A montage of animations from the 'costs of convenience' short film this includes a phone showing the phrase '6 billion'.
A still from the short film 'Costs of convenience'. Credit: Stuart Holmes

Amelia Jabry writes about ‘Costs of Convenience – The secret life of your smartphone’, a new short film exploring the ’embodied’ emissions of the smartphones, released as part of Cambridge Creative Shorts project for the Festival of Social Sciences 2021.

People are passionate about their phones, but this also makes them vulnerable to upgrade pressures and planned obsolescence.

This, therefore, is an emotional as well as a technological and environmental issue as it concerns perhaps the most important piece of technology a person owns.

The current conversation in the media is on how technology changes, but not on the emissions and impact it has made before reaching the consumer.

This video explores the ’embodied’ emissions of the smartphone and how smartphone users can stay informed of what goes into creating a smartphone.

Emissions come from mining, processing, manufacturing and transport and about 90% of the CO2 and equivalent emissions are created before the phone reaches the consumer.

This video challenges assumptions about environmental costs and seeks to upgrade the smartphone industry’s environmental commitments, not consumer phones.


Watch all the shorts



The short film ‘Costs of Convenience – The secret life of your smartphone’, was released on Thursday 18 November 2021 as part of the Cambridge Creative Shorts project for the Festival of Social Sciences 2021.

The film was one of three innovative films on the socioecological impacts of technology, and how we can use new technologies in sustainable and economical ways, reducing the illegal disposal of electronic and hazardous waste.

Film teams

Costs of convenience – The secret life of your smartphone

Researcher: Amelia Jabry, John Naughton, Ramit Debnath, Jack Lynch, Duanyang Geng, Hunter Vaughan, The Minderoo Centre for Technology and Democracy, University of Cambridge

Creative: Stuart Holmes


From a problem to a resource: waste and the reverse supply chain explained

Researcher: Sytske Wijnsma, Judge Business School, Economics and Policy, University of Cambridge

Creative: Christine Hooper


Small Solutions for Big Problems

Researcher: Nicholas Jose, Centre for Advanced Research and Education in Singapore, University of Cambridge

Creatives: Jude Cowan Montague & Suzie Hanna