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Why Apple won’t Give Free Chargers with New iPhones

Apple has decided not to provide free wall chargers and wired earphones with its new iPhone 12. Will this reduce e-waste, or just increase the company’s profits?

Apple announced this week that it would not give free wall charging plugs and wired earphones with the variants of its forthcoming iPhone 12. Instead, they will hit the market with just a USB-C to Lightning cable. The company has also decided not to give chargers and earphones along with the previous versions available in the market. 

The technology giants believe that the new measure would help cut the electronic waste since most of its customers already have the accessories or have switched to wireless options like the AirPods.

However, the critics believe that it is yet another move by the American company to make more money. The move will cost the customers dearly, while Apple would increase its margins and save on shipping costs. They argue that Apple has already made things difficult for the environment by bringing out new products that are compatible only with other Apple gadgets.

So, is Apple really doing something in favour of the environment or is it just another profitability measure?

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The data collated by TheWorldCount says humans generate around 40 million tons of e-waste every year. This is equal to throwing 800 laptops every second. E-waste comprises 70% of our overall toxic waste, while only 12.5% of it is recycled. 

E-waste contains several toxic substances including mercury, lead, arsenic, cadmium, selenium, chromium, and flame retardants. The largest share of electronic gadget consumers is from developed countries. But the e-wastes these gadgets generate end up in the landfills of Asia and Africa. These are extremely harmful to land, air and water. Therefore it is important to reduce the production of gadgets and maximise the recycling process. 

Apple’s e-waste

The Silicon Valley company unveiled the highly anticipated iPhone 12, along with three other smartphones – the iPhone 12 Pro, iPhone 12 Pro Max and the all-new iPhone mini at a live-streamed event. However, the biggest news from the event was Apple’s decision to not give the free accessories with their phones.

Reports of Apple’s plan to ditch its freebies had been floating on the internet for over a year. The users were expecting the company to pass on the savings to the buyer. However, that has not been the case. The price of iPhone 12 is just as high as any other new Apple product.

According to Apple, ditching the wall chargers and the earphones enables it to shrink the physical size of the packaging. This would help to squeeze more boxes into every shipping container. They claim this will cut over 2 million metric tons of carbon emissions annually. This equates to removing 4.5 lakh cars from the road each year.

Apple also says most of its customers are existing iPhone users who already have the charger and the earphones or they have migrated to the wireless charging points and AirPods. As part of its announcement, Apple said there are already 700 million Lightning earphones out in the world, as well as 2 billion Apple power adapters, suggesting most people already have both accessories.

The data from the second quarter of 2020 says Apple has 14 per cent of the global smartphone market share. The market leaders are Huawei and Samsung (both at 20 per cent).

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Apple’s sales historically go up in the fourth quarter of every year and take the leading position when they launch their new products in October. This trend is likely to happen this year as well when the iPhone 12 and its variants hit the market, which would eventually lead to more e-wastes.

Who benefits?

Although the motive sounds good on the face of it, given that no part of the savings out of it goes to the consumer, it is only likely that Apple’s new decision is simply to increase its margins. That’s not all.

The new iPhones and MacBook models have now switched to USB-C ports that help in fast-charging. This means the customers will have to actually shell out more to buy Apple’s new AirPods and USB-C chargers or charging ports if they want to make full use of the Apple products. While some may use what they have at home, some may still need to buy those. For such customers, the company would need to pack and transport the accessories separately, which would only add to the environmental consequences.

Towards the future

Apple recently removed its competitors’ headphones from its website and retail stores as the company looks to bolster the sales of its AirPods and prepares to launch new over-ear headphones. 

The decision to not give free chargers and earphones is also a step towards the future. We are slowly moving towards a stage where all wired devices are being phased out. Apple clearly believes wireless chargers and AirPods are the future, and tomorrow’s devices would not come with charging ports.
The fact that Samsung is already rumoured to copy Apple’s decision is further proof that Apple may be setting yet another trend with this controversial decision.

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