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A Guy Walks into an Apple Store (birchtree.me)
569 points by tobr 27 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 373 comments



I really hate arguments about how much electricity wireless phone charging wastes because it makes people feel like they’re doing something when in fact they aren’t. Charging a cell phone every day for a year consumes about 1-2 kWh per phone. The average American household consumes 10,399 kWh per year, meaning that a typical smart phone consumes one 5000th, (0.02%) of a typical home’s electricity (excl. natural gas) budget. With wireless charging being 60-75% efficient, the literal worst case scenario is that you go from 2kWh to 3kWh. While that’s not nothing, it is damn close to nothing compared to HVAC or commuting, some of which involve burning more fossil fuels above and beyond the 10,399 kWh figure above. And I fear that burning out consumers on changes that will literally save maybe 1lb of CO2 per year (avg. of 0.99lbs per kWh in the US) might exhaust their will to make more meaningful changes that would have a larger impact.

Heck, just not upgrading your phone every 2 years would have a bigger impact, since most of a phone’s emissions happen during production. Apple themselves say that each iPhone 12 will produce 70kg (154lb) of CO2 during its lifetime, 83% of that during production and only 14% during use.


2-3kWh seemed impossibly low to me, so I checked, and yup, that’s amazing.

A phone battery at 5V and 2500mAh (probably about the average) is approximately 12.5Wh of energy storage. Even if you used the entire battery every day, we’re talking 4kW per year, costing ~60¢ in the US.

Your phone battery could only power a standard 60W incandescent lightbulb for 12 minutes, but powers your phone for hours. That’s amazing!


Incandescent light bulbs should really be understood as space heaters that happen to emit light.


At the end of the day all electronics are just space heaters with interesting side effects. It's getting cold and I'm using my GPU to heat my living space, it just happens to emit computation as well. Gotta keep gaming to capture the excess value!


I did this several years back in university. Bitcoin mining wasn’t really profitable on my GPU, BUT it made enough to pay for its own electricity. I considered crypto to be a wash, but the real profit came from free heat.


At the end of the day, all work* is just the production of heat with interesting side effects. Entropy is a cruel mistress.

*in the physics sense


The new solution to every problem on our planet: GAMING!


RTX 3090 SLI to the rescue


Maybe add some mass for inertia with a cast iron case so that it’ll continue to heat even after being turned off.


I remember there was an attempt to get around the EU ban of incandescent bulbs by selling them as space heaters that conveniently happened fit into lamp sockets.

https://web.archive.org/web/20180326040930/http://heatball.d...


> standard 60W incandescent lightbulb

Which is why nobody uses incandescent bulbs anymore.

You can get the same amount of light for 1/5 of that power with LEDs, i.e. your phone could power that amount of light for an hour.


Still doesn’t seem like very long!


It's not hard to find houses with incandescent bulbs in the USA.


No more EZBake ovens or Toy popcorn makers that use inky bulbs.


>EZBake ovens

Yeah, 'kids these days' just get nichrome wire instead of a good old light bulb. :)

There was an article I read a while back (can't find it at the moment) that involved someone modifying a 'modern' EZ-Bake oven to be powered off a USB-C PD charger. The future we live in!



As a reference datapoint, my Model 3 Dual Motor will go about 16 miles on 4kWh of electricity under real-world conditions. Certainly some serious energy to push a 4,000 lb. + passengers vehicle that far, but compared to a year of use of a smartphone, it's a drop in the bucket. At my 7¢/kWh, that costs a whopping $0.28/year.


Add there losses on battery charging and downconversion from grid, night time charge keeping, and you can easily get 40-50% more, so 2-3kWh is really optimistic, aim at 6-7kWh, and that's on wired charger.


IMO the single biggest environmentally-unfriendly move Apple made is not allowing user serviceability.

Even a simple ability to swap your phone's battery for a new one would reduce a lot of emissions. But they want you to spend $$$ on new stuff, so they make it hard for you to fix. And on laptops, soldered SSDs, soldered RAM, non-swappable batteries. You HAVE to buy a new PC even if you just want a little more hard disk space.


Might there be more customers asking for phones to be thinner than there are customers asking for swappable batteries? If so, that might drive the design evolution.


Since when does any modern tech company care about the opinions of its customers?


>Might there be more customers asking for phones to be thinner

But those customers have a worthless opinion.


Sucks to be ruled by a majority. Would be much better if you could have everything you wanted in spite of all those people asking for something different.


Replacing battery in iPhone is very easy. It's stupid to replace the entire phone because of battery. iPhone is a good citizen in that regard. You can either do it yourself or ask any repair shop.


It used to be easy to do yourself but it's becoming increasingly difficult and risky given all of the advanced parts that can be damaged or improperly put back when closing it.

And starting with the 12, Apple now requires authorized repair shops to use heat to open the phone, something that was previously only done for iPads and was prone to causing repair problems for the casual tinkerer.

https://www.macrumors.com/2020/10/22/iphone-12-heated-displa...


That's bad direction indeed, I wasn't aware of this change, thanks.


Phones should come without batteries. The batteries should be in (easily replaced) phone cases!


It’s absolutetly not very easy. I would say it’s very hard, indeed it requires a set of specialized tools.


The same is true of watches and nobody is calling for an act of congress about it. If you want something to be waterproof and small and lightweight, you are probably going to trade off some service accessibility.

They haven't gone out of their way to make replacing batteries difficult, but it is more difficult than it used to be before phones were waterproof and tightly packaged.


>The same is true of watches

Sure, it requires special tools, but isn't a battery change on a quartz watch pretty easy? I think the going price for a battery change is like 10€. There can't be that much hard work involved with pricing like that.


I would respond that replacing a battery on a modern iPhone is similarly easy. The tools are plastic, cheap, and as others have noted, are often bundled with the battery. The only price delta here is the cost of the battery itself.


Until everyone started wearing Apple watches ...


The same is true of watches and nobody is calling for an act of congress about it. If you want something to be waterproof and small and lightweight, you are probably going to trade off some service accessibility.

My watch (Timex) does not require special tools in order to replace the battery, and it's waterproof, small, and lightweight.

I unscrew four small screws on the back using the same screwdriver I've used for years to tighten the screws on my eyeglasses. Pop in the replacement coin cell battery, and screw it back together.

It takes about two minutes and costs about $5.


Watches are a luxury product, and their environmental impact is effectively 0. The same can’t be said of smart phones anymore.


> The same can’t be said of smart phones anymore

It can be said about iPhones. I like having a thin, light and watertight phone. If the cost of that is limited avenues for servicing, that’s a tradeoff I am fine with.


If the impact on society is significant enough, society can and does forego individual judgment. You wouldn't be able to put asbestos in your house today even if you were fine with the associated tradeoff, because society has decided that it's just out of limits.


You do not need to make it end-user serviceable to make it environmentally friendly. You can make it serviceable with the tools and skills available at a mobile phone repair shop, which almost everyone has access to.


Those tools are cheaper than battery. I think they even sold with battery on some websites.


You can pay someone $30 to do it for you.


I think the sales aspect is a secondary consideration. IMO the primary is ensuring that there are minimal incidents of battery fires or other mishaps. Avoiding that hazard plus the bad PR is a major consideration... remember when the Galaxy Note was banished from planes?

For Samsung it’s a much bigger impact. They have a wider temperature operating range and advertise heavily to police, construction and similar outdoor roles. The phones work but chew batteries — replaceable batteries would move more units.


> minimal incidents of battery fires or other mishaps

How many times have we had fires with Lenovo laptops, Canon/Nikon/Sony cameras, Dewalt/Ryobi/Makita power tools, and the million other devices that have replaceable Lithium batteries?

As long as users are using OEM batteries, there isn't any greater risk of battery fires, and as long as you price the OEM batteries reasonably, users will use them.

