While a small percentage of North American consumers say they would be willing to pay a premium for an environmentally friendly phone, less than half say they would buy one even if price, features and performance were equal, according to a new study from ABI Research.
According to the company's survey of 1,000 adult mobile phone users, 7% said they would be willing to pay a premium for a green phone. Not surprisingly, consumers under 35 were nearly twice as likely as older consumers (9.3% versus 5%) to pay a premium for such devices. However, only 40% of all consumers said they would buy one even if it were the same price as a comparable, non-environmentally friendly phone.
"There were a lot of people who think the whole 'green' thing is a sham," Michael Morgan, an industry analyst with ABI, tells Marketing Daily. "Most people we surveyed were also not aware green handsets existed or that handsets could be green."
Only about 4% of the respondents said they were "very familiar" with green handsets, according to the study. That percentage should increase as carriers begin demanding more green options and marketing them to the public. "Companies want to be able to have a green message and be sure that they're on board with green handsets," he says.
Currently, Sprint and T-Mobile offer environmentally friendly handsets to consumers in the U.S., Morgan says. And while regulations in Europe are pushing more makers to produce such handsets, the process of making a handset green -- from properly sourcing all materials to making sure products are recyclable and/or biodegradable -- is enormously complex, and manufacturers want to make sure they get it right. Watchdog groups such as Greenpeace will vet the product to make sure it fits a certain standard, Morgan says.
"You don't want to damage your brand," he says. "So you want to make sure you can stand up to that scrutiny."
Meanwhile, educating consumers about green handsets is a task in itself, Morgan says. The overall complexity means many consumers will rely on the watchdogs to ensure the companies are living up to their claims, he says. "The message to the consumer is going to have to be simple," he says. "Even taking green [programs] out of the equation, most consumers are confused about buying a cell phone in general."