Apple and the Charger in the Box

Yes. Another unpopular opinion. I have really thought hard and read about this one though. Apple, on October 13, had its yearly iPhone release event where they declared that they will no longer be providing a free charging adapter and EarPods along with any iPhones. The only free accessory that you will get with iPhone 12 series phones is a USB-C to Lightning cable for charging and data transfer needs. This has caused an uproar among buyers and the internet at large. The general public, at large, have accused Apple of being a bit stingy that a brand can’t provide adapters and earphones inside the box after a customer has paid over Rs 1 lakh for a new iPhone. But I believe that this is a somewhat good decision which will be copied by several other tech companies in the future.

Apple defended this decision to not provide any freebies as an environment friendly measure. No accessories inside boxes will allow Apple to provide thinner iPhone boxes and also reduce e-waste. Several Android brands as well have stopped providing earphones out-of-the-box by justifying that it helps them offer affordable prices.

Of course, I believe that it’s disappointing for iPhone buyers. It is a bad, user-hostile thing to do especially at a time when the buyers are accusing Apple of charging the same amount of money and giving a customer less.

At the same time, the company’s reasons were straightforward . They declared that Customers already have over 700 million Lightning headphones, also over 2 billion Apple power adapters out there in the world, and that’s not counting the billions of third-party adapters. Removing these items from the iPhone box, reduces carbon emissions and avoids the mining and use of precious materials.

This is a welcome move for some who believe that most of the people have additional chargers and earphones with them and that the freebies they get from Apple are often wasted but the general consensus is that the Company is trying to cut cost and keep the profit margin steady with the increasingly costly manufacturing processes. To me, the scale of the e-waste problem outweighs the potential frustration that Apple is getting one over on consumers by making them buy a charger or earphones separately.

The world generated 53.6 million metric tons of electronic waste in 2019, according to the Global E-Waste Monitor 2020, That number will continue to spike up to 74 million metric tons by 2030, almost double the amount recorded in 2014. E-waste, which includes batteries, appliances, phones, screens, and cables, might seem like junk at the end of its lifecycle to the people tossing it out, but those items contain traces of valuable components like iron, copper, and gold. The report says the value of raw materials in global e-waste from 2019 sits at around $57 billion.

Apple’s analysis is based on this impression that some users really don’t need chargers and EarPods, because they already have them. The old chargers and earphones would not become redundant and could still be used. Not including them could not only help to reduce waste but also would prevent upstream environmental impacts linked to the extraction of primary raw materials, manufacturing and distribution of products.

Reducing the amount of electrical debris that comes with products is a welcome step in reducing the environmental impact of new smartphones.  People need to realise that it’s always about margins, it’s a business but at the same time it can also be about waste reduction. This can be a cash grab by Apple and still be better for the environment and lower e-waste. A sort of classic “Two Birds One Stone” situation.

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