In fact I'd claim that it's safer to have a removeable battery, because if it starts bulging, you can eject it, and dispose of it safely, and replace it, instead of fussing around with first getting your precious files off the soldered SSD while it charges a dangerous bulging battery before you finally send the laptop in for $$$ service.


>Even a simple ability to swap your phone's battery for a new one would reduce a lot of emissions.

And add to that every other manufacturer that thinks they have to copy what Apple does (looking at you Samsung), and also removes ability to swap batteries and other things we used to be able to do every easily.


I know people have ragged on non-removable batteries for a decade now--and I'm not saying there shouldn't be any phones with that option--but it was terrible in practice. I've tried juggling batteries and it was super annoying. Sure, on a plane you could swap your dead battery for a new one (after turning off your phone). At the end of the day you have two dead batteries and have to charge one, then swap. Most phones didn't have a way to charge a battery separate from the phone for some annoying reason. And the tab on the plastic door often broke off.

Most people never had more than one battery and there was a lot of wasted space to make that removable door and compartment. Making all of that water resistance, like newer phones are, would be a lot more difficult.

When phones (and laptops) got rid of swappable batteries you could still take off two screws, maybe remove a small amount of adhesive (putty or tape) and unhook the connector to swap it with a fresh one. It's about as user-swappable as RAM is on most workstations.


The goal is not to swap them out during the day (that's why we have power banks I'd say), but to replace a battery when it can't hold a charge. Think of it like buying shoelaces for old boots, instead of replacing them.

My phone is fine, but the battery is slowly becoming too weak for my needs. I don't want a new phone, just a new battery.


If you only need to swap it out once every few years it seems like a huge waste to have a removable plastic door and separate housing taking up space. It's not too difficult to swap an iPhone battery yourself. iFixit has detailed instructions, but there's a bunch of mall kiosks or small shops that will do it for you in an hour and around me they only charge around a $30 premium ($110 total) more than the cost of the battery ($89) (I was comparing an iPhone Xs).

With the iPhone 4 it was literally removing 3 (sadly proprietary) screws and something like a guitar pick to safely pry it out. Those replacement batteries sell for $11. With newer iPhones, because of waterproofing there are more sealing adhesives and to make room for the stretch-tape you might have to pop off a few components.


No, the goal is to swap them out during the day.

When I'm seriously on-the-move, and the phone is critical to the mission, and I'm not able to be attached to a cord or carry a bulky external battery bank - a few thin, flat lithium batteries are an ideal solution. I'm talking about situations where high availability is key. Sometimes I bring 2 or 3 backup phones just in case, all the same model, and they all take the same batteries. It wasn't uncommon for me to have about 8 spare batteries on some trips. Half the batteries were always charging at a base station, and I would swap those out in a few seconds and get back out where I needed to be. Yeah it's not everyone's situation, but now I just need to have 4 or 5 devices instead, and have to use a stupid external charger which never does what I need it to. Operationally it's made me suffer having to use modern devices without removable batteries.

Charging from an external battery bank is just not ideal, it's inefficient, and bulky, and increases the heat of the device while charging which can actually be a problem in some situations.

Changing batteries takes less than a minute, creates no additional heat, and restores the device to 100% instantly.

I did this with every phone I had before they took the option away from flagship phones.


Getting old boots resoled is probably a more apt analogy here. Soles wear down, take them to a cobbler—good as new. I’ve got dress shoes older than my teenager and they still look fantastic. My current daily wear boots are 5+ years old and have had new soles a few times. Sadly there’s too few good cobblers left.


> Most phones didn't have a way to charge a battery separate from the phone for some annoying reason.

Yes, this is the main issue. But phone manufacturers didn't care that's how batteries are supposed to be used, most likely because it would have sold less phones.


I do notice a certain glee we have when we can frame other people wasting energy in ways we don't happen to waste ourselves. As if wireless phone charging or bitcoin mining or X are the last unturned stones in the pursuit of zero waste. Some condescension we can share on HN before we drive to Walmart for a single gallon of milk.

It's weird how tempting it is. I had a roommate that used our clothes dryer daily. I have to admit I felt a little bit of ecosuperiority over him as I hung my clothes. Perhaps briefly pondering how much better the world would be if everyone gave up a luxury I personally could do without (while retaining all of my preferred luxuries for myself, of course).

It's even funny just to think of all the apparatuses involved in me leaving this snooty comment on the internet, a pleasure you'll have to pry from my corpse!


Lol at your false dichotomy with bitcoin. Bitcoin mining uses a mind-boggling amount of power, and we don't get anything useful for all those emissions.

I agree that we're quick to look at other people's small wastes with condescension, but bitcoin is not a small waste.


Yup. Also, the shape of the growth curve matters. It's superlinear with the number of participants, and even with no new participants, the amount of waste grows over time by design.

If an evil overlord wanted to exacerbate our climate and energy problems, pushing Bitcoin to mainstream use is probably the ideal way to do it.


Can you explain why amount of waste grows over time by design?

Here's my reasoning. Miners spend electricity. They're getting block rewards and fee rewards, they'll exchange earned bitcoins to dollars and pay their bills. So ultimately energy spent per block = (block reward + fee reward) x bitcoin price.

Right now block reward is 6.25 BTC. Last block fee reward was 2.13 BTC. Block reward will go down as time goes on.

I don't really understand economics of fee rewards and whether they'll grow over time linearly or exponentially. I checked historical data and it does not seem to grow at all. So I'll suppose that reward fee will not grow.

So in the end you'll have block reward of 10-20 BTC. That's all you have to pay your electricity bills after you mined block. So basically energy spent per block is directly correlated to bitcoin price, and that's about it.

Obviously bitcoin price won't grow to the moon and its price is limited by some economical factors.

So while bitcoin network might draw non-negligible amount of electricity, it still is limited by design.

Now if miners will decide to change bitcoin design, for example to increase block size, that's another matter. But it's not clear if that would happen.


> Can you explain why amount of waste grows over time by design?

Mining bitcoin is essentially printing money, so miners with profitable setups have an incentive to expand these setups. As mining capacity grows, a parameter called "difficulty" - which represents how much power you need to waste to mine a block - is adjusted so that the mining rate remains constant. Since mining is necessary to maintain network security, difficulty will grow to compensate for expanding mining capacity, but not high enough to kill it off.

If you look at the history of the adjustments to difficulty, you'll find a pretty much clean exponential.

(In other words, Bitcoin is as close as we've ever come to expressing greed in units of kilowatt hours.)


While the network with no new participants is in some sense static, the participants themselves aren't. The income of most people tends to grow over time, which would imply an increasing demand for bitcoin from those participants.

Since supply will become more and more constrained over time, while demand has no realizable upper limit (that we know of), this assumption is wrong:

> Obviously bitcoin price won't grow to the moon and its price is limited by some economical factors.

If bitcoin were to be fully adopted by the mainstream, BTCs would be easily in the M$ range.


So the question is: if bitcoin replaces US dollar as an international currency, what would look it like today? According to some Google searches, there are 80 trillion dollars in the world. Total Bitcoin supply is 21 million. It means that 1 BTC would be valued around $3.8 million or 277 times more of its current valuation. Currently bitcoin eats around 7.46 GW, so it'll become 2 TW. Current world energy consumption is 157 TW.

So that's a rough estimate upper bound if Bitcoin would become our civilization currency of choice: 1.2% of total energy spent.

Not the end of the world, if you ask me.


1.2% extra energy spent.


> It's superlinear with the number of participants, and even with no new participants, the amount of waste grows over time by design.

Incorrect, growth curve is driven by mining power and forces innovation in lower cost of electricity. The worldwide cost of Bitcoin usage in KW has been compared to the headquarters of Bank of America's usage.


The BoA headquarters uses 8 million KW of electricity? Jesus Christ, the shareholders should sue everyone on the board.


> The worldwide cost of Bitcoin usage in KW has been compared to the headquarters of Bank of America's usage.

You seem to be missing a couple units there...


