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API Journal Authors: Ed Featherston, Flint Brenton, John Basso, David Dodd, Jason Bloomberg

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Lookout Finds 62% of People Hoard at Least One Old Mobile Phone

This holiday season, 33 million new smartphones1 will hit store shelves, and people everywhere will upgrade to new devices. Mobile phones have an average lifespan of 18 months2, so what happens to old phones, and the personal information on the phones, when they are retired for the next best device? Lookout, mobile security leader and makers of an app that helps people safeguard their phone and their data even if it is lost or stolen, conducted a survey3 to learn more about the growing old phone problem.

Lookout found that there is a mountain of unwanted, unused mobile phones in households across the country. If the unwanted mobile phones in the U.S. were to physically be lined up, there would be a mobile phone trail from San Francisco to the North Pole and back.

  • 62% said they have at least one unused mobile phone in their household (21% have one, 21% have two, 9% have three).
  • Some hoard more than others: 11% said they have four or more unused old mobile phones in their household.

Despite an increasing number of alternatives to dispose of old phones, there are a number of reasons why people leave them unused in drawers and cupboards.

  • Nearly 1 in 3 said they just don’t know what to do with their old phones.
  • 13% said they are concerned about the information on the old phone being exposed.
  • 17% said they have not yet erased the information on their old phones.

“We were surprised to learn how many people hold on to old phones. People are concerned about the personal information living on the device, and we suspect it contributes to why people are still holding on to it,” said Jenny Roy, mobile safety advocate at Lookout. “Before you donate, resell or recycle your phone, it’s important to take steps to remove the data so if your phone gets a new owner, your information doesn’t get exposed.”

In the U.S., it’s estimated that fewer than 11% of discarded mobile phones will be recycled.4 However, people are not against letting go of the device. Nearly 52% of people Lookout surveyed said they would give their phone to a charitable cause, while 22% said they would trade it or sell it for money. According to, the average mobile phone owner has an estimated $160 worth of unused phones in their household.

Lookout recommends that people take a few steps to protect their data and privacy before letting go of an old device:

  • If desired, first save the data. Some might want to save photos and other content from an old phone, and there are several options available, depending largely on device type. For Android, Lookout Premium (14 day free trial - $2.99 per month/$29.99 per year) backs up photos and contacts and can restore data to a new device. iPhone owners can use iCloud to back up and store important data.
  • Before saying goodbye, wipe the phone clean. It’s important to remove data off of the phone before reselling, donating or recycling. For Android, Lookout Premium can wipe personal information, restoring the phone to its original settings. For other device types, do a Google search on how to factory reset. Factory resetting will restore an old phone to its original state, erasing apps, photos, contacts, call logs and more.
  • Don’t forget to ditch the SIM card. If the phone has a SIM card, remove it to ensure that your information cannot be passed on to a potential future owner.

Once the personal data is removed or erased, Lookout urges people to find a productive way to dispose of their old phones. Cell Phones for Soldiers is a charitable organization that collects unwanted mobile phones and provides troops abroad with free calling cards so they can connect with their families at home.

“Those serving abroad don’t have free access to make calls home, so we wanted to provide a way for our country’s heroes to connect with loved ones for free,” said Brittany Bergquist, founder of Cell Phones for Soldiers. “Recycling an old phone is a simple and easy way to support our troops and show gratitude for their service this holiday season, and we’re thrilled that Lookout is helping the cause."

In addition to donating an unwanted phone, people can also opt to recycle it to protect the environment or resell it to make some extra cash. The Sprint Buy Back Program takes unwanted phones of any type or carrier and credits owners the buyback value. Online sites such as Glyde and Gazelle also offer cash in exchange for mobile phones.

Lookout protects people from malware and spyware, backs up personal data, locates lost and stolen phones, and more, in a single app. For more information, please visit or download the mobile security app. For images and information on phone hoarding, please visit

About Lookout

Lookout Inc. is a mobile security company dedicated to making the mobile experience safe for everyone. Lookout delivers award-winning protection from the growing threats facing mobile users today, including malware, phishing, privacy violations, data loss, and loss of the phone itself. Cross-platform, Lookout is designed from the ground up to provide advanced mobile protection while remaining lightweight and efficient on the phone. Lookout is the world leader in smartphone security with 25 million users across 400 mobile networks in 170 countries. Headquartered in San Francisco, Lookout is funded by Accel Partners, Andreessen Horowitz, Index Ventures, Khosla Ventures and Trilogy Equity Partners. Lookout is a 2012 World Economic Forum Technology Pioneer company. For more information and to download Lookout Mobile Security, please visit

1 Canalys, “Global Opportunity Smartphone Forecasts,” August 2012.

2 GSMA, “Mobile Phone Lifecycle,” March 2012.

3 Lookout-commissioned Google Consumer Survey, October 31, 2012. 1,000 US consumers participated.

4 Electronics Take Back Coalition, February 21, 2012.

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