iPhones without chargers: Good decision, bad execution

Photo by Paolo Giubilato on Unsplash

Apple’s decision to ship iPhones in smaller packages without any wall chargers or EarPods included has stirred a new controversy about the tech giant. Apple is not new to surprising the market with shocking moves that although initially ridiculed, it eventually becomes the industry standard down the line. Whether it was removing the headphone jack or getting rid of ports on the MacBook. This time, however, Apple marketed the move as something that’ll benefit the environment more than the consumer. Since we, as consumers care for the environment, should we applaud Apple for taking a positive initiative which is bound to be replicated by its competitors? The short answer is yes, but the problem is, why should the consumers pay for it?

What went wrong?

Here’s the problem with Apple’s execution: The iPhone 12 Pro costs the same as last year but doesn’t ship with the 18W charger or the EarPods. You can buy the two accessories for a total of $38, which means that the iPhones should have been $38 cheaper than previous year. But it doesn’t stop there. Fewer accessories means smaller packaging with more efficient (cheaper) shipping. None of these benefits were passed on to the consumers, which made it look like Apple did the whole thing just for added profits.

Statement from Apple: “Apple is also removing the power adapter and EarPods from iPhone packaging, further reducing carbon emissions and avoiding the mining and use of precious materials, which enables smaller and lighter packaging, and allows for 70 percent more boxes to be shipped on a pallet. Taken altogether, these changes will cut over 2 million metric tons of carbon emissions annually, equivalent to removing nearly 450,000 cars from the road per year.”

It is a critical issue and the director of United Nations University’s Sustainable Cycles program also claims that 54,000 tons of power adapters are wasted annually from laptops, tablets, and mobile phones.

Does Apple care really about the environment?

On paper, yes, Apple does care about the environment. Earlier this year, Apple released its Environmental Progress Report 2020, which reveals some interesting figures. One of the key areas of focus is the use of renewable energy, which is evident by the fact that all of Apple’s stores, offices and data centers in 44 countries are powered with 100% renewable energy. Apple also aims to be carbon neutral by 2030. The only problem with their position of shipping iPhones without chargers is that the cost benefits for Apple are not being passed on to the consumers. It’s like a cab ride that picks you up 1 km away from where you ordered the cab because it wants to conserve the environment and encourage walking but at the same time, it asks you to pay the full price for the entire ride, as though it picked you up from home.

What should have been done?

As someone who has worked with start-ups and growing enterprises, and witnessed them making similar moves, I seriously think Apple missed out on an opportunity here. One of the simple ways for Apple to make this entire move genuine could’ve been with the option to offer Apple Store Credit: every time you buy an iPhone, you get a $40 credit, which you could then choose to spend on a new charger or on any accessory that you really need. From a business point of view, it would’ve ensured that the full price of an iPhone was being charged and when they choose to use the Apple Store Credit, it would still be an Apple product.

Kaiann Drance, VP iPhone Marketing, was asked the same question about the new iPhone 12 being the same price but shipping without accessories. She says, “there is so much in the phone already, so there’s a lot of amazing reasons, and we think it’s a great price for all of that”.

Even if Apple’s true intentions were to help protect the environment and push towards achieving their goals by 2030, which is commendable, their execution could have been far better from all angles, be it strategy, marketing or PR.

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