Companies are shipping the phones without chargers. Is it really curbing E-waste?

Humans always get suspicious when someone takes something away from you and they try to convince you that it’s for your own benefit. Have you ever experienced the same before?

Well, that is exactly what is happening with smartphones right now Apple, Samsung, Xiaomi and I am sure plenty of other companies very soon will decide to no longer give you a charger in the box and all these companies have said we’re doing this to protect the environment.

This got me thinking whether not giving a charger actually better for the environment?

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Yes, Only if everything else stayed the same. Then shipping a phone without a charger means you can use a smaller box and it also means one less plastic brick that might one day end up in a landfill site.

With this logic, you could look at Samsung’s new Galaxy S21 Ultra box compared to last year’s S20 Ultra box and think Yo! Samsung you are so eco- Conscious your box is half the size.

What we need to understand here is if everything does stay the same as soon as a company decides that they are not going to ship a charger with their phone. This creates knock-on effects like for the starters.

Think about this if you just use your old charger you’re not getting the charging speed that you’re paying for. What I mean here is to be honest if you’re using a 3-year-old brick you’re probably not even getting half of the charging speed that your phone is capable of.

Secondly, chargers don’t last forever like aside from the fact that people lose them if you just carry on using a charger that you’ve already been using for 3 years for another 3 years then there’s at least a reasonable chance that something is going to go wrong with either the cable or brick. So you might end up buying a new one.

Thirdly, this whole concept of not giving someone a new charger rests on their ability to be able to use their old one. But if we look at many households when you buy a new phone you sell it or give away the old phone including the charger that came with it

So assuming that at some point within the 3 years that you use your new phone you decide to buy a new charger for it then straight away, we have already used more packaging than the entire box of the last generation.

You might think this is silly and this is tiny. But first of all, I specifically took chargers as an example because it is the most compact packaging you could find.

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If you open it up you will realize that to send something like a charger on its own you need a lot of padding. So it’s not just the cardboard outside but a cardboard tray with a second layer of cardboard on the inside not to mention a plastic antistatic bag. Most significantly, we have to factor in not just the packaging that comes with the charger, but just all the extra environmental damage that comes with having a separate item that needs to be delivered.

In addition to the above, we need to take into account that a van has to take one extra trip to drop off the item to us. Also, the fact that this means we have to have an entirely separate outer box that takes up even more room in that truck than the entire last phone’s retail box .

This doesn’t end here because in this whole frenzy of charges getting removed we have also silently lost the earphones we used to get now. If Galaxy S21 ultra had a headphone jack then fine fair enough, I think the headphone jack has been around long enough that it’s fair to assume you have a pair but this doesn’t have the headphone jack.

How many people do you think just randomly have a pair of USB C specific earphones lying around with them?

Sure, wireless earphones are booming right now. I can always step out and buy a pair of Galaxy buds pro but those are in a completely different price bracket and so the solution for many people is to login into Amazon.com and I’m just going to buy the cheapest USB-C earphones that I can find. I did find a pair that had some nice compact packaging but it was out of stock so really just to demonstrate my point.

I ordered the normal headphone jack version of those same earphones and this is what I got. this is how the last generation earphones were when they came in the box this is now pretty much one of your best options not only do I now have a worse earphone experience than I would have had before and I’m not getting that special AKG tuned sound that I used to get. Most importantly, I have probably used 3 times as much packaging as if that stuff was just included in the original box.

The worst part of this is that Amazon delivered these earphones to me in a big carton box and inside of it there was big padding to cover the whole thing up.

Amazon does try to deliver in as few deliveries as possible and they do try to have an outer box that roughly matches what comes inside of it. But the very fact that Amazon handles so many different types of items means that they can’t possibly optimize the packaging as much as say Samsung could because when Samsung sends out a phone it’s going to be the same size every single time so they can come up with a system that means you use very little cardboard.

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If everything you need for your phone comes in one single package then yes that box is bigger and yes not everyone is going to use every single thing that comes inside of it but just how snugly you can fit these bits together because of it can all be delivered in one trip. I would still be willing to bet that on average this is still better for the environment.

Kind of curious do you think if I told people that subscribing to my blog was eco-friendly they would do it?

I don’t know but what I do think is that this is only the start of it, I am sure that within a year or two a lot of companies are going exclude free cases for the same reasons you’re probably starting to get the picture.

If they do that four sets of packaging four separate delivery trips. now don’t get me wrong sustainability is good, we need to look after our planet But what kind of makes this move in a particular sting a little is the fact that one of it is not the best move for the planet.

Samsung came galloping out of the woodwork saying Apple how could you don’t worry guys we got you if you buy a Galaxy you’ll get a charger. Samsung, Xiaomi said the same do not worry guys we didn’t leave anything out of the box for the phones you can count on us.

