months (not including interest). If you roll in Nokia’s Phone Insurance Plus, which covers damage and theft, that adds an additional £10/month, which would up to this to roughly 24 months. This still falls short of the 2.2 year average, so I personally think the pricing is currently too high to really incentivise new customers to go for this option over buying a phone outright and/or financing a device.

Seeds of Tomorrow Need To Reward Users, Too

So, where does the extra incentive lie? If Nokia thinks it’s The Seeds of Tomorrow credits, they’re sadly wrong. While the Seeds of Tomorrow credits are of added value, they tap into the value system many of us sustainable folk have – we want the items we buy, and the brands we buy from, to support people and planet. For most tech users, I would imagine discounts or rewards that benefitted the user would be preferred. I just don’t believe supporting a tree planting scheme will keep people subscribed, especially in the face of the extra expense of the scheme. I believe a combination of environmental causes, and user benefits would make for better incentives.

Overall…

Above all, I believe Nokia Circular is a step in the right direction – it’s nice to see a mobile phone brand encouraging their customers for keeping their smartphones in use for longer, and returning them at the end of their life. It’s a great way to raise awareness of the rising problem of e-waste, and keep the precious metals that these devices require in circulation. However, the offering needs to be cheaper and/or include more rewards to really compete with the mainstream ways to buy tech. In its current state, Nokia Circular sadly still places profit ahead of people and planet.

Disclaimer: I was gifted the Nokia Circular calendar and its contents in order to write this review. All views and opinions remain my own.

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