When you get your hands on a new Apple iPhone 12 series phone this year, you will notice that the packaging is a bit more compact than usual. That is because the power adapter, a standard fixture till now in millions of phones shipped every year, will not be a part of the iPhone 12 box packs. We knew this was coming, and Apple has confirmed that they will not be shipping yet another power adapter with your new iPhone. The reason? You probably already have more than one power adapter lying around in drawers and backpacks, and yet another one will simply add to that. It is the same for the EarPods wired earphones—they are also being removed. Mind you, the iPhone 12 boxes will not have the power adapter yet will very much have the USB-C to Lightning cable.
Apple says that making this change allows the iPhone 12 series boxes to be significantly smaller and that means 70% more boxes can be shipped in the same space as compared with previous year’s iPhone boxes. Apple says 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. There are reasons why removing the chargers from new smartphone boxes does make a lot of sense. For phone makers, it could help reduce costs in a significant way, because they will be saving on resources one charger for each phone they manufacture. That number will run into millions within a few months of launch, particularly for the popular phones. It also helps phone packaging to become smaller and more compact, allowing more to be shipped at the same time, which is definitely great news for the environment. There will be lesser requirement of packing materials and lesser waste subsequently. For companies, that also saves on shipping costs—smaller packages mean more boxes can be shipped in the same space and price.
The numbers do tell their own tale. According to research firm IDC, smartphone companies shipped as many as 368.8 million smartphones in just Q4 2019. If we are to spread that out through the year, we are looking at well above a billion phones shipped globally in just one year. That means over a billion chargers shipped too. A lot of these smartphones would have been bought by folks who still use the charger from the phone they have just replaced, which means the charger that came with the new phone just continues to sit in the box. Resources, financial and environmental, get used up and yet it just sits there. If you need a charger, you buy a charger.