In defence of removing charging bricks
And why including a USB-C cable with the iPhone was almost certainly the right move.
There’s been a fair bit of controversy surrounding the news that Apple removed the power brick and headphones from the iPhone 12 box – but even apologists are upset about the fact that they include a USB-C cable instead of the more common USB-A cable.
Here’s why they’re wrong.
Let’s take a step back in time for a second and pretend like we’re the experience team at Apple. Our goal is to reduce e-waste, whilst affecting the least amount of people.
There are 4 options.
- Include a USB-C charger in the box
- Supply a USB-A cable
- Switch the iPhone port to USB-C
- Supply a USB-C cable
Let’s explore them for a second.
1. Include a USB-C charger in the box
Goal failed. We’ve had no environmental impact.
2. Supply a USB-A cable in the box
This is the option I’ve heard most apologists suggesting, however, if you’re upgrading from a previous iPhone, there’s an 100% chance you already have this cable.
USB-A cables also aren’t capable of fast charging, so customers wanting to do so will need to buy both a fast charge brick and a lightning to USB-C cable.
All the Macs that Apple sell are USB-C, and people mock the fact that you can’t even plug your new phone into your laptop without a dongle.
3. Switch the iPhone port to USB-C
This seems like a logical option – most android users will be able to use their own chargers. However, customers upgrading from existing iPhones won’t be able to charge their phones, since they can’t plug the supplied cable into their USB-A plugs, and they can’t use their existing cables on the USB-C phone.
It would also create a wave of e-waste as all lightning 3rd party peripherals suddenly become obsolete. And if you believe that the introduction of MagSafe is Apples way of transitioning towards a portless iPhone, then in another few years there’s going to be another wave of e-waste as USB-C peripherals go out of fashion.
4. Supply a USB-C cable.
Here we are, the dreaded option.
Our users can be split into 2 camps, those upgrading from a previous iPhone, or those coming from an Android phone.
Customers coming from an iPhone are automatically fine – they can, if worst comes to worst, use both the charging brick and cable from their old phone. They have the option to get fast charging by purchasing a USB-C brick.
Android customers are similarly automatically fine – a majority of android phones on the market have a USB-C port, and as a result, are supplied with a USB-C charger, which they can use with the USB-C to lightning cable included with their new phone.
The only customers who will need to buy a charger for their iPhone 12 would be customers who:
- Are upgrading from an Android phone that don’t have a USB-C port
- Don’t own a USB-C charging brick
- Don’t own a laptop with USB-C ports or charger
I’m not a data analyst at Apple, but my guess is that this is the smallest projected user base of new iPhones.