During Apple’s iPhone 12 event last week, the Cupertino-based company was proud to publicize its environmental initiatives. Its offices, data centers and stores are currently running on 100% renewable energy and the company is aiming for a net zero “climate impact” by 2030.
Apple’s environmentally friendly redesign has extended beyond corporate offices and shopping malls. This year’s iPhones won’t ship with headsets or chargers, all in the name of reducing unnecessary waste. This allows 70% more iPhones to be shipped on pallets and, according to Lisa Jackson, Apple’s VP of Environment, Politics and Social Initiatives, “it’s like removing 450,000 cars off the road a year.”
“This could not only help reduce waste, but would also prevent the upstream environmental impacts associated with the extraction of primary raw materials, the production and distribution of products”, She said Dr Teresa Domenech, lecturer in industrial ecology at the Institute for Sustainable Resources at University College London, at CNBC.
Even then, there is a dissonance in Apple’s new public green approach. Despite all the good the company claims to do, there is a stubborn stubbornness of design that continues to remain, in contrast to its corporate activism. Apple is still loyal to its proprietary Lightning charging port. If the company really cared about the environment, it would have switched to USB Type-C.
The hidden costs of the iPhone 12
According to Apple, there are currently 2 billion iPhone charging adapters in the world, and that doesn’t include third-party ones. Many of these adapters use the standard rectangular USB Type A port. But included with the iPhone 12 will be a USB Type-C to Lightning cable, which makes older adapters incompatible.
In all Apple stores later this month, sales reps will likely ask shoppers if they have a USB Type-C compatible charging adapter. Some may, many may not. Of course, these users could also use their old 5W adapters and Type A cables for lightning. But the new iPhone has fast charging, and for $ 19 users can upgrade to the latest charging adapters for a quick electric refuel. This limits some of these environmental benefits.
Right now, most of the tech world has switched to USB Type-C. All Android phones are currently on the standard and have been for years. Even the latest iPads and Macbooks currently use Type-C, so it’s not as if the connection standard is foreign to Apple. Leave the iPhone as the rogue flaw, stubbornly sticking to outdated electrical pins as a means of keeping iPhone users tied to a proprietary port.
If Apple had switched to Type-C, it could have allowed the existing ecosystem of cables and adapters to be folded into the iPhone 12. Users with the new iPad or MacBook could use existing charging accessories to keep the iPhone 12s charged. . Android users switching to iPhones could have continued to use the included charging adapters with their old phones. Or anyone who knows this with an Android user may have ditched the existing power setup.
Given the potential benefits in terms of waste savings, Apple’s decision to stick with Lightning is even more disconcerting. And let’s not forget that Apple will still have to ship tiny Type-C power adapters all over the world to accommodate the new cable included with the iPhone 12. While these new adapters will have a long lifespan, it will reduce the emissions savings Apple so proudly advertises. .
Why Apple won’t kill the Lightning port
So why did Apple choose not to adopt Type-C for iPhone when the benefits of waste saving are seemingly evident?
It probably comes down to profit. It’s hard to say exactly why Lightning will remain, especially when Apple has already moved to USB-C on iPad and Macbook, but it can be assumed that with iPhone being Apple’s most popular product category, lightning-related downstream accessories sales are powerful.
Charging cables and adapters are cheap to make. While Apple hasn’t disclosed the manufacturing costs, large-scale charger production is generally only a couple of cents. So even assuming the manufacturing, packaging, and shipping of adapters and cables is a dollar, priced at $ 19 per piece, it’s easy money.
At the moment, Apple relationships selling cables and chargers along with other accessories like Airpods and Apple Watch. This segment of Apple’s business represents $ 10 billion in quarterly revenue. It’s topping the Mac line by nearly $ 3 billion. The financial incentive to switch to USB Type-C for iPhone 12 could deprive Apple of the huge earnings from accessories sales.
Overall, Apple’s decision not to include a charging adapter with this year’s phone is good for the environment. Apple is often a trend setter, with the rest of the tech world following suit. Don’t be surprised if Samsung, LG, and others start removing accessories and making boxes thinner (though probably not right away. The case of Samsung). And, of course, not having to include accessories will also increase your profit margins.
But don’t assume Apple is unselfish about all of this. If it were, it would have killed Lightning years ago, instead of clinging to it with a death grip to prevent iPhone users from buying elsewhere.