Why You Should Not Buy An iPhone 7
There is a new iPhone going on sale today, for no better reason than it is the second week of September and Apple puts out a new iPhone the second week of every September. But people, you should not buy the new iPhone 7 just because there is a new iPhone 7.
Oh, I’m sure you’ll just die without that slightly modified new Home button. And I’m sure your self-esteem will grow exponentially by owning an iPhone that’s a marginally different shade of black and scratches almost immediately. But the brief sugar high these marginally improved specs might bring to your everyday life comes with a considerable global downside. The environmental and consumer costs of replacing 1.8 billion smartphones every year are staggering.
Phone manufacturers and telecom companies have created this bullshit expectation that a normal person needs to discard and upgrade their smartphone every year, even if the phone is not cracked and is still in good working condition. The consequences of this pointless, fraudulent, manufactured consumer need are wrecking the environment, driving income inequality and making the world a more genuinely worse place.
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But the iPhone 7 ups the ante on dicking over of the consumer in a way that we, as a society, should not reward or support.
MOTHERFUCKERS TOOK AWAY THE HEADPHONE JACK
One of the coolest things about smartphones is the ability to plug the standard 3.5mm headphone connector into literally any corporeally existing set of headphones, portable speaker or large-scale rave PA sound system. With the iPhone 7, that convenience is fuckin’ gone because it presents the serious risk that you will at some point in your life use equipment not made by Apple.
Now your headphones will require the use of the lightning port, which is where your charger plugs in. This means you can’t listen to music and charge your phone simultaneously — something I do all the time. Sure, they will provide you with that wacky white adaptor thing seen above, which does allow for standard 3.5mm headphone jack use. But the odds of you actually taking that adaptor with you to every single party, barbecue or pilates session are roughly the same as the odds of Apple actually paying its taxes.
Oh, but look, Apple will also sell you these lovely wireless headphones that you will lose within 15 minutes, for the low, low price of $160!
Apple executive Phil Schiller explained the removal of the traditional headphone jack by saying, “It really comes down to one word. Courage. The courage to move on and do something new that betters all of us.”
This guy thinks he’s goddamned Nelson Mandela for depriving consumers of choice and introducing increasingly expensive tech shit.
But whether you’re an iPhone, Android or Windows Phone person, you still should not upgrade your phone every year just for the fuck of it. Here is why I ask:
ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT OF TOO MANY SMARTPHONES
I’m sure many of you do the responsible grownup thing and hand in your old phone to be recycled whenever you buy a new one. But have any of you tracked what actually happens to recycled phones after you hand them in? Jay Greene at CNET did. He found that most recycled phones get refurbished and then sent off for use in developing nations. But they still end up as toxic landfill in the long run.
“At the end of most mobile phones’ lives in China, their components often wind up in a dumping site, a place such as Guiyu,” Jay writes. “Villagers heat them over coal fires to recover lead. The ash from the burning of coal gets dumped into the city’s streams and canals, turning them black and poisoning the wells and groundwater. It’s one reason why Guiyu reportedly has the highest level of cancer-causing dioxins in the world, elevated rates of miscarriages, and children with extremely high levels of lead poisoning.”
Smartphone manufacturers, by and large, still have not figured out how to dispose of all these horrible toxic chemicals in our phones. Yes, they are getting better at including fewer toxic chemicals in newer models. But they still haven’t stood up and said how they’ll neutralize all that old benzene, mercury and n-hexane, the sale of which they profited from so handsomely in previous years.
And all of you doing the responsible grownup thing and recycling your old phones? The EPA estimates that only 10% of you are doing this. That’s plenty of benzene, mercury and n-hexane creeping onto our California land and into our drinking water.
HUMAN IMPACT OF TOO MANY SMARTPHONES
Hey, did you know that US smartphone consumption is fueling “one of the bloodiest conflicts since World War II, with more than five million dead”? Yeah, it is.
All of these smartphones require tungsten, tin, tantalum and gold and we get these minerals from central African nations like the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The trade of these conflict minerals funds massive genocide, rape and social instability in the Congo at the hands armed militia groups that control the mineral trade in central Africa.
But smartphone manufacturers are delighted to do business with these militia groups, because times are good and US consumers need themselves a new smartphone every 12 months.
Apple proudly claims that 80% of their minerals are conflict-free minerals, though the methods of determining these percentages are notoriously unreliable. Still, I’m not sure that “only 20% genocide-backed minerals” is really the optimal target figure that a business ought to shoot for these days.
CONSUMER COST OF SMARTPHONE UPGRADES
Has anyone’s phone bill ever gone down after upgrading to a new phone?
That’s not an accident, you guys. Phone upgrades are a reliable scam for the wireless service carriers, enabled by your lack of desire to read every bit of that 18-page monthly cell phone bill. Remember that time they sold you a new $600 iPhone but you paid supposedly only $200ish dollars with a 2-year commitment to a certain carrier? They still charged you that other $400, they just did it on the sly.
“When you pay $200 for a device like a new iPhone 5, the wireless provider isn’t altruistically swallowing that $400-plus loss,” Tony Bradley wrote at Forbes back when the iPhone 5 came out. “The remainder of the cost of that device is built in to the monthly plan you’re paying for.”
This still holds true with the iPhone 6s. Your monthly rates will increase with each device upgrade, in ways that your carrier will never adequately describe to you. Because underachieving telecom executives gotta get overpaid somehow.
Sure, you can stand in line like a circus poodle to get your new iPhone 6s. You can even have a TaskRabbit be the circus poodle for you. Perhaps you can afford it… at this snapshot in time, when VC monopoly money is flying around like airborne mercury poison in Guiyu.
Maybe one day some Silicon Valley genius will invent this year’s to-die-for smartphone that magically changes into next year’s to-die-for smartphone when next year rolls around. That would be a true “miracle device”. Until then, we ought to hold this industry more accountable for the human and environmental tolls of excessive consumption and disposal of smartphones.
The iPhone 7 is available for pre-order now at Apple.com for $649-$969.