Over the weekend, lots of sites reported that Apple analyst Ming-chi Kuo is claiming that the iPhones due to be released later this year won’t have chargers or EarPods in the box. If you want to know what most tech bloggers thought of the rumor, you can head over here to see all the tweets, almost all of which amount to “that sounds like a bad, user-hostile thing to do.”
I say good: drop the in-box charger (but I have a couple requests).
I’m with Bohn on this one: Good. There is nothing user-hostile about not including a thing in the box everyone already has.
The iPhone story two years ago was, “Apple’s iPhone sales are flat because Apple has run out of new people to sell iPhones to.” And it’s true. There are no more “new” smartphone customers. It’s no longer a matter of selling consumers something totally new, it’s getting them to upgrade. And if they’re upgrading their iPhone 6S to the iPhone 12, why are they in need of yet-another power brick or cheap pair of earbuds?
Even upgrading from Android to iPhone, the old Samsung or Moto or Pixel charger is still going to work, all you need is the Lightning cable.
So now the iPhone story is, “Apple’s not including a power brick in the box, despite everyone already probably owning more than one.” But think about the big positives that can come from not needing to produce something most people will immediately dispose of. Steven Yang, the CEO of Anker (which sells chargers and cables) says of e-waste:
[Say] every smartphone has a charger with it. We had 1.5 billion smartphones that shipped last year. … That’s only for phones. When we have tablets, laptops, power drills, [and more], we estimate a total of four billion chargers (were shipped last year). We estimate about 300,000 tons of e-waste just from these in-box chargers.
If Apple is not including a brick in the box to increase their margins, the pure side effect of this is a massive environmental positive, and I’m really okay with that. My headline is at least partially true, and if these bricks and earbuds don’t end up in a landfill, they’re left to rot in a box, but then you’ve spent energy and resources to produce drawer clutter. Why are we in favor of producing drawer clutter?
And remember, the iPhone SE (2) still includes a charger. (Update: Nope, Apple has removed these from the SE box, too.) This is the high end iPhone 11S/12 — the next $1,000 smartphone — that won’t include a charger. The consumers most likely to be buying a $1,000 smartphone already have a charger — or multiple chargers — ready to go. They don’t need more.
The people acting upset by this rumor are the same people who were upset when Apple didn’t include a floppy drive on the iMac and removed the headphone jack from the iPhone 7. These are the people who can’t imagine a future in technology beyond 1.44 megabytes at a time. This is ultimately Apple positioning itself for the future, either for the next charging technology, or the next evolution in smartphone design, or both. Apple isn’t a company that allows the bean counters to run product design. This is the company that sells a $50,000 professional computer and marketed one of the first $1,200 smartphones. And Apple is a 1.5 trillion dollar company. Apple doesn’t need to adjust their margins by $5 to make a profit — trust me, they’re making plenty of profit. If this rumor is true, and I suspect it is, this is about Apple positioning themselves for something even bigger — next year.