With Apple’S iPhone charge policy, everything is still ‘OK’

With Apple'S iPhone charge policy, everything is still 'OK'

That was the year when Apple decided, citing environmental impact, to stop bundling power chargers with new iPhones. You’d still get the cable, but the wall charger would be absent, resulting in a slimmer box and lower manufacturing and delivery costs for the company. (But not a lower price tag, note–unless we start to speculate that the price would have gone up if the charger hadn’t been removed, which as far as I know even Apple hasn’t tried to claim.) The idea was that most people already had chargers at home, and that most bundled chargers were ending up in landfill.

Welcome to our weekly summary of all the Apple news you may have missed this week, condensed into bite-sized chunks. We named it Apple Breakfast because we think it goes well with a cup of coffee or tea in the morning, but it’s also OK if you read it around lunch or supper. This week, a reminder from Brazil of a controversy that rocked the Apple world–or, at the very least, nudged it slightly–back in 2020.

Highlights

  • I’m no expert on Brazilian law, but the legal arguments as reported do seem a little tenuous. The judge ruled the situation a “tie sale,” which Insider glosses as a customer having to buy two of a company’s products in order for one of them to work–yet, as Apple itself pointed out, the iPhone and cable it sold would have worked perfectly well with compatible plugs supplied by any number of third-party manufacturers. Presumably the lawyers are all over that kind of detail.

  • It’s fair to say this argument was not universally well received at the time, but in most parts of the world it was eventually accepted as just one of those things; predictably a number of Android manufacturers took the opportunity to do exactly the same thing and cut their own costs while as usual letting Apple take the PR flak. But the Brazilian government was less inclined to let the matter drop, claiming the practice was abusive and fining the company $2m in March 2021. And this week (as reported by Insider) the company has been instructed to pay one specific Brazilian consumer the equivalent of $1,081 for selling him an iPhone with no charger. Apple could find that money by cutting back on Craig Federighi’s hairspray budget, but it will be wary of the size of the bill if it starts having to do the same thing for everyone.

In any case, it’s a fascinating reminder of a controversy that’s been largely forgotten in the US and the UK. Whether you approach the issue from a perspective of environmental concern or personal choice, it always made sense for Apple to unbundle the phone and the charger (and the headphones too, for that matter). If you’ve already got a charger, as so many iPhone buyers do, then why should the additional financial and material costs of another one be factored into the transaction? The issue was one of presentation. The perception was that Apple was taking something away, when it should have presented it as not asking you to pay for something you don’t need. A discount voucher for a charger from its store or a small price cut to reflect the lower costs would have helped. But that would have been a concession, and until recently they were something that Apple didn’t do.

The long-term consequences of the ruling remain uncertain. Will it be the first of an avalanche of such cases? Will Apple be forced to make changes in what it sells? Or will the company, as usual, end up doing pretty much what it likes? I know what I expect.