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Removing Chargers From Phone Boxes Is Not Environment Friendly

Removing Chargers From Phone Boxes Is Not Environment Friendly
Removing Chargers From Phone Boxes Is Not Environment Friendly
Removing Chargers From Phone Boxes Is Not Environment Friendly

A new trend has kicked its way into the smartphone industry and as almost always, it has been started by Apple.

How It Started

Last year, with the launch of the iPhone 12 series, Apple announced that they will be ditching the charging brick and earphones that came inside the boxes till that time. Apple said that there were around 700 million earphones and 2 billion chargers already in circulation. The numbers above exclude third-party statistics, which probably are in billions too.

Through this, Apple implied that users had been accumulating these accessories, and producing millions more is not a good idea on their side. They also pointed out that removing these accessories from the box would reduce the size of the box, allowing them to ship more boxes in one transportation unit.

Now, if you think about millions of these gadgets to be produced, millions of these boxes in transportation, millions of chargers and earphones as electronic waste, the environmental impact seems really huge. Also, to some level, it would positively affect the mining of primary raw materials.

We have got to give it to Apple, they do make things sound very convincing. But let's not be sheep here and put some thought into it ourselves.

The Knock On Effect

As we saw happen in the case of the headphone jack, companies first mocked Apple for its decision but then followed Apple as soon as they realized that Apple got away with it.

The same has been happening in this case as well. In the case of the headphone jack, at least companies held on to it for a little longer. But that's not the case here, Samsung and Xiaomi have already removed chargers and earphones from their latest phones. They were the first ones to mock Apple and after deleting those tweets, they are the first ones to adopt Apple's strategy. They were probably thinking that Apple is going to face some backlash for the decision, but when it didn't, they got on board too.
Removing Chargers From Phone Boxes Is Not Environment Friendly
Samsung's Facebook post(now deleted) | credit: Samsung | Removing Chargers From Phone Boxes Is Not Environment Friendly

The Bigger Picture

You may be convinced that this decision really helps reduce Apple's carbon footprint, but you need to look at the bigger picture here.

The success of the idea of reducing the environmental impact by not providing chargers and earphones solely depends upon the users using their old accessories with the new devices. 

This is where the problem lies. What about first-time iPhone buyers? They are going to have to buy these accessories anyway, and when that happens, there are two more boxes and potentially, two more shipping rounds.
Removing Chargers From Phone Boxes Is Not Environment Friendly
Removing Chargers From Phone Boxes Is Not Environment Friendly
Also, when people buy a new phone, they usually sell or give away the old one. That means that they are also going to have to do the same with the chargers and the earphones too, which results in them buying a new charger and new earphones anyway.

The packaging involved in this process is even worse than what would've turned out if you got these items with the phone itself. When companies produce phones in large numbers, they come up with boxes that are as small as possible, there is no extra packaging for chargers and earphones. But when you buy them separately, they come in a lot more packaging than they would have if they came in the phone box itself. If you buy these things online, there is another layer of cardboard with the online vendor's name on it, and in some cases, a lot of plastic as well.

The accessories provided in the phone box are also very high quality. If you buy these from the smartphone manufacturer then they're going to be expensive, whereas, inside the box, you would have gotten these same high quality accessories for way less money. If you buy cheaper alternatives from somewhere else then they are not going to be as good in quality. The best example of this are Samsung's AKG earphones, they are very high quality and cost around $100/₹7,000 if you buy them separately.

Even if people use their old accessories, their experience is still affected. This point is particularly for Android manufacturers, every year, there are big increments in charging speeds of Android phones, a charger from one or two years ago can't charge a phone from today even close to the speeds that it is truly capable of. 

Apple, on the other hand, has been providing the same super slow 5W chargers for almost a decade now, it was with the iPhone 11 series that their phones finally became fast charging capable. So, you should be just fine with your ancient iPhone charger, chances are, you would have gotten the same 5W charger with your new iPhone 12 if Apple still provided those.

Companies haven't even provided the cost benefit to the customers, phone prices look untouched, but now you also have to pay for phone accessories too. This has become another stream of income for the manufacturers, just like the headphone jack story.


The Hypocrisy

Apple has been doing some good stuff when it comes to reducing their negative impact on the environment, like using recycled materials to make new phones and planning to completely depend on clean energy by 2030.

