During Apple’s iPhone 12 event last week, the Cupertino-based company was proud to announce its environmental initiatives. The offices, data centers and shops are currently powered by 100% renewable energy. The company aims to have a net zero climate impact by 2030.
Apple’s green redesign extends beyond corporate offices and shopping malls. This year’s iPhones don’t come with earbuds or chargers to cut down on unnecessary waste. In this way, 70% more iPhones can be shipped on pallets. Lisa Jackson, Apple’s vice president of environmental, regulatory and social initiatives, said it was “like removing 450,000 cars a year from the road.”
“This could not only help to reduce waste, but also prevent upstream environmental impacts associated with the extraction of primary raw materials and the manufacture and sale of products.”
Even then, there is a dissonance in Apple’s new public ecological approach. For all the good the company claims to be doing, there is one stubborn design quirk that persists in the face of its corporate activism. Apple is still sticking to its proprietary Lightning charging port. If the company had 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 worldwide, excluding those from third-party suppliers. Many of these adapters use the standard rectangular USB Type-A connector. However, the iPhone 12 comes with a Type C to Lightning USB cable, which makes old adapters incompatible.
At Apple stores, sales reps will likely ask buyers later this month if they have a charging adapter that is USB Type-C compatible. Some might, many not. Of course, these users can also use their old 5W adapters and Type-A lightning cables. However, the new iPhone is quick to charge. For $ 19, users can upgrade to the latest charging adapters for quick electric fuel. This limits some of these environmental benefits.
At this point, most of the technology world has switched to USB Type-C. All Android phones are currently standard and have been for years. Even the latest iPads and Macbooks are currently using Type C, so it’s not like the connectivity standard is alien to Apple. The iPhone remains the rogue runaway dog stubbornly clinging to outdated electric pens to lock iPhone users onto a proprietary port.
If Apple had switched to Type C, the existing ecosystem of cables and adapters could have been integrated into the iPhone 12. Users with the new iPad or MacBook could roll over their existing charging accessories to keep the iPhone 12s charged. Android users switching to the iPhone could still use the charging adapters that came with their old phones. Or anyone in the know with an Android user could have piggybacked their existing power setup.
Given the potential waste savings benefits, Apple’s decision to stick with Lightning is all the more confusing. And let’s not forget that Apple still has to ship tiny Type-C power adapters around the world to accommodate the new iPhone 12 cable. Although these new adapters have a long shelf life, they reduce the emissions savings that Apple makes so proud.
Why Apple Doesn’t End the Lightning Port
Why did Apple choose not to use Type C for the iPhone when the benefits of saving waste are obvious?
It probably comes down to profit. It’s hard to say exactly why Lightning is staying, especially when Apple has already switched to USB-C on iPad and Macbook. However, one can surmise that with the iPhone being Apple’s most popular product category, the lightning-related downstream accessory sales are powerful.
Cables and charging adapters are cheap to manufacture. While Apple hasn’t disclosed the cost of manufacturing, large-scale production of chargers is generally just pennies. Even assuming that adapters and cables are costing a dollar to produce, box, and ship to, at $ 19 each, that’s easy money.
At the moment Apple Reports Selling cables and chargers along with other accessories such as Airpods and the Apple Watch. This Apple business unit generates quarterly sales of US $ 10 billion. It surpasses the Mac line by nearly $ 3 billion. The financial incentive to switch to USB Type C for iPhone 12 could rob Apple of the overwhelming profits from accessory sales.
Overall, Apple’s move not to use a charging adapter on this year’s phone is good for the environment. Apple is often a trendsetter, and the rest of the tech world is following suit. Don’t be surprised if Samsung, LG, and others start ditching accessories and slimming boxes (though it probably won’t do so right away Samsung’s case). And of course not using accessories also increases profit margins.
But don’t assume that Apple is altruistic about this. If it did, it would have killed Lightning years ago instead of holding onto it with a death grip to deter iPhone users from buying elsewhere.