Maybe they mean in the sense that the numbers are literally comparable :)


> Bitcoin mining uses a mind-boggling amount of power, and we don't get anything useful for all those emissions.

I see this take quite regularly and it seems a normal response to clickbaity headlines like "BTC has same power usage as Switzerland", but I think it misses some important nuance to the debate.

* Most studies locate miners and then assume their CO2 output based on energy use assuming a general energy mix of the country, this is not useful because energy usage != CO2 output, it depends very much what energy source is used * Miners are strongly incentivized to find the cheapest possible electricity, often means finding pockets of excess wasted energy, which is also often renewable or hydro and using it rather than letting it go to waste * BTC can be thought of as converting frequently excess wasted units of energy into a commodity which can be sold * The above might change and if for some reason coal became the most competitively priced energy source then this would be very bad for the environment indeed.

Whether or not BTC is useful, it undeniably holds value, in the literal sense that if I gave you 1 now you could sell it at a market rate

All the above notwithstanding, a lot of research is going into finding an alternative to Proof-of-Work that is less energy intensive and I would hope that in the future a secure alternative will be found.


It holds value because countries currently permit bitcoin to be exchanged for real currency. That should change. When it does, BTC goes back to being the valueless thing it always was.


We get a distributed ledger that’s very expensive to tamper with. Coordination is costly, rationality 101.


Uhh, wireless charging and Bitcoin mining are literally orders of magnitudes apart. Bitcoin is estimated to have consumed over 64tWh of electricity last year, more than Switzerland.


Were you hanging your clothes above your mining rig?


Whether or not bitcoin was a good example, the sentiment still rings true for me. I have felt this sense of superiority myself and seen it in others. There is a taboo around "wasting" energy, but what is or isn't waste seems to depend on the individual.


> As if wireless phone charging or bitcoin mining

Love the bitcoin submarine. lol.

To add something informative to the conversation ...

The reason that the big bitcoin farmers are located in China is that the power generation model is different in China than the West.

China is controlled by about 8 Dragon Families in concert with the CCP (you'll notice that in news stories the prominent actors all descended from Maoist leaders, etc.)

So if you're a bitcoin miner, you just talk to the Dragon Family in charge of power generation (for example, one family owns the Three Gorges Dam profit stream, plus most other dams), and hook up to a hydroelectric dam. No published electricity rates for you.

The above also explains why the arrest of the Huawei CFO in Canada is such a big deal in China - she is royalty, and the West is treating her like a common peasant.


That's because she is a common peasant.

She only thinks she's somebody.

No one knows who the fuck she is outside of China.


Well put. I’ve noticed a definite condescension towards those “wasteful” people in climates that virtually require air conditioning in the summer (e.g. almost anywhere in the Southern US). Yet they conveniently forget that heating in cold climates is usually more energy intensive than A/C is in warm climates.


Or you can just get a sweatter and let the house get cold. So long as the pipes don't freeze, a furnace can easily be run less without a substantial reduction in comfort. On the other hand when it's hot, there is only so nude you can get.


Winter is already miserable enough with a warm house


Humans evolved to handle heat, we created tools to handle cold.


Unfortunately our secret weapon for handling heat has a weakness: humidity.

Sweating just not good enough for me, even when it's dry. I can cope with it, it's not like being hot would kill me (within reason and if I stay hydrated), but it has a serious impact on my performance. When it's hot my brain gets foggy and my thoughts slow. Maybe I could still operate at a caveman level of performance in that sort of weather, but I couldn't do my job.

See also: https://www.vox.com/2015/3/23/8278085/singapore-lee-kuan-yew...


Thermal power plants generate lots of waste heat that can be used for district heating. If you don't use that waste heat it will still be there. Worse if you need electricity for cooling you end up with even more waste heat.

Your assumption falls flat because a lot of people don't need to generate extra heat from electricity, they already have too much of it.


First off, AC is a heat pump, and heat pumps are always much more efficient than direct heating. A well designed AC system can be up to 500% efficient, since it only needs to move heat and not generate it.

Secondly, municipal heat is pretty rare in the US; few cities have it and the number keeps getting smaller each year. What few municipal heat systems that do exist are largely for business districts too, unless if you live in NYC as an American you most likely will be using either AC or forced air natural gas heat. Given the choice between the two[0], AC would be the best possible one from an efficiency perspective.

0: Heat pumps can be used to heat too, which is even better. Its my hope that heat pumps will become more common in the coming decades to assist in electrification.


> few cities have [municipal heat] and the number keeps getting smaller each year

I'm assuming by "municipal heat" you mean district heating. Can you explain why those systems keep getting rarer in the US? Over here in Europe, we are investing a significant amount of money in expanding those systems and connecting more houses.


Natural gas is dirt cheap in the US. Except in extremely dense urban environments with the physical plant already in place (NYC is the only one I can think of), it just would never pay back financially to use district heating. And if greenness/efficiency is the goal, using extremely efficient heat pumps and solar are probably a bigger win in most areas of the U.S.


My own district heat is also coming from a natural heat power plant, FWIW. I wager it's more efficient because they also produce electrical power (the heat is what remains in the steam after it's been run over the turbine to generate electricity).


https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=139417...

And district heating basically doesn’t exist in the US outside of NYC.


Just because the waste is small doesn’t mean it is insignificant when you consider how many phones there are.

A quick search indicates there are 3.5 billion smart phones in the world, assuming these are all wirelessly charged and wasting 1kWh per year that gets you 3.5TWh which is more than the annual consumption of many countries

I had a similar discussion with a friend recently about all the cars driving around with lights on in the middle of the day - even if they might be using LEDs, when you multiply by the number of cars on the roads that is still a lot of petrol being wasted for no reason at all


Those lights are on for a reason. They're called Daytime Running Lights, and are mandated by law in most countries because they reduce accident rates by as much as 20% for a negligible cost.

If you think running some LEDs are expensive, you don't want to know what a serious accident costs society. The type that totals two cars and puts multiple people in hospital.

I have a car that pre-dates DRLs, and I always drive it with the lights on. The "horrendously" inefficient incandescent bulbs might cost me an extra dollar or two in fuel, but could save my life. I'd rather have my life.


Thanks for educating me - I was unaware of that and have changed my opinion.

For anyone else thinking like I was, this is the evidence from the UK government site [1]:

Research has shown that DRLs are likely to reduce multiple vehicle daytime accidents and fatalities by up to 6% once all vehicles are equipped. DRL are likely to result in a small increase in fuel consumption and CO² emissions of around 0.5% but this is expected to be lower when LEDs are used in place of filament light sources.

[1] https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/daytime-running-l...

Doesn't apply to wireless phone charging though, so I'm standing by that comment until someone disabuses me of that too..


> which is more than the annual consumption of many countries

Yes, countries like Liechtenstein, Papua New Guinea and Swaziland. Even a generous upper bound estimate like 3.5TWh is vanishingly small in the face of our ~21PWh annual global energy consumption. [0]

The point is: by focusing on wireless charging, we'd be investing effort in ineffective endeavors while there's far more low hanging fruit we could pick. And people's willingness to put in effort for the environment is a finite resource as well. So we should be smart about spending it.

For example: instead of worrying about daytime lights, how about cycling instead of driving, even just once in a while, whenever the weather is nice and you're feeling like it? That's sure to have a greater impact on the environment.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_electrici...


I drive an electric car. I was giving a friend a ride one day and offered him a USB port to charge his phone, since he was low on battery, but he was reluctant because he didn't want to waste my car's battery.

We did some quick mental math and figured that charging his phone from empty to full would take about as much energy as driving the car a few inches. He plugged the phone in.


I think there is a good chance MagSafe chargers will last significantly longer. Lightning cables seem to eventually get damaged on the connector or with the cable bending if it is being used while charging. If wireless MagSafe uses more electricity it will be worth it if offsets enough need to replace broken cables and the energy used in producing those.


A single wireless charger requires multiple times more resources than a single cable. A fairer comparison would be against, say, ten cables.


