Apple have taken the world by storm since its creation in 1977. Starting by manufacturing personal computers, it has been an industry leader in technology ever since. From producing laptops, to tablets, to mobile phones and the portable media players; Apple have done it all.
They have become an extremely reputable brand and their popularity keeps on growing. They release a new mobile phone at least once a year. In between the years of 2011 and 2019, it is estimated that a huge 52.5 million iPhones were bought in the UK.
They have been previously accused of planned obsolescence. The Cambridge dictionary defines this as “a situation in which goods are deliberately made or designed so that they do not last for a long period of time”. It has been thought that Apple have purposefully designed phones which will not be compatible with future new software releases, to encourage people to buy newer models.
More recently, the iPhone 7 was designed with no separate earphone jack. The design of the earphone cable was changed to have the same lightning cable as their chargers. This means that the user cannot charge their phone and listen to music at the same time. Therefore this encourages people to buy Apple’s air pods. With the earphone lead also being a specific shape, it also means that customers cannot not use any brand earphones for the phone; they have to buy Apple specifically.
Planned obsolescence is not only bad for the customers pockets, but it also has a huge effect on the environment. With many usable phones being thrown out in favour of a newer model, the amount of e-waste going to landfill is very high. Furthermore, there is a huge amount of materials being extracted from the earth to make these unnecessary new products.
Apple’s commitment to the environment
Learning about planned obsolescence does give a sense of a money hungry business, with no care for the environment. However, in recent years, Apple have started thinking more and more about their impact on the environment.
Their overall goal is to be completely carbon neutral by 2030. To do this, they have been looking into the components that are most carbon intensive and have been rethinking how their carbon footprint can be reduced. Apple pride themselves on producing high quality products, and they want the materials they use to reflect this. Using scrap metals to create new products does not always meet their high standards. Therefore, they have instead developed new alloys which are 100% recyclable and does not compromise on quality.
Now here is the interesting part, they are designing phones for longevity. Apple are encouraging people to use their phones for as long as possible, as to reduce the need to mine new materials from the earth. This is a complete contradiction from the planned obsolescence that they were accused of previously. Are they just realising their responsibility to the environment now?
Apple have changed the way they package their products. They now only use fibre-based packaging for their products and for the bags they give out in store.
They have also introduced a trade-in system. Apple are encouraging customers to trade-in their used iPhones for the latest models, to avoid them going to landfill. They recover the materials from the used device and use these to create the materials for the new products. This trade-in reduces the need to extract new materials from the earth.
They have also made some big changes to their newest iPhone model.
The iPhone 12 – Inside the box
Released in October 2020, the iPhone 12 is the next in the long line of iPhone models released by Apple. This time, they have considered what is inside the box, and how it impacts the environment.
As people upgrade their phones so regularly, they have finally realised how unnecessary it is to have new earphones and charging cables in every box. As the new model works with existing lightning cables and earphones, Apple have made the decision to remove them from the box completely.
The idea behind this is that it removes the need for people to throw away usable items. If thrown away, these perfectly working charging cables would go to landfill. People are, therefore, being encouraged to keep using their existing ones. By doing this, Apple can reduce their carbon footprint by avoiding mining materials from the earth to create new products.
Furthermore, the box that the iPhone 12 comes in can be made smaller. This reduces the amount of materials used to create it. By the packaging being smaller, more boxes can be sent on each shipment. In turn, this reduces the amount of shipments needed overall.
However, I can imagine that this change won’t sit well with everyone. Apple tend to focus on returning customers, and ensuring people upgrade their existing Apple products. The lack of charger just won’t work for people who are new Apple. What if someone’s first Apple product is an iPhone 12? Surely this will mean that they will have to buy the charger separately, meaning more packaging and more shipping. So, is there really a saving here?
In conclusion, Apple has previously come across as a money hungry business, trying to get new business whichever way they can. However, the recent changes they have made makes it look like they are taking their responsibility to the environment seriously.
By simply thinking about the way that customers use and dispose of their products and making small changes, they can influence how the customers think towards buying too.
However, they do need to consider more than just their returning customers. We all know that they created their lightning charger so that they could earn more money from people having to buy from their brand specifically. But if they really are thinking about their impact on the environment, they should consider the move to a universal charger, which yes, may mean less sales for them, but it will show their commitment to creating a greener environment.