The Zimbabwean Perspective

A look at our lives and the tech we use in them

Editorial Tech

Taking away the headphone jack is one thing, but taking away a phone charger is just theft!

Why do we let companies get away with this?…

As  some of you may have read in the past two weeks, there are reports suggesting that Apple and Samsung will be shipping future flagship phones without their chargers in the box, starting off with Apple’s iPhone 12 later this year. If your reaction to this is as shocked and (at least initially) confused as we are, you’re not the only one. Apple and Samsung are taking consumers for a ride here, and this should be unacceptable for all of us.
iPhone oh iPhone, why do you make us suffer so.
Now if you watched the video above, you may see some of the reasons that Apple is doing this, mainly a reduced carbon footprint(which is appealing to it’s western, more affluent customer base), a seemingly reduced starting price (though not really considering the price you will buy the charger for) and the rumor of the next iPhone after the 12 being completely port-less and only charging wirelessly. Some of these do make sense from different standpoints, after all the lower starting price can encourage more impulsive buying, while the carbon footprint reduction will definitely cater to Apple’s customers who do want the clout that comes with an environmentally friendly brand. The truth is however, they’re just cost-saving measures from a company that already makes more money than it knows what to do with anyway. And most importantly for Zimbabweans, I think we all know that pretty much none of those “benefits” translate to us. In fact it’s a similar situation to the one we mentioned about next gen game consoles yesterday, there are benefits here but none of them apply to us, and while the next gen consoles have benefits in the form of digital editions and subscription services which do make things cheaper, and are instant, these benefits from Apple only kind-of benefit the user and are really abstract when you think about them. That’s not new, Apple is a company that’s relied on the abstract and intangible for years now. After all some people still think buying an iPhone is better yet can’t for the life of them name a single reason why. But this is a little too far. It’s one thing to not sell earphones with these phones anymore, or remove the headphone jack adapter because market trends in the US show that most people will already have headphones. But something as essential to using the phone as a charger is just predatory, no matter how you spin it. Apple has finally reached that point where they believe they are beyond reproach, and chances are their consumers won’t care and buy the iPhone 12 without a charger anyway. But as usual, Apple indirectly commands more than just it’s consumers, it commands its competitors too, and it seems Samsung is already following suit.
The scary thing about Samsung copying this is that they make more than just flagships, and that’s a problem.
Now why is Samsung aiming to release future flagships without chargers? Well, the short answer would be because Apple is. The smartphone market as we know it is still very much determined by moves that Apple makes. Not surprising considering they essentially defined it with the first iPhone, however it’s still led to their competitors copying Apple for the sake of it and causing anti-consumer decisions to become common for no reason. The headphone jack is obviously the easiest one to come to mind , but the large notch, removing fingerprint sensors for slower facial unlock systems and even Apple-style launcher skins have all been me-too moves to copy what the iPhone has by some Android manufacturers even when they could have superior approaches in-house. Consumers nearly always hated this, yet manufacturers still latch onto it, and now Samsung has too. And to be honest Samsung is the company I’m more worried about. After all Apple is Apple, it’s users seemingly always accept it’s terms and they have at most 3 phones to deal with or choose from per year at more expensive price points. Samsung on the other end, makes phones for essentially, everyone, ranging in capability, features and