Because of a certain someone I lost more than 10 cables.


They get damaged by design. The weakness is there on purpose.


Don't know why you are getting downvoted. Apple cables have a particular way of fraying, one that most other electronics cables don't suffer from.


And every cable engineer knows the solution, a cable-end guard that distributes the sheering force gradually over the final stretch of the cable.

It's not just Apple that is turning something that would be durable into a consumable for profit. At work for decades Dell notebook power-supplies would fail in the exact same manner, cable fraying at the hard edge with the connector plug. It was such a predictable issue Dell at one point even offered a power supply renewal option together with their battery replacement subscription.


Is it just one person who is charging their phone wirelessly, or does it have the potential to be a large societal trend?


Assuming everybody were doing it, the percentage of residential power wasted on it would still be miniscule. And residential is only about a third of all power consumption. You may as well try to empty an ocean with a thimble.


This conversation is already about quantifying the impact of trends. If just one person is doing it, it's not worth talking about.


Do we have a % efficiency figure for MagSafe specififally? How does it compare vs wireless charging in general?


It's marginally better because of the magnets that align the charger and the phone precisely.


It is just inductive charging. So nothing special.


> With wireless charging being 60-75% efficient, the literal worst case scenario is that you go from 2kWh to 3kWh.

Maybe the difference isn’t so low as you estimate it? Maybe the wired chargers use much less power when the phone is not being charged, compared to the wireless chargers? Then the difference could be approximately 0 (as your phone is charged only a few hours per day) to approximately N kWh (due to a constant power draw — nobody will buy a wireless charger to keep it unplugged).

Otherwise, I agree that not upgrading the phone saves even more.


In principle, wireless chargers can have very low power use when idle; I've seen figures quoted as 0.1mW i.e. over the course of a year 0.876Wh (so ~0.0009 kWh). Of course, this will likely vary based on the specific charger in use. I don't think this is substantially different to the idle draw of a wired charger.


The practice is often very different from the principle. I’ve had a set top box that in the “off” state used 29 watts, 24 hours per day. In the “on” state it used 30 watts. In principle, it didn’t have to be so but it was.


Yep, most of what is said by "green" partisans is total bullshit because they don’t take into account the magnitude of things: they put emphasis on some kind of moral instead of backing claims with science. This is how you get people advocating changing a nuclear power plant with a bunch of wind turbines.

And honestly I’m tired to be asked to change lot of little things in my life when all of them cumulated won’t even account for the pollution generated by a random factory in a day.


stop supporting new devices. Do we really need them?


Kind of, smartphones are not designed to last.


Idk, my average has been about 5-6 years. Could keep even longer but at that point the battery lifetime starts to be a problem and needs to be changed, which can be so expensive that it's not worth it.


There, yes, please.


the wasted energy doesn't itself matter. where it goes kinda does though. most of the waste is delivered as excess heat in the phone chassis at the worst possible time. subjecting a non-user-replaceable lipo battery to unnecessary heat while charging is antithetical to the goal of keeping a phone for a long time.


Thanks for doing the math. I always found it funny that Apple was advertising how they were doing such a great service to the environment by not packing in a charger.

If they really cared about the environment, they'd avoid updating their product every year and encourage users to keep using the same device for longer, but of course they would never do that.


You can encourage users to use the same device for longer and also make a new phone every year to advance technology and to serve new entrants to the market.

I mean, look at iOS 14 -- it supports phones that are five years old. There is no prompting to upgrade to a new device. There is advertising on billboards and on TV, but not on the phone itself.


The Median upgrade Cycle for iPhone user are closing in to 3 years, with the whole industry trending to 4. And when you consider most of the used iPhone are being passed on to another user ( Family Members ) Generally Speaking iPhone as a product and ecosystem is doing pretty damn well.

What Apple needs however is to make swapping Battery cheaper, and invest in battery technology that makes them last longer in cycles. Right now the battery replacement is $ 69 for iPhone 12. While the iPhone 8 and below are much more reasonable $49.


This is just silly. And what you say is the opposite. If I need a new phone now, you think I should buy a year or 2 year old phone? That will not last as long.


Literally every one of the existing options still works.

Ok with charging at 5w? Plug your lightning-to-A cable into the little tiny cube charger they've been selling since forever.

Already have a faster USB charger? It works.

Ok with Qi at 7W? Works

Oh, you want the new shiny MagSafe puck system?

Great. Buy it.

This analysis completely ignores that the new shiny system is supposed to be a better experience. It's completely additive to what we have now, nothing has been taken away: except the included charger and earphones, neither of which I would want to have.

I expect MagSafe will be quite popular. But that's because it's cool, not because anything about the new generation of phones compels users to buy it.


I'm disappointed Apple hasn't dropped Lightning and just made all their devices use standard USB-C. I could see their motivation for developing their own connector when everyone else was using micro-B, which has a number of disadvantages, but now USB-C is used to power virtually every other phone and tablet, and many laptops including Apple's own.


I'm indifferent.

On the one hand, yeah, USB-C works great, and everything else I own takes it. On the other hand, Lightning also works great, USB-C isn't an improvement on the merits, and iPhone users have a bunch of accessories for it. Like in my car, I have a 12v charger with one USB-A port and a built-in Lightning cable, and I'd have to either junk it or just ignore the built in cable if they went USB-C.

I'm pretty sure the writing is on the wall with MagSafe: Apple intends to ditch the port entirely. That makes me nervous, frankly, and there are people out there who use an SD card reader who would be furious.

But I think that future is more likely than one in which Apple ditches the Lightning port for USB-C. We'll see.


My concern with them removing the port is what what would happen to everyone whose car's entertainment unit supports CarPlay but not wireless CarPlay?


You get a little adapter like the ones they have for audio jacks. You can super glue it onto your existing cable if you have some sort of philosophical bias against dongles/adapters.


I guess they either buy a new car or they buy a dongle they plug into their car as a wireless bridge (same as every change Apple makes ;P).


It’s not like Apple’s software works forever in all cars. I have a 2013 BMW that doesn’t play nicely with my iPhone and I’m on iOS 10 still. It played nicely on previous versions but has gotten worse and worse as time has gone on.


Bradlys, Do you use a phone that cannot go higher than iOS10, or have you ingeniously managed to not update for all this time?

You must use iTunes to back up, via cable, right?


I had another phone that broke. So I went back to my iPhone 5S that still had iOS 10. I didn't want to update because I figured it would make the experience worse.

To be honest, I don't know if my significant other's phone (iPhone 11 Pro) can even connect to my car anymore through the cable. (Bluetooth being the only other option - which has significantly worse audio quality and issues like static or something of the sort)


Thanks!

Upgrading OS is the main source of frustration and time wasted in my pro-audio world. So I salute you - iOS10 survivor!

Note - listening to audio in cars, it's a compromise. It's never ideal, so I wouldn't sweat the quality - but you're right to question the reliability.

Use the good old, eco-friendly, headphone jack!

(All consumer wireless is ONLY instigated by Apple because it is cheaper for Apple, but consequently a poorer, less eco, experience for the world)


I’ve always seen it as a usb cable that you can swap out with any other usb cable.


You use the last phone that does have a port for a 2-3 years (get its battery replaced so it lasts longer), and eventually you get a new head unit that does support Wireless CarPlay.


I should have to replace the head unit in my car because Apple wanted to change the port on the phone?

I’d rather they stick with lightning.


If you don't have carplay, a new head unit is well worth the upgrade.

If you do, but want to switch to wireless carplay, there are adapters: https://cplay2air.com/products/cplaystreamer-wireless-adapte...

That said, I think Apple will offer both lightning and portless iPhones during the transition. They might make the "mini" phones be portless for example.


Time to buy a new car ;)


Maybe Apple or someone could release a wireless data adapter or dongle for wired CarPlay in the future to overcome this problem.


Does anyone other than BMW have wireless CarPlay?


