Grover and Back Market against planned obsolescence

Two new companies are looking for a second life for consumer electronics by renting products or betting on reconditioned products
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REUTERS/STEPHEN LAM  -   Tim Cook unveils iPhone 11

"Around 50 million tonnes of electronic waste are generated worldwide every year". Or, at least, that's what the United Nations Environment Programme says. There is a wheel that does not stop turning because all parties profit economically. It is not worth stopping to assess whether manufacturing a new iPhone, television or camera every year is a good idea for the environment that companies defend so much.

To sell the new, you have to generate the desire in the buyer. Once the buyer has made the outlay, the company has achieved its goal. If this happens every 365 days, the user can accumulate several phones, even if he only uses one. The seller didn't care about the accumulation of handsets as long as the last one sold more than the previous one. Until the wave of sustainability arrived. Of conserving and caring for the environment. Many mobiles ended up in the rubbish bin and the mercury, lead, cadmium, lead, chromium, arsenic and antimony that make up electronics ran rampant in the mountains and rivers. Between legislation and the dictatorship imposed by certain fashions such as caring for the planet, brands became more aware and took responsibility for their devices or opted for a more responsible workforce.

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AFP/JUSTIN SULLIVAN/GETTY IMAGES - Two new companies are seeking a second life for consumer electronics by leasing products or betting on refurbished ones

We must not forget that technology is expensive because it is good and has quality components. You can't fool everyone all the time. An iPhone or a Samsung costs the thousand euros that are being asked for them. Because of their technology, their materials, their design... and that gives them a useful life of many years. But it is in Apple's or Samsung's interest to produce a new model long before the old one runs out in order to make money. The middle ground between saturating the market and crowding the world with mobiles and getting rich has to exist somewhere along the line. And if someone wants their iPhone to stay in their pocket longer than it should, Apple has no problem discontinuing it and leaving it without technical support or updates.

In 2021, two companies have arrived in Spain with the aim of extending the useful life of technology. They want to show companies that if their products are as good as advertised, they will have many years of use and enjoyment. From hand to hand, in the case of the rental proposed by the German company Grover, or by selling reconditioned products, as the French company Back Market does.

Grover

Grover was founded in 2015 in Germany. It is dedicated to renting technology. In June 2021 it arrived in Spain to boost the market and offer something exclusive that geeks of the latest consoles, cameras and mobiles have been demanding for some time. Its way of lending gadgets is very simple. Users register on their website, enter a payment method and, most importantly, validate their account. This process is key. Grover asks for a picture of the ID card and a video where the customer can be clearly seen turning his face and counting to five. This is to avoid fraud when renting such high priced products.

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AFP/JUSTIN SULLIVAN - Google Nexus 5X devices during a Google media event September 29, 2015 in San Francisco, California

On Grover's website you can find the iPhone 12 Pro Max for 129 euros if you rent it for one month or 54 euros if you rent it for 12 months; the GoPro Hero9 for 29.90 euros per month if you rent it for six months; or the in-demand xBox Series X, which costs 30 euros per month and is returned after a year. Once the purchase has been made, Grover validates the process or denies it depending on the number of rentals the user has and some other algorithm that is not public, but which may depend on the risk set by the insurers. If you give the go-ahead, within three days you will receive a box at home with, for example, the iPhone 12 Mini. Inside will be the official Apple packaging with the cable. In addition, Grover adds its own case, screen protector and cleaning kit. The model arrives without any signs of use or scratches.

From that moment on, the iPhone belongs to the buyer on a lease basis. If it is damaged, the company's insurance covers 90% of the repair costs. When the rental period comes to an end, the user returns the product by courier with a return label. Grover cleans and reconditions the device for the next rental. It is also possible to extend the term or purchase the device.

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REUTERS/STEPHEN LAM - The Apple Watch Series 5 is displayed in the demo area during a launch event at its headquarters in Cupertino, California, U.S
Back Market

Back Market does nothing new, but it does it better. Selling refurbished products is something that Apple even includes on its website. They are products that have been through the workshop and that, for that reason, have to be sold as "almost new" but that have all their properties and a year of official warranty. mResell or Used Apples are other websites that have tried to do the same, but they have lacked investment. They sell what they have previously bought from users who want to get rid of old products.

According to their website, Back Market's share capital is 33,866.95 euros. Their business is so interesting that it is already valued at 1,000 million euros and has received an investment of 276 million led by General Atlantic. In addition, they have such important backers as Aglaé Ventures, Eurazeo, Goldman Sachs Growth and Daphni.

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REUTERS/KIM HONG-JI - LG Electronics smartphones at a shop in Seoul

Unlike Grover, Back Market has many more products, although some of them are also old, such as the iPhone 4, discontinued since 2013, which they sell for around 80 euros. You can also find the 1Tb xBox One X for 278 euros, a discount of 69% compared to a new one. Or a Galaxy Z Flip for €837, 53% below its official price.

The trick is in the product statuses. Something similar to what Amazon has on its website. Excellent, Very Good and Good are the three grades. Items rated Good may have scratches, but they are checked and clean and the batteries are at least 85% of their original capacity. As they tout on their website "they're a little better for the planet". The Back Market website contains two official shops to sell new and refurbished products from both Oppo and Polti.

apple-nuevas tecnologias
AFP/JUSTIN SULLIVAN/GETTY IMAGES - Two new companies are looking for a second life for consumer electronics by renting out products or going for refurbished ones

The bonus offered by the Back Market app is the possibility of assessing the quality of the handset through a series of tests of screen, battery, sound, speakers, GPS... that determine its price and condition.

Many years have passed since that 3 September 1995 when eBay saw the light of day. It was the first attempt to sell second-hand products. Now come two companies that improve on that idea and create a sustainable ecosystem to extend the life of technology and make it more accessible. The technology was already good before they came along. There is no doubt that they are going to cause movement in the market. If they are able to get a single user to rent the mobile phone they were going to buy or opt for a refurbished one at a significant saving, the big tech companies will have to reinvent their business model and start taking care of the planet for real and not with adulterated marketing.