As the Green wave grows, it seems the message is slowly percolating through, with fresh research this morning claiming consumers would be willing to buy a green handset. Apple’s recent moves toward environmental transparency could become another card to drive success in the smartphone war.

Results from a 2009 ABI Research survey of 1000 adult mobile phone users in North America reveal that approximately 7% would be willing to pay a premium for an environmentally-friendly handset. A further  40% would choose a green handset over a conventional one if price, features, and performance were equal.
“These survey results mean that almost half of those surveyed were at least committed in principle to use of a green handset,” comments industry analyst Michael Morgan. “However the public is largely uninformed about their availability: only 4% said they were ‘very familiar’ with green handsets.”

This could be bad news for many handset makers, as it implies growing public interest in and awareness of the need for greener consumer electricals.

“Creating a verifiably green handset can mean revamping the whole supply chain and retooling the production process,” the researchers said. Watchdog groups such as Greenpeace are on the alert for “greenwashing.” Says Morgan, “There’s an avalanche of information to be managed, just to prove that you’re green.”
We now know that Apple is already actively engaged in revamping its whole supply chain, most recently learning the company has already developed a replacement material for PVC, a material conceivably already used within the iPhone.

Quoting from Apple’s own environmental report on its iPhone 3GS, we learn it is designed with the following features to reduce environmental impact:

– PVC-free handset
– PVC-free headphones
– PVC-free USB cable
– Bromine-free printed circuit boards
– Mercury-free LCD display
– Majority of packaging made from post-consumer recycled fiberboard and biobased materials
– Power adapter outperforms strictest global energy efficiency standards.

Now, we’re not in a position to say this is the greenest mobile available on the market, Murphy’s law says it probably isn’t, but given the opacity with which many manufacturers reveal the green credentials of their products, surely Apple’s recent moves to become more open about these matters opens another front in the ongoing smartphone wars. And Apple has taken great strides recently to not just live within environmental legislation, but to exceed them.

Analyst Morgan observes, “There’s a difference between being merely compliant and being truly green. The three key factors are: using recyclable or renewable materials; ensuring that handsets are in fact recycled after use; and introducing low-power chargers. Even more crucial for the long-term: leveraging the lessons learned in this process and applying them right through entire handset portfolios.”

Clean Production Action and ChemSec recently issued a report that highlights Apple as one of seven companies that lead the pack in terms of eliminating toxic substances from electronic poducts.

They said: “Apple established an innovative program that restricts the use of nearly all bromine and chlorine compounds across all their product lines. As such, Apple now offers a wide range of PVC and BFR free consumer products including iPhones and iPods, as well as computers that are free of BFRs and most uses of PVC.”

Apple has worked with another company to develop a replacement for PVC, which is understood to become commonplace in use in Apple products during the coming year, BusinessWeek informs.

Apple’s recent move to quit the Chamber of Commerce underlines the company’s commitment to advance the green debate. It is also clear Apple is intent on genuine moves to engage with these issues, in order to avoid accusations of ‘greenwashing’.

We’re curious now what the green credentials of the host of Android and Win Mobile powered devices will be, and what the environmental impact assessments on the Palm Pre and RIM products turn out to be.

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