I have an aftermarket Pioneer head unit with wireless CarPlay


I think new Fords do. We’re right at the tipping point.


USB-C depending on implementation has enormously greater throughput (USB 3.1 gen 2 is 10Gbps) than lightning (480Mbps/60MBps). This might not be relevant for your needs, but increasingly Apple are marketing the iPhone as a 'pro' device, specifically for media creation. And it is finding a home in videography and event photography and streaming for example (I work in this area). Given this, the speed available through wifi and lightning are both enormous constraints on the usefulness of the phone professionally. So this is actually a really big issue for a segment of apples audience - perhaps a small segment, but specifically the segment whose imprimatur continues to lend apple devices their desirability.


The lightning port does support USB 3 speeds, the old iPad Pro (pre-USB C) models supported USB 3 over the lightning connector and Apple even released some adapters that took advantage of the speed: https://www.apple.com/shop/product/MK0W2AM/A/lightning-to-us...

But for some reason Apple has never brought this support to the iPhone's lightning port.


The Controller, both in power consumption and size requires for those USB 3 Speed never quite fit into iPhone requirement. ( You can check out the size of USB 3 Speed lightning controller on that iPad, if my memory serves me correct it was 4x the size of similar controller for iPhone ) In 2020 this may no longer be the case, but then there is the BOM cost issue. Why pay more for this feature when you can do it wirelessly? WiFi 6, and in the future 802.11ay using mmWave provide 1Gbps to 10Gbps real world wireless transfer speed.


Maybe their flash storage is too slow so people would notice? Right now it takes hours to back your phone.


Apple's flash storage is actually extremely fast. I could only find benchmarks of the iPhone 6s (a 5 year old phone!) but even back then it clocked 400 MB/s read speeds


Lightning also doesn't support native video output, everything is crushed down into a h264 stream that's decoded by the HDMI dongle. The USB-C iPads can do native 4K output.

The most generous outcome I can see is Apple ditching ports on the iPhone and Mini, and moving the Pros to USB-C.


Given the amount of discussion USB-C gets here on HN, maybe it's not such a clear decision?

I think the biggest risk in USB-C, for me, it makes me really nervous when I buy a cable, and even then I'm not 100% confident. When I buy a lightning cable, I have no fears. And they're not even more expensive anymore. Some of those USB-C cables are just as expensive.


No matter one's take on generic USB type C cables even if you only used an Apple branded USB type C charging cable at least you'd be able to use the cable with other devices too.

I.e. it's always a lose situation to have the non-standard cable. Either a generic USB cable would be better or the Apple brand cable would be better for more than just your Apple device.

That being said USB C cables for phone charging aren't where people usually run into the USB C standard confusion anyways.


The theory I've heard is that they're planning to remove the charge port entirely in the iPhone 13, and therefore it would be a massive engineering waste to make only a single generation of phones with USB-C.

But yeah, I really wanted USB-C. Bought the phone anyway though.


That would suck. I've certainly seen the usefulness of wireless charging--I've had two tablets power connectors die on me and was saved by wireless charging (HP Touchpad, and Nexus 7 2013 that I still occasionally use)--however, not having a USB port available is massively inconvenient: my Nexus 7 takes ages to charge, and needs to be positioned just right. If I bump it during the night, grab the wrong cable, etc, it falls off and I may not notice. Worse yet, data transfers without the cable are insanely slow; the main reason I got a new tablet was so I could put files on it in the morning (music, video, work, etc) and still leave on time. Wireless data transfer isn't just slower than wired, it's also massively more battery draining, and the wireless charger can't keep up if the screen is on--not that it matters, since you can't actually use a wireless charger with a device in your hand anyways.


I can see that happen. Which will suck if you use your phones for camping trips or vacation where you need to charge on the fly.

Maybe in a few years wireless charging will be efficient enough that you don't have to bring a larger power bank to compensate for power loss.


My own addendum to the theory is that this is why they've introduced MagSafe charging – if you have a power bank in your bag that is supposed to be charging your phone, but its wireless charging its just gonna fall off / come away from the charger. With magnetic attachment that is still more likely than an actual cable, but much less so.


If it weren’t for the issue of charging at 15w without Apple’s own usb-c base, I’d say that it already is sufficient for charging on the go.

https://www.reddit.com/r/apple/comments/jiul9p/magsafe_charg...


Power-bank usage is clutch in professions that involve both a lot of phone communication and movement. Event staff an politician's offices (which have a surprising amount of overlap) both will run on multiple power banks a day during "Go" time.


They already make iPads with USB-C, so I presume most of the engineering work has already been done.


> they're planning to remove the charge port entirely in the iPhone 13

I can't... I don't... why would they do such an insane thing.


USB-C is great but the Lightning connector is still better designed. Oh and you can downvote me all you want, I'm an electrical engineer, not an Apple fanboy. Don't like the phone. Anyway, they should at least include a cable.


I disagree and think the USB-C connector is better designed.

Exposing electrical contacts to the environment like on the Lightning connector is bad for several reasons, including increased risk of static electricity damage and wear on the exposed electrical contacts. Apple has gone to great lengths to reduce or eliminate the static electricity risk by integrating a special IC into the cable. The contact wear issue has not been addressed by them. Many of the cables I have show signs of eroded contacts and I think that is the main reason why some cables of mine have failed.

The USB-C connector surrounds the contacts with a mechanical shield that protects them from fingers or anything else. This is a standard connector design that has been used on pretty much every connector. It is boring, but it works.

The Lightning is great engineering, but is ultimately let down by the radical design IMHO.

BTW, I am also an electrical engineer that has designed MFI accessories and uses iPhones.


I think mechanically, the Lightning port is fine, my issues with it are more about how it requires an expensive active converter to output HDMI.

A lightning to HDMI adapter really has a decoder as the phone streams compressed video to it. Which lowers the quality and raises the price.


The lightning connector shield pin 9 also surronds the rest of the contacts in a horizontal plane and is connected to the USB type A connector ground. It's not a signal ground but rather interconnects both devices cases through the shield. Regarding the contact wear issue, I'd much rather have my cable connector contacts wear off than the female connector contacts on the device. The cable is a less expensive replaceable part. So the mechanical and electrical design of the connector is sound.


Disagree. I have had frequent issues with lint and other detritus collecting in Lightning ports, causing the device to no longer be able to charge until it is cleaned out. I haven't had that with USB-C (or any other type of port for that matter).

Also USB-C can charge my computer. Lightning cannot.

The entire reason I want something like USB-C is so that I can do everything with one cable. Lightning is not up to the task.


Well, with USB-C you've got two holes that can fill up with junk, not just one. The Lightning port is at least easy to clean with common household items: toothpick and ear swabs.


I agree with you, the Lighting connector is more mechanically durable in general.


I'd take the power brick out of the box and introduce the new wireless charging stuff first, too. Let people finish yelling about that first, then set off the inevitable rehash of the "but none of my dock connector accessories will work with my new phone! Apple just wants more money argh argh argh" fussing.


Not to mention the problem with wireless charging you find with thick cases, pop sockets and ring stand thingies.


There are more Lightning Cables within the iPhone users than there are USB-C cables. There are 1Billion iPhone users, That is at least 1 Billion Lightning Cable, ( not counting possible tens if not hundred of millions sitting in the drawer ).

How many of those has USB-C Devices?

Most of the complain where from Mac users, Ahah, why cant I charge my iPhone with USB-C just like MacBook Pro?

There are 100M Active Mac Users, and I willing to bet there are at least 20M on Mac which dont have an USB-C port.

What you are asking is to change the port to something that barely gives any benefits for the convenience of a small group of users. ( an iPhone with USB-C Port does not automatically mean it will support faster transfer, or higher Wattage charging, both can be done with Lightning Port, should Apple feels the need. )

I just dont understand it.