If these companies genuinely believed what they were saying and preaching the fact that something that they’re choosing to do is better than something someone else is choosing to do then its not a good look.

When they start copying them literally on their next phone, I think the strategy behind this was let’s hope people react badly to not having a charger let’s hope everyone boycotts Apple and if they do that they’ll come running to us.

As soon as these companies found out the iPhone 12 sold fine, they were like fine looks like we can get away with it too and let’s just delete our old post and pretend it never happened.

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Samsung Actually did this and so from this perspective you can kind of cut Apple a little bit of slack because at the very least, they were being consistent and Apple has almost built a reputation for doing this kind of thing just trimming what they see as unnecessary.

Apple has never put a lot of weight on chargers that’s been very evident from how far behind they were versus the competition and they’ve never said their phones were great because they came with chargers and so even though this was controversial decision it at least with Apple felt purposeful.

However, Apple has different issue they say they are removing the charger to help the environment but some of their other actions kind of seem to go in the opposite direction to that. Like how the cable you get in the iPhone box doesn’t fit the old charger so if you want to use the new cable you’ve to get a new charger or two.

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Apple was the same company who for almost 10 years have insisted on using their own lighting ports instead of the USB-C that the entire industry has moved towards which has resulted in a whole load of Apple accessories that can’t be used with android and vice versa. Then they launch Magsafe apple is strongly promoting the fact that their new iPhones can charge wirelessly using the snap-on attachment and it looks like from iPhone 13 onwards you might need to charge your phones like this by default because the phones may not even have physical ports at all.

Again, I’m Sure android phones will follow the suit. But the point here is that Magsafe and wireless charging in general flows in the opposite direction to eco- friendliness because not only do you have to buy Mag safe as a separate item with its own box but even that doesn’t come with the charger. You also would need to get that right.

Wireless charging is inefficient because you have to pass power through 3 to 4 layers of material. You have to create an electromagnetic field just to get it across and by transferring energy like this a lot of it ends up as a byproduct

As per Eric from Debugger.com He found that he was using 47% more energy to fully charge his phone using wireless tech and when you that you are charging your phone once every single day for the potentially 3 to 4 years that you might use it that is going to add up big time.

Not to mention how we also found that some wireless chargers were actually sipping power while not even actually charging anything so 24 hrs a day energy being wasted.

Now to be fair to Magsafe it is about as good as wireless charging gets. It has magnets in the system to mean that the coils can line up as efficiently as possible but compared to wireless charging its still not very good.

So what I am trying to say here is that yes companies want to be green, But what we need to bear in mind is that the Companies only want to be green in so much as it makes them a profit. As long as people feel bad about the state of planet and they feel good about buying apparently eco- conscious products.

I think in future we will be seeing a these kinds of decision being made and that’s fine this is how businesses work but what I do think is disingenuous about this whole no charger situation is that the way it’s being sold to us is not factoring in all the knock on effects it creates.

It’s very easy for the company to come and say we have made our boxes this percent smaller and so we have reduced our carbon foot print. Yes, you have reduced their carbon footprint. I am sure that from a company perspective, this looks great in paper and it looks like they are saving the planet. But whether its actually happening?

Is that carbon footprint is being shifted to consumer who now has to potentially go out and buy their own charger. Potentially even their own earphones. All of which have their own set of deliveries and their own set of packaging.

The only thing, which now left to answer is , was there a better way of doing this?

I think a much more eco-friendly approach to this would have been to instead of ditching the charger to improve the charger with better materials. We have already started seeing the chargers based on gallium Nitride, which is said to be more efficient and can deliver the same output by using fewer material and fitting into a smaller brick. So much smaller, that you could realistically have a powerful 30-watt charger that can actually fit in these new slim phone boxes.

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The most important aspect of gallium nitride is that every time you charge your phone using it, it is actually wasting less energy. Gallium nitride chargers are upto 25% more energy efficient than just using a normal silicon charger that you might have lying around which means it could be upto 70% more efficient than using the wireless chargers that we getting currently. We should not forget the byproduct of these being more energy efficient means that with a gallium nitride charger there is less heat generated and so they have a longer lifespan too.

So using these kind of chargers and actually working to make them even better is what I see as a sustainable future now.

We can give bit of credit to Xiaomi even though they dropped the chargers for their phones in china. For the international versions of their phone which was announced they are not just including a charger but including a 55watt gallium nitride charger which is great. Even though this would be their last phone with the brick but at least it means that people will have this good quality brick now to use with all their future phones.

What’s your take on this? Do you have any other opinion in your mind? Let me know in the comments.

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