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Why You Should Not Buy An iPhone 7

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Image: Apple.com

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.

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.

jack

Image: Apple.com

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.

earbugds

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.   

courage

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:

iPhone_DeptofForeignAffairsTrade

Image courtesy Dept. of Foreign Affairs and Trade via Flickr

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.

iPhone_congo_JulienHarneis

Image courtesy Julien Harneis via Flickr

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.

IPHone_new_ScottGarsed-Donnelly

Image courtesy Scott Garded-Donnelly via Flickr

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.

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Joe Kukura- Millionaire in Training

Joe Kukura- Millionaire in Training

Joe Kukura is a two-bit marketing writer who excels at the homoerotic double-entendre. He is training to run a full marathon completely drunk and high, and his work has appeared in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal on days when their editors made particularly curious decisions.

11 Comments

  1. September 9, 2016 at 1:12 pm

    So when you drop one of your EarPods on Muni and it rolls under the seat across the aisle, Apple expects you to just pick it up, dust it off (5 second rule!) and stick it back into your ear? Nice.

    Oh, wait, no. When you drop your EarPods you’ll just lean over and pick them up off the carpet of your freshly-detailed Tesla. Silly me.

    Actually, for the quick moving entrepreneurs here at BAS – someone should design & produce a necklace/lanyard type thingy so you don’t have to watch one of these things bounce across the platform at 16th St Station & fall under a BART train.

  2. fermata
    September 9, 2016 at 4:10 pm

    I pretty much really like this, but seriously, this??? “But the odds of you actually taking that adaptor with you to every single party, barbecue or pilates session…”. Do you really go to parties, barbeques and pilates classes and then isolate yourself by plugging into your tunes?

    • alicja1977
      September 10, 2016 at 1:17 am

      No, but you might want to plug it in to some speakers at a barbecue, party, or pilates class.

  3. Eli Block
    September 9, 2016 at 6:45 pm

    Perhaps ironically, the banner ad at the top of this page (paying for this website) is an AT&T ad trying interchangeably to get me to buy a new Samsung phone and then upon page reload to buy a new wireless plan. As much as I love the new devices your point is well taken.

  4. Corey
    September 9, 2016 at 11:14 pm

    I agree with everything this article is saying, but the solution is really to drop Apple altogether. The reason? Designed obsolescence. There’s a reason that your iphone 4s becomes a brick when you upgrade to the latest iOS. But, wait, if you don’t, apps won’t work on your phone anymore. You’re basically obligated to buy another phone every five years or less, or will have to work with a severely functionally impaired phone — by design!

    • Emmanuel Lemor
      September 10, 2016 at 2:28 pm

      and you think Apple is the only player that does that?

      Sure, we should be upgrading every year even every 2 years but that’s no reason to drop an entire company unfairly… you should also drop Samsung, LG, Motorola, Google and all of the others then.. because they ALL do the same thing…

      The ONLY mass market/large company-behind-it hope we had was the interchangeable / modular phone Project Ara which was bought by Google and quietly shutdown recently… oh surprise…

      The only viable/good options if ONLY they weren’t encumbered by being Android are:
      Fairphone 2 – https://www.fairphone.com/phone/ [ only ~ $ 648 ] and
      Puzzlephone – http://www.puzzlephone.com [doesn’t seem purchasable yet]

      🙁

    • Emmanuel Lemor
      September 10, 2016 at 2:28 pm

      and you think Apple is the only player that does that?

      Sure, we shouldn’t be upgrading every year even every 2 years but that’s no reason to drop an entire company unfairly… you should also drop Samsung, LG, Motorola, Google and all of the others then.. because they ALL do the same thing…

      The ONLY mass market/large company-behind-it hope we had was the interchangeable / modular phone Project Ara which was bought by Google and quietly shutdown recently… oh surprise…

      The only viable/good options if ONLY they weren’t encumbered by being Android are:

      Fairphone 2 – https://www.fairphone.com/phon… [ only ~ $ 648 ] and

      Puzzlephone – http://www.puzzlephone.com [doesn’t seem purchasable yet]

      🙁

  5. Marion Dunn
    September 12, 2016 at 4:08 pm

    I’ve decided not to bother with the iPhone 7 this year after hearing about the lack of headphone jack. I ended up just going with a new-ish iPhone 6 Plus because the price point gave me lots of money left over. Definitely don’t have to get locked into a contract. I went through an iPhone reseller that offers an extended warranty.. I’ve only had my new phone for a few days but so far so good… https://www.getorchard.com/us/iphone-6-Plus-for-sale/

  6. Josh
    September 15, 2016 at 9:58 am

    Some decent points here, but also a lot of one-sided analysis that doesn’t thoughtfully consider the whole picture.

    The headphone whining? I can’t name a single time I’ve ever needed to have my headphones and power plugged in at the same time. Maybe, once or twice after being in the car for like 10 hours?

    The cost of phone vs. contract is one of those things that’s been around so long that if you don’t understand it, you’re not a smart enough consumer to be functioning in the modern economy.

    The environmental points are better, but definitely come off more as taking advantage of the opportunity to scapegoat a hot new Apple product in hopes of getting clicks on your blog (which is totally all about building a personal brand and serving ego… which is fine if you’re honest about it) than genuine concern for human life.

    EVERY piece of tech we use from EVERY company uses cheap labor and so called “blood minerals”. At least Apple is up front about it. At least they also give good jobs and wages to 100s of thousands of well paid developers and retail employees worldwide on top of the cheap Chinese labor every other company also uses. They’re just an easy target because they’re the biggest. How many “blood minerals” are in the computer you’re using to punch up this blog, that will likely also end up in someone’s drinking water?

    Many of us can be more mindful of our use of technology, but presenting that idea in a way that juges others is a zero sum game that just cultivates resentment. We’re all guilty and we’re all innocent.

  7. tbray
    September 15, 2016 at 4:20 pm

    Let’s not forget the folks that use those card-swiping apps for processing creditcard and paypal transactions that would normally plug into the headphone jack. Not a huge number of people, but still worth noting – though of course Apple DID just release ApplePay, so problem solved, I guess? No? Apple used to be cool but now they’re just money grubbing bastards just like every other mega-corporation.