I mostly agree, but I'd whine a little about having to buy more charging bricks. I don't really need fast charging, but I have a bunch of little devices to charge and almost all of them support USB-A. AFAICT all current USB-C charging bricks are limited to 3 (maybe 4?) ports. And those are expensive. I've already got a few of the 6-port bricks. I suppose this is because USB-C is potentially faster (PD) so they can't support more than a few ports per charger. Still, it's been a hassle with my iPad Pro. It's kind of the bastard child of my collection, and it just barely agrees to be charged with a USB-A to USB-C cable (it doesn't always agree to charge from a completely drained state, but it does charge if it's already got enough juice to turn on).


USB-C would have been the true environmentally friendly move


Throwing away a billion devices worth of accessories isn't the environmentally friendly move.

I'm always confused how people talk themselves into believing this. It is obviously not the case.


Unless Apple decides to ditch the port entirely in the near future, your argument doesn't make sense.

Sure, there will be some minor pain during the transition, but the world did not end when Apple transitioned from the 30-pin to Lighting transition, nor did it end when phone manufacturers transitioned from micro-USB to USB-C. You can use USB-C to lightning adapter, like how they have 30-pin to lightning adapter earlier.

Nobody will throwaway their lightning accessories. iPhones and its accessories have a strong used market, and it will find good homes to older iPhone users.


Does no one remember the uproar when Apple first introduced Lightning? Everyone I talked to hated that their old 30-pin connector cables wouldn’t work anymore. With how much more popular the iPhone is now compared to over half a decade ago, it’d be even worse.


There’s a ton less accessories nowadays. Everything is Bluetooth. USB-C versions already exist for Android. Lightning is waste.


What accessories? Everything is bluetooth now.


Hold on there sparky... If they did that, they would loose money on both the new chargers they sell people, plus every other adapter seller would need to change products, and then buying a charger that works with both iPhone and Android on one cable!?! Sacrilege! /s


> This analysis completely ignores that the new shiny system is supposed to be a better experience.

It doesn't ignore it, it's explicitly about it.

What the article is saying is that Apple is sending out conflicting marketing messages. On the one hand, they advertise the lack of charger in an iPhone box by their environmental consciousness. On the other hand, they advertise the "full experience", in order to get which you need to buy a new charger and a new cable. The author isn't asking Apple to change their packaging strategy; the author wants Apple to make the marketing consistent.

(Personally, I think the two messages only lend credence to the cynical view: that Apple's environmental concern is bullshit, and it's all a way to hide a price increase behind "optional" dongles, hoping the buyers are too dumb or too committed to the brand to notice.)


Every company ever has inconsistent or BS marketing. You can almost roll your eyes at the Exxon anti-global warming ads.

So what? Why do we focus so much on Apple?


> Why do we focus so much on Apple?

Apple has (like many successful companies) into a bad habit of being evil by default. Identifying where the market has born a bad actor is par for HN.

It isn't widespread knowledge that Apple is actively engaging in practices they market against. It's also interesting to note that they seem to get worse each release and people still haven't been acknowledging the reality.

The knowledge that Exxon is promoting anti-global warming hand waving is ubiquitous.

The perspective presented is to the point that it's marketing is laughably contradictory. It's good fun for both those who visit Apple stores (and didn't realize what happened) and those who don't for various reasons...like avoiding planned obsolescence.


The cable is a wear item. By the time I'm ready to swap phones (3 years or so), I'm also ready for a new cable.

If I bought an iPhone 12 tomorrow, I would, at minimum, also have to buy another cable, because the one Apple included doesn't work with my existing charger. Not the end of the world, but still annoying.


I think you may be an outlier in owning only one lightning cable. I just looked in my desk drawer and counted 5, and I can think of 3 more in other areas of my house and car.


My kids fidget absentmindedly with the charger cords while they use their phones, so at this point we buy them in packs of ten off Amazon.


I own more than 1, but they all get used regularly. There's one on my nightstand, one in my car, and one in the office. I can swap them around, but that doesn't solve the problem - at the time I'm ready to buy a new phone, one of them is worn out.


Have you considered wireless charging? It seems like you’d save money over buying more cables, in the long run.


Maybe, but wireless is new (my iPhone 7 doesn't have it), so it hasn't come up before now.

But, that just means I have to buy 2 new wall warts (need the high power one, IIRC), still need 1 new cable (unless it's included with he wireless pad), and 2 wireless pads.

And it's not an option in the car, because CarPlay requires a cable (in 90% of cars, AFAIK only BMW has implemented wireless CarPlay).


I have 5 in my drawer and I don't even have an iPhone.


Qi is fine. You can get a dock/pad with cable and charger sometimes for less than the cost of a lightning cable.

Personally I have an anker dock and I stopped buying any apple accessories.


> This analysis completely ignores that the new shiny system is supposed to be a better experience

Having used a Qi charger for my existing phones and a MagSafe charger for my Apple Watch, I can say that I prefer the non-MagSafe Qi charger for my phone. It's the one that most gives the illusion of truly wireless charging.

With MagSafe charging now I imagine I'll have to lift my phone and presumably detach the MagSafe puck at the same time, making it more cumbersome than what I do now, which is just lifting the phone off the Qi charger. I verified this hypothesis here: https://youtu.be/XDKPNwC-5D4?t=185

While there will likely be sticky/weighted versions of the MagSafe charging puck to alleviate this issue at some point, this is not a better experience as designed.

I'll likely continue to use a generic Qi charger for my phone


Plus that MagSafe charger will likely last through multiple phones, nobody is going to move away from Qi.


Also the fact that the described situation may occur once, but then forever after you will have both usb c and a bricks so you will be set for whatever future devices you get rather than being given a brick every single time while most go unused.


> after you will have both usb c and a bricks so you will be set for whatever future devices you get

Looking at Apple's track record, this is a ridiculous statement.

There is no future proofing planned obsolescence.


Had they not recently changed the charging options (shipping USB-C cables and MagSafe) and stuck with the classical Lightning to USB-A scheme I would have been fine with Apple not bundling the cables and chargers in the box. Because most folks have them in excess and these don't ever die.

But since they changed the charging options, it really feels like a cost cutting measure they are trying really hard to spin as an eco-friendly one.


Why? All of those old USB-A chargers and USB-A/Lightning cables will still charge the new iPhones perfectly well.

So will every iPad charger ever made, btw.

And every USB-C Mac charger ever made.

Honestly, it doesn't matter whether you or any particular observer wants to give credit for this reducing e-waste or being "eco-friendly". It's a plainly obvious fact that it will massively reduce e-waste and be a massive net positive on the eco-friendly front, in about 5 different ways. Those facts remain valid regardless of how one chooses to think about the ethical/moral/environmental cred or goodwill that Apple deserves for this move, or Apple's profit motives.


Apple’s move and their explanation honestly feels about as genuine as hotels asking you to be eco friendly by hanging the door-tag to skip room cleaning. The difference is that hotels at least give you the option.


Isn't Apple giving you a new option here?

Before, you were forced to buy the bundled wall wart, now you have the option to keep using what you had or buy a charger if you need it?

They're still forcing a bundled cable, but it's a different cable you probably don't have many of?


But, just like with hotels, you’re still paying the same price.


Sure, Apple also might tend to get more money per iPhone customer now, but that doesn't invalidate the environmental argument.


Then don't get an iphone 12? People who are buying an iphone aren't doing it because of the included power brick.

There is the iphone SE 2, Pixel 4a etc...

If it's such a problem, buy a braided cable from Amazon and power brick. Cheaper cost, better quality and will last longer than any Apple charger.


The iPhone SE 2 no longer comes with the power brick.


If you have no power bricks at all then applause to you.

In any given room I can find at least 5 I think.

For 0.025% of the price of the phone or less, you can get a braided lightning cable and stop caring about this first world problem.


Some hotels give you a discount for the next stay.


The equivalent option would be to offer the charger by default, and allow eco conscious consumers to opt out. Making it opt-in for folks without a working charger would strike a nice balance, even if it’s not feasible.


