During last week’s iPhone 12 event, Apple, based in Cupertino, proudly advertised its environmental initiatives. Its offices, data centers and shops are 100% renewable energy, and the company aims for zero net “climate impact” by 2030.
Apple’s environmentally conscious redesign has gone beyond corporate offices and shopping malls. This year, iPhones will not come with headphones or a charger, all in the name of reducing waste. This allows 70% more iPhones to be shipped to pallets, and, according to Lisa Jackson, Apple’s vice president of environmental, policy and social affairs, “it’s like taking 450,000 cars off the road every year.”
“This can not only help reduce waste, but also prevent the environmental impact associated with the extraction of raw materials, production and distribution of products.”; said Dr. Teresa Domenech is a professor of industrial ecology at the University College’s Institute for Sustainable Resources, CNBC.
Even then, there is a dissonance in Apple’s new public environmental approach. For all the good the company aims to do, there is one bizarre whim of design that continues to fly in the face of its corporate activity. Apple still has its own Lightning charge port. If the company really cared about the environment, it would switch to USB Type-C.
Hidden costs for iPhone 12
According to Apple, there are currently 2 billion adapters in the world to charge the iPhone, and that’s not counting third-party. Many of these adapters use a standard rectangular USB Type-A port. But complete with the iPhone 12 will be a USB Type-C cable to Lightning, which makes the old adapters incompatible.
Later this month, Apple retailers are likely to ask customers if they have a USB Type-C-compatible charging adapter. Some may, some may not. Of course, these users could also use their old 5W and Type-A adapters for lightning cables. But the new iPhone has a fast charge, and for $ 19 users can upgrade the latest fast electric fuel charging adapters. This limits some of these environmental benefits.
At the moment, most of the technical world has switched to USB Type-C. Today, all Android phones work according to the standard and have been doing so for years. Even the latest iPad and Macbook currently use Type-C, so it’s not as if the connection standard is alien to Apple. This leaves the iPhone unauthorized to others, stubbornly sticking to outdated electrical pins as a means of keeping iPhone users in their own port.
If Apple switched to Type-C, it could add up to the existing ecosystem of cables and adapters in the iPhone 12. Users with a new iPad or MacBook could flip their existing chargers to keep the iPhone 12s charged. Android users who switched to the iPhone could continue to use the charging adapters that come with older phones. Or someone who knows the Android user might have dropped the existing power settings.
Given the potential benefits of saving waste, Apple’s decision to follow Lightning is even more confusing. And let’s not forget that Apple will still need to supply tiny Type-C power adapters around the world to accommodate the new cable included in the iPhone 12. Although these new adapters will have a long shelf life, it will reduce the emission savings that Apple so proudly advertises.
Why Apple doesn’t kill the Lightning port
So why did Apple decide not to use Type-C for the iPhone when the benefits of saving waste are obvious?
Probably a factor as to why they’re doing so poorly. It’s hard to say exactly why Lightning remains, especially when Apple has already switched to USB-C on the iPad and Macbook, but we can assume that if the iPhone is Apple’s most popular product category, lightning-related accessories are strong.
Cables and adapters for charging are cheap. Although Apple did not reveal production costs, in general, the production of the charger on a large scale is only a couple of cents. So, even assuming that the production, boxing and delivery of adapters and cables cost one dollar, with a price of $ 19 apiece, it’s easy money.
At the moment Apple reports sales of cables and chargers, as well as other accessories such as Airpods and Apple Watch. This segment of Apple’s business accounts for $ 10 billion in quarterly revenue. It surpasses the Mac line by almost $ 3 billion. The financial incentive to switch to USB Type-C for the iPhone 12 could deprive Apple of huge benefits from selling accessories.
In general, Apple’s move, which does not include a charger in this year’s phone, is good for the environment. Apple often sets the trend, and the rest of the technical world follows suit. Don’t be surprised if Samsung, LG and others start removing accessories and making boxes slimmer (though probably not immediately in Samsung case). And of course, the lack of accessories will also increase profits.
But don’t assume that Apple is altruistic about this. If it were, it would have killed Lightning years ago, instead of clinging to it with a deadly grip to keep iPhone users from buying elsewhere.