But this decision just feels like a step to generate more revenue, just like the headphone jack story. Apple is going to save a lot of money by removing chargers and earphones from phone boxes.

The chargers and earphones that come with the phones are very high quality and are quite expensive when you buy them separately, but when they are provided with the phone, their full cost is not charged, this slims down the profit margin, but if Apple doesn't provide these accessories and still sells the phone at the same price, they save a lot of money. Not just this, they also save money in packaging and shipping. With that, it also generates another stream of income for the company when people just have to buy these things separately.

But Apple making an extra buck doesn't hurt anybody as long as they're doing something for the environment, right? What if I told you that sharing this post is environment friendly? Well, it is, now, share it.

This does seem to have a positive impact on the environment, but at the same time, some of Apple's other decisions just seem to do the opposite. Apple decided to provide a USB Type-C to lightning cable with the new iPhones, But the only iPhones that came with a USB Type-C compatible power adapter were iPhone 11, 11 Pro, and 11 Pro Max. Now, the only people that can make use of this cable are the ones that have any of the above mentioned phones, everyone else just has to buy a new adapter to be able to use that cable.

Talking of USB Type-C, Apple has been using their proprietary lightning port for almost a decade now, whereas, all of the rest of the industry has shifted to using USB Type-C, which provides way faster data and charging speeds. If Apple too shifted to USB Type-C then Android and iPhone accessories could have been used interchangeably, which would have actually reduced e-waste, brought uniformity in tech appliances in households, and made things a lot easier for users as well. But the lightning port earns Apple a lot of money in terms of royalties from third party accessories.
Removing Chargers From Phone Boxes Is Not Environment Friendly
Apple's lightning connector | Removing Chargers From Phone Boxes Is Not Environment Friendly
Apple also introduced something called "MagSafe" with the new iPhones. MagSafe is a wireless charger that has magnets in it that align with the magnets placed at the back of the iPhone 12 series. It just snaps to the back of any of the iPhone 12s and charges it. Now, of course, you have to buy this separately, which involves some more packaging and shipping. Does it come with an adapter? No, and to be able to use MagSafe properly, you have to buy Apple's USB Type-C compatible adapter along with it. In total, it is the phone's packaging, then MagSafe's packaging, and then the adapter's packaging, and potentially more than one shipping. Is that environment friendly? Doesn't look like it.


It is rumoured that in the future, Apple will be making a portless phone, which means that MagSafe is going to be the way to charge the phone. This would again be a hypocrite move, that is because wireless charging is very inefficient, roughly 40-50% more inefficient compared to wired charging. This means that this energy is dissipated as heat. Now, we all know if that happens then sooner or later every other manufacturer is going to go portless too, and you can think of the environmental effect it is going to have if so much energy is wasted.

Conclusion

To be honest, I think it is the classic business strategy of creating a problem and then selling the solution, just like Apple did in the case of the headphone jack. The removal of the headphone jack boosted the sales of wireless earphones.

Removing the headphone jack benefited Apple in a lot of ways, it reduced the cost of making the phone water resistant, it generated income in the form of royalties on third party earphones that had to be made with Apple's proprietary lightning connector. Above everything else, they sold a lot of Airpods.

Here too, Apple is generating a lot of money, in terms of increased profit margins on phones, reduced packaging and shipping costs, and separately selling the chargers and the earphones.
Removing Chargers From Phone Boxes Is Not Environment Friendly
Removing Chargers From Phone Boxes Is Not Environment Friendly
But in Apple's defense, they are a company doing business and they would try to earn as much money as they can, and even if their moves make a little bit of a positive impact on the environment, isn't it a good thing?

But what if the environment is just a cover-up in this case, cause, given the environmental impact of Apple's other related decisions, it sure does look like that in this particular case. The same applies for other companies as well.

If companies wanted to do it, they could have done this in a better way. If they really cared about the environment more than their profit then they could have provided a choice to their customers. The ones who needed the charger and earphones should have been given the option to do so, and the ones who didn't need them should have been given the option to avail a discount instead.

Here is an iPhone charger if you were looking for one

Zybux™ 18W Fast Charger For iPhone

Rs.1,499

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