It is opt-in for people without a working charger - they sell chargers, or you can buy one of the many third party ones.


> a massive net positive on the eco-friendly front

Isn't wireless charging a big step backwards with respect to power efficiency? With the millions of phones they sell and the fact that every one of them is charged daily, are the losses due to Apples new charging scheme insignificant?


I'd say the energy used to charge phones is inconsequential.

The iPhone 12 has a 11 Wh battery. Assume it's fully charged daily, that's 11Wh * 365 ~ 4kwh per year. It's about 50 cents of electricity to charge the phone for a year. It's imperceptible given other household electricity items.

If people are concerned about electricity usage, they should give away LED lightbulbs.


Pro tip - If you make under 39k and live in Massachusetts you can literally get free LED lightbulbs through Mass save! It's an awesome program. https://www.masssave.com/en/saving/income-based-offers


Wired chargers are 85%-90% efficient, Qi is somewhat between 75-85%. If you live in a country powered by green energy it shouldn’t be a concern :)


I'm going to guess that 15% missing on the wired is the brick itself. I'm not sure how 5% more losses can make my phone heat up quite hot and also charge very slow. Are you sure it isn't 15% lost at the brick powering the wireless charger and then another 20-25% on the charging pad itself?


So wireless results in about 10% efficiency loss? So if half of the iPhone 12 users adopt wireless charging that's about 36 billion charge cycles per year (100 million phones charged daily). Those are big numbers. It seems like it would add up.


They do add up, but not to very much compared to virtually any other household use of electricity...


Since the waste product is heat, and if you live in a place where you need heating most of the year it's simply shifting heat generation from your heater to your phone.

In some places where heating is still done with natural gas you might even be more eco-friendly by having an inefficient charger.


Sure, there might be some niche corner case where it actually pencils out better. But that's not really helpful when assessing the impact of this on a global scale. There's some other scenario that's the opposite that cancels the benefit out.

And as far as heating is concerned, heat pumps are more efficient, and most electricity—when turned into resistive heat—is less efficient than burning the fuel directly.

So the only case where it would be a benefit is if your heat is fuel-based, but your power is renewable, and this condition lasts most of the year.


If a MagSafe charger can charge at 15W using a 20W Apple charger, that's a 75 percent charge efficiency. The charger itself is about 80 percent efficient converting from the wall, so the whole thing is about 60 percent efficient. An iPhone 12 has a 15 wh battery, so you need about 25 wh to charge the battery fully vs 19 wh. So the losses for 17,000 full charges using MagSafe over a regular cable would equal the charge in a 100kwh Tesla Model S.

ETA: the total charging loss from ten million iPhones charging 0-100 percent via MagSafe every day for a year would be 21,505 teslas.


Your numbers are a bit high, wired chargers have become more efficient and barely waste any energy, see here: (14wh spent to charge a 13wh battery) https://www.researchgate.net/publication/309917872_Improving...

The last bit is also wrong, 6wh * 10M = 600 Teslas. You can also read as “600 Teslas can provide phone charging for ten million people for an entire year”, take it as you wish...

Your fridge can easily use 100kWh a month. You’ll save far more energy by closing the door a couple seconds early every time you open it. Phone charging is a drop in the bucket.


Sure.

But it's not the optimal experience.


For me it's an optimal experience: my device cost went down, I get to choose what I spend that money on (such as superior 3rd-party chargers with multiple ports), and I get the satisfaction of knowing that Apple didn't waste planetary resources making inflexible single-port chargers and $5 wired earbuds that I will never, ever use.

I do admit that it's not optimal for every single user, but I do think it's a net improvement for most users.


> my device cost went down

This seems to be a common narrative, that the savings have been passed onto the consumer. Is it really true? It's difficult to be sure, as there's no iPhone 12 that comes with the plug + earbuds bundled. However, there is one data point that most people don't bother to consider.

The iPhone SE (2020) base model launched at $399 in April. It still retails for $399 today.

In April, the iPhone SE shipped with headphones and a plug.[0] It doesn't anymore today.[1]

In the case of the iPhone SE, the price absolutely did not go down. All that happened was that Apple increased their profit margins.

[0] https://web.archive.org/web/20200427193132/https://www.apple...

[1] As part of our efforts to reach our environmental goals, iPhone SE does not include a power adapter or EarPods. Included in the box is a USB‑C to Lightning cable that supports fast charging and is compatible with USB‑C power adapters and computer ports. https://web.archive.org/web/20201023201007/https://www.apple...


I wasn't aware of the change to the SE 2020, but for 12s, storage is doubled across the line (or price dropped $100, depending how you look at it).


In a sufficiently complex product/company there is absolutely no way to work where costs went. Yes the SE without a doubt just become worse value but we have no way of knowing where the money went. Likely it didn't just vanish in to a wormhole but it instead will be invested in to R&D giving a better value for money product in the future.

The only thing consumers need to think about is "Does this product provide enough value to me for its cost". For me personally a charging brick and earpods provides no value since I would just leave them in the box.


>In a sufficiently complex product/company there is absolutely no way to work where costs went. Yes the SE without a doubt just become worse value but we have no way of knowing where the money went. Likely it didn't just vanish in to a wormhole but it instead will be invested in to R&D giving a better value for money product in the future.

I'm not sure whether this is satire or an sincere attempt at arguing that price hikes are good for consumers.


I'm just saying it doesn't matter how the internal economics of the company work. Look at the end product and think "Is this providing enough value for its price". Trying to track a $3 cost savings through a complex supply chain is fruitless.

If the savings really did just go to C level pockets then the product next year would be less compelling than the competitions so you would logically pick the other offerings.


I would argue that a USB-C cable is equal or higher value then a (USB-A cable plus USB-A brick).

Edit: Oh, they also removed the earpods. Yeah, for the 2020 SE this is a clear move to increase margins. To be fair, it was already lower margin and is still a great value phone.


Or Apple's did. Do you really think they're passing the savings on to the customer?


Honestly, who cares? If you're spending $1200 or whatever on a phone, is your life really that much better if you spend $1190 instead?


Luca their CFO has consistently said on investor calls that they aim for 35% gross margins, so any excess seems indeed reinvested into other features on the BOM or passed on to the customer.


> For me it's an optimal experience

You are a one off use case. The standard deviation for your experience is pretty large. Especially for first time iPhone buyers.


I just switched to an iphone recently and the brick would have been a non issue for me. I already have a bunch of USB C bricks from my android phones going back to the Nexus 5X


Exactly. I don't understand why nobody mentions this, but the decision to ship a USB-C to lightning cable makes a lot of sense when you think about customer segments:

- People who are upgrading an old iphone will still have a USB-A to lightning cable from their old phone, so they can charge their new iphone using their old charger and old cable

- People upgrading from android probably already have a USB-C charger, so they can use the bundled USB-C to lighting cable to charge their new iphone

- People who want to buy a new USB-C charger can do so without also needing to buy a lightning cable to go with it. (The charger can also be used for charging an ipad or magsafe puck, so it makes sense not to include a cable with the charger.)

In short, by including the USB-C to lightning cable, almost everyone who buys an iphone 12 won't need any new accessories with their new phone. (Unless you want faster charging or wireless charging and don't have other USB-C bricks floating around.)


[flagged]


The value for money you get with each device keeps going up. The update support lifetime keeps going up to the point where devices are getting 6+ years of updates while the SoC gets further ahead of the snapdragon range every year.

I have both android tablets and an iPad from 2014 and the ipad still feels like a modern device with the latest OS version while the android tablets are stuck on a 2015 build of android and feel very slow.


I agree with this.

I bought an iphone 12 this year because my iphone 6s+ is 5 years old at this point, and I wanted to spoil myself. My new phone feels basically identical to my old phone, and despite 5 years of innovation I think it was a waste of money. Most of the improvements in iphones in the last 5 years has been in software, and the 6s (for now) still gets all the updates anyway.

