Your iPhone uses more energy than a refrigerator… Hello, may I speak with Apple board member Al Gore?

The Week reports:

The average iPhone uses more energy than a midsize refrigerator, says a new paper by Mark Mills, CEO of Digital Power Group, a tech investment advisory. A midsize refrigerator that qualifies for the Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star rating uses about 322 kW-h a year, while your iPhone uses about 361 kW-h if you stack up wireless connections, data usage, and battery charging.

The paper, rather ominously titled “The Cloud Begins With Coal: Big Data, Big Networks, Big Infrastructure, and Big Power,” details how the world’s Information Communication Technology (ITC) ecosystem โ€” which includes smartphones, those high-powered Bloomberg terminals on trading floors, and server farms that span the size of seven football fields โ€” are taking up a larger and larger slice of the world’s energy pie.

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18 thoughts on “Your iPhone uses more energy than a refrigerator… Hello, may I speak with Apple board member Al Gore?”

  1. Howdy, Geoff
    The data reduction on for my graduate research in x-ray crystallography was done on an IBM 360 and IBM 370 in the early ’70’s. I’m sure my Android uses a lot less electricity and it probably has more computing power.

  2. Once you account for shutdown of newspapers, reduction of magazine publication, and the reduction of physical mail, I would be very suprised if there wasn’t a net negative energy usage for the internet as a whole.

  3. Howdy toothdoctor
    Please do give MBBC an extra-long tummy rub for his trip home. Don’t tell marque2, though, because he may think something naughty is going on.

  4. Just a random thought about the energy use.My sentiments exactly that this is a meaningless factiod.Does anyone still remember a device called the telephone? Has it not always required some form of energy to power it? The tongue in cheek comparisons of cell phone purpose vs. fridge purpose is not far off the mark in its serious nature. Cell phones are a valuable adjunct for transacting business today,and thus ,its cost/benefit ratio dictates that its power use can lead to increased sales,etc., so the cost of the energy is far,far exceeded by its value as a tool of commerce.This is analogous to me using my electric drill to perform dental procedures.The benefits obviously outweigh the cost of the electricity,or else I would not use it to earn a living.(BTW,MT Geoff, last day for giving a tummy rub to MBBC for you. Brother returning from Israel tomorrow,so I |have to give the dog back!)

  5. Don’t they give you warm fuzzies?

    It is probably the cat videos that are causing 90% of the energy use.

  6. Howdy Bob
    There was a time, and in my use of computers at that, when the capacity of a smart phone required an inconveniently large building to carry it around, not to mention using power like it was free.

  7. The more I think about it, the more I think of ways the phones actually save energy. Looking at email or web pages on the phone takes less energy than powering up the desktop to look at the emails as well.

    The smart phones use less energy for just about any application when you use it instead of the regular PC to do your computing.

  8. My smartphone is much easier to dial, has better cell reception, is much, much easier to transport, gets to the web in all kinds of locations much better than my fridge. My fridge makes ice and keeps things cold much better than my smart phone. Based on that in-depth analysis over time, I’ve decided to use a cell phone for mobile communications and data and a fridge for keeping food cold. Heck, my ’89 Camry uses more energy than my fridge, but it sure gets me to work a lot better and doesn’t do nearly as well making ice.
    That is an absolutely silly comparison. I also didn’t see them breaking down the support structure for cell phones into the energy used just for the cell phone and not all other data uses. My guess is the comparison might not be as good.

  9. This just doesn’t pass the smell test. Most of the servers etc were there long before smartphones became popular, so was a good part of the WiFi and internet infrastructure. If a fair apportionment of all that is done (counting only the marginal infrastructure added due to phone traffic), and the phone portion divided among a couple billion smartphones, no way does a phone use remotely as much as a fridge.

  10. The article also doesn’t take into account the energy expended by iPhone rumor sites and by the photographers sneaking photos of parts of the next iPhone. Take these things into account, along with the Angry Birds and Zynga Poker servers and the iPhone may consume even more energy than Hollywood and their private jets. Just saying.

  11. Howdy Ken
    I’m in the trade myself, though not at the enormous data-center level. The thing is, they use a lot of power to support a lot of business. As noted below, the power is distributed among a lot of functions and users. That’s why I question the idea that each user is responsible for a refrigerator’s worth of power annually.
    Marque2 — chaucun a son gout…if you don’t ask, I won’t tell…but it’s possible that porn is responsible for a lot of that refrigerator’s worth of electricity. On average. I confess nothing.

  12. If we don’t all move our business to the cloud – how would the NSA/Administration track us.

    There is a fallacy- that Google and Apple would take down their servers if we stopped using the phone. Also my home WiFi was set up long before I got a smart phone. It is a bit dubious to apportion power to my cell phone when the power was being used all along. Also the phone saves energy for me with navigation so I don’t drive around extra because I am lost. It is also helpful saving gas because I can look for hotels on the phone rather than drive all around looking for the right price

  13. “Your I-phone only heats up your palm”

    I wonder what videos you watch on your iPhone ๐Ÿ˜€

  14. What this really indicates is that the move to Cloud Computing may not be such a good idea. It is smarter to use local computing resources when no advantage is really given in using the Cloud except to ISP’s, Networks and Data providers as a source of new revenue. The question one must ask is why in an age when more powerful micro processors and faster cheaper memory would we want to use network based systems when we already have more than enough power in our hands and desktops? Sadly we may have little choice as the major players see a new source of revenue and will not surrender without a fight.If there ever was a need for consumer protection this is one of them. We are being force fed by all providers on a needless product that only enhances the vendor and not the customer. They get more revenue, data collection, and control while we get network outages, slower response, and less privacy all thanks to the Cloud.

  15. I see that MT Geoff has never been inside a datacenter.

    I work in those places. They use a LOT of power. And most of your iPhone’s processing takes place there.

    Siri alone uses over 100,000 clustered servers. Google Maps uses far, far more. And that’s without counting web servers, mail servers, and all the other services to which your phone connects.

  16. Your I-phone uses very little power. The connections, towers, data farms and all that makes it work do use power, but I’d be very surprised indeed if each user’s drain is anything like what is claimed here.
    I could be wrong, of course.
    In winter, your refrigerator produces covalent heating that is helpful to your home. Of course it produces covalent heating in summer, too, when it isn’t such a good deal.
    Your I-phone only heats up your palm.

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