The Dodged Charger

There’s been a lot of talk recently about the rumor that the next iPhone might ship without a charger in the box:

According to well-connected analyst Ming-chi Kuo, Apple is planning to stop including a power adapter and EarPods in the box with 2020 models, and will even remove the power adapter from the new iPhone SE’s packaging later this year.

Sam Byford at The Verge

If this is true, I’m very much in favor of this.

Dieter Bohn at The Verge argues that the environmental impact of e-waste is a very good reason for Apple, a company that often boasts about its efforts to help the environment, to drop the charger:

The International Telecommunications Union estimates that “one million tons of external power supplies are manufactured each year.” Whatever the number that actually turns into waste ends up being, it’s unnecessarily high. […]

To me, the scale of the e-waste problem outweighs the potential frustration that Apple is getting one over on consumers by making them buy a charger separately.

I agree with Bohn here and my opinion is that Apple is driven more by the environmental impact these chargers have than trying to nickel-and-dime their customers (the ludicrously priced $699 Mac Pro wheels kit is a topic for another time). Sure, saving a couple bucks on each iPhone is a nice bonus but this is a company that manufactures $1,000+ phones which sell like hot cakes—no matter what price Apple sells iPhones for, people will buy them.

While the cost of producing and including these power adapters is likely insignificant to Apple, the carbon footprint required and the eventual e-waste they generate is something I suspect they’re taking seriously.

Almost every electronic device that is capable of charging comes with a USB charger that we usually just toss into a drawer, only to dig them out when someone drops by and has forgotten their own. I checked my stash of power adapters earlier today and have no less than a dozen different USB chargers not currently in use, most of which are manufactured by Apple. That isn’t even taking into account the ten or so adapters I dropped off at an e-waste facility last year.

The market for chargers from companies like Anker is massive. You can buy more powerful and versatile power adapters from third-party companies than what Apple provides.

The reaction across the internet has been quite critical of Apple. The thought of not including a power adapter seems to be a particularly hot topic among us nerds (let’s face it, no-one else really cares). I understand why though. I bought a Nintendo 3DS Lite several years ago and vividly remember finding out that a power adapter was not provided once I got it home. Since the 3DS charger was a proprietary connector, I had to go back to the store to pick up a charger.

So how would Apple actually do this? Based on the reaction to the rumor, simply announcing that “no adapter in the box, starting at $799” is going to ruffle some feathers. One possible way Apple could spin handle this is to, well, include a power adapter, but not in the box.

One way I can think of is for Apple to announce that the iPhone 12 comes with a separate USB-C power adapter included in the price. However, customers can opt to skip the power adapter and save $29 (the retail cost of a USB-C adapter). Apple could even make it the default so that every iPhone they sell, it’s “discounted” because the power adapter isn’t provided. Still need a power adapter? Sure, you just pay full price.

Making the power adapter optional

Apple could then argue that they aren’t dropping the power adapter for cost reasons since “the cost of the iPhone includes the adapter”, so it becomes less of a cost-cutting measure and more an incentive for customers to help the environment. Win-win, right?

It’s also worth noting that Apple’s iPhone Upgrade Program and most phone recycling services only require the device—power adapters, earphones, and cables are kept by the owners. We’re already accumulating perfectly functional power adapters, do we really need to get them every time we upgrade our phones?

2 responses to “The Dodged Charger”

  1. Even, better, just include a coupon in the box that can be redeemed online or at an Apple Store for a charger or earbuds.

    If the next iPhone switches to USB-C for charging (via a lightning to USB-C cable), Apple will have to include the charger. Too many people don’t have a USB-C charger at home. Buyers could use an old lightning to USB-A cord, but then there would be complaints about slow charging when they plug in their iPhone 1amp chargers.

    I could see the discussions Apple would be having on including or not including a charger, but the risk to the experience is way to great if they get it wrong. There is also the fact that some iPhone 12 buyers will be first time iPhone owners.

    BTW, the title is hilarious!


    1. A coupon in the box would be a good way to handle this as well. Or at least a coupon that comes with the iPhone so it can be redeemed at the same time.

      I’m not too worried about any potential switch to USB-C and the use of 1A chargers. Unless there’s some dramatic increase to battery capacity, a 5W charger would still be sufficient for most. The iPhone has supported faster charging options for years but Apple continues to include the bare minimum charger since it’s “good enough”. Similarly, wireless charging on the iPhone tops out at 7.5W and at least the ones I have don’t even reach that, but they’re fine. I wouldn’t be surprised if Apple has a trove of data about charging habits and uses it to make a decision on this. My anecdotal assumptions is that most owners charge at night when speed isn’t important.

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