There's some differences - low light photography is much better. My new phone is also physically smaller with the same screen size and much snappier. But its also missing a headphone jack, force touch and it can't be unlocked with a face mask.

I think next time I'll keep my phone until it dies - which I'm hoping will be ~6-7 years. Given that sort of longevity, the price seems pretty reasonable.


I think phones have largely become good enough for a while now. Apple is selling less phones every year because people are holding on to them for longer. The strategy now seems to be getting users to get all the accessories / ipad as well as a phone.


The strategy right now is quite explicitly to get people signed up for recurring subscriptions to services (apple music, TV+, arcade, etc. Even applecare is now a subscription)


I won't dispute the state of Android tablets. You are right there, android tablets suck, iPad is a way better product, and it has a really good value for money ($350 ftw).

Yes, the SoC gets improved each year, but so does their ability to manufacture, i.e. the manufacturing costs should go down, and they keep spending the same amount on R&D to innovate. Economies of scale also play its part.


It seems like the price is fixed. Apple has done the research to know exactly what price they can sell the phone for. The only variable factor is how much stuff they put in the phone. When manufacturing costs go down they add in something that was previously cut due to cost.


Why do you want a USB-A charging cable in 2020? My laptops don't have that anymore, and I don't even have recent laptops. Like most people I know would have to to use a dongle. No thanks. Move as quickly as possible to USB-C, please Apple, and no need for charging bricks anymore.

> it really feels like a cost cutting measure they are trying really hard to spin as an eco-friendly one

This is cynical.


> > it really feels like a cost cutting measure they are trying really hard to spin as an eco-friendly one

> This is cynical.

The iPhone SE launched with earbuds and a plug. It no longer ships with them. The retail price hasn't changed. It can be good for the environment and a cost-cutting measure.

Another commenter has noted that by making the box about half as thick, that doubles the number of units that can fit in a container. That's a huge saving for Apple. And yet the iPhone SE still retails at the same price despite now including less.


I find it a total branding win from Apple that people are even discussing this. To me it is a clear loss to the customer and to the environment. You only have to go on any Apple forum to see people getting their power bricks and cases shipped separately from their iPhones. Its beyond my pay grade to calculate the extra emissions from those power bricks being shipped separately, assuming not every new iPhone purchase is accompanied by a power brick purchase, but the profit margin for Apple went up for sure.

This is the new normal. Sealed hardware to discourage battery replacement, no 3.5mm jack to discourage reuse of old headphones and to encourage sales of Airpods with their tiny 2 year batteries, and now, no power bricks to encourage sales of extra power bricks. All greenwashed and the idiot consumer buys it.


Maybe prices for materials or manufacturing or handling went up? Maybe they want to make some more profit this year for their workers and shareholders? Times are hard.

Why is any of this your business?

Either the price works for you or it doesn't. There's no moral component to this. You aren't entitled to low costs.


> Why is any of this your business?

Because I am the person paying for the thing?


But why do you care what their costs are? What will you do with that information? Either the product is worth it for what you need or it isn’t.


You're telling him not to care about their costs, but Apple is straight up telling him to care about their savings, but don't pass it on to the consumer.

Generally speaking, people care about saving more of their money, they care much less about how much money the company they are purchasing goods or services for is able to retain by providing less for the same (or more) price.


No, Apple is telling him to care about the reduction in material waste.


Is the iPhone as useful as before? So it’s the same price as before.


But now it's just the iPhone. It used to be the iPhone + earbuds and plug. It's objectively less product.


Who buys an iphone because of the included $0.50 plug and earbuds? Those products are mostly just straight e-waste at this point.

I don't see how people paying 1 grand from Apple are upset at not having $0.50 power brick. If it's a problem, you can get a USB A/USB C Amazon Basics dual bricks + braided lightning cable that will last forever and is objectively better quality.


$19 on the Apple Store.

https://www.apple.com/shop/product/MD810LL/A/apple-5w-usb-po...

Granted, if you're enough of a sucker to buy these accessories directly, it's not Apple's fault; it's yours.


It’s not as useful because without a charger I can only use it until the battery dies.

It’s like selling a car without tires, saying it’s a big savings for the company while not changing the price.


It's expected that everyone has a charger these days. If you do not, you can buy one for a few dollars.

It's more like selling a kettle without water. It's expected most reasonable people will have their own water supply.


It's more like selling an electric kettle without a charger. People are already expecting to pay for water to fill a kettle, just like they pay for electricity to fill the battery.

First time buyers of iPhones aren't unreasonable. Being unreasonable is saying a trillion dollar company is fine to charge more for less.


If you're genuinely a first-time buyer and have no other electronics... then just buy a charger. They cost a few dollars. What's the problem? We need to reduce waste.


It will impact my assessment of product worthiness and feelings about the company in general.

If you lived in a small town with only a single bakery in it, would it not matter to you whether the bakery is selling you bread for a bit over their production costs, or 2x, or 5x those costs?

The word that's used to refer to mass market goods sold with large profit margins is "overpriced".


Prices aren't set by production costs though. They're set by the market.


In a working competitive market, prices are expected to be asymptotically approaching production costs.


But phones aren’t commodities. Different models do different things.


With the web and cross-platform app development tools, they essentially are.


> But why do you care what their costs are? What will you do with that information?

Make a purchasing decision?

There are value-conscious customers out there, many of which hang out on "deal hunting" sites even for luxury goods. Although the type of consumer willing to scrutinize the bill of materials in order to optimize the best specs per dollar is probably looking at Android.


"Why do you want a USB-A charging cable in 2020?"

Lots of wall socket USB charging ports are USB-A - even nice new ones with qualcomm quick charge (or whatever it is).

Personally, I would much prefer utility ports (on the wall, in the rack, on the backs of computers) to remain USB-A and leave the mini connectors on the devices themselves...


And cars, and planes.


At least in the US there are plenty of USB-A wall sockets out in the wild. The apartment I just moved into has a few of them. Most planes, trains and buses with charging ports also have USB-A ports.


Get yourself a single braided lightning to usb a cable and it will last you long after lightning ports are gone.


As a not Apple user, I've got way more usb As than usb Cs. All of the laptops I have have at least two usb As, and may only have one C, which is often the charging port. My desktops currently have one usb C each, but since they're mostly useless, my next round will have all As and no Cs. The couple of devices I have with C plugs have attached dongles to A plugs, so I'm not losing anything by preferring A.


I'm an Apple user and most of my devices still use USB-A.

My iMac 5K has TB3 ports but whenever I plug anything there the temps increase 10ºC which is a deal breaker IMO. I'm more than happy with the speeds of USB3 ports.

The only device I connect via USB-C regularly is my Android phone.


> but since they're mostly useless, my next round will have all As and no Cs

Doubtful. I'm pretty sure every single motherboard has at least one USB-C port in the back, and most will come with the new USB-C header as a lot of the latest cases have a front USB-C port.


I'm building it today. I picked a motherboard with no usb-c. Gigabyte a520i AC. Came out like two months ago. No rear usb-c, no front usb-c (it does have a usb 3 header, but my case puts that to usb-a)


my wall sockets, car chargers, battery packs and power strips are still USB-A


For some reason, and I really cannot fathom why, a lot of people seem to think they changed charging options.

They didn't. They added a new, optional one. Everything that used to charge an iPhone 11 will still charge an iPhone 12. I'm even willing to bet money on the fact that the original 30-pin connector (via an adapter) will charge the new phones. An iPod dock from 2001 would probably charge these phones.


The cables die all the time! (depending on how much exposed innards you are comfortable with). They last longer when other family members are not using them but even my exclusive, careful use of one that only sits by my bed has pulled itself apart.

The article is a bit of a strawman but I think it's inexcusable to be charging nearly twice the price of the charger for a 2m cable that disintegrates after a year or two. Especially when - as you say - they've changed the one in the box backwards-incompatibly (and it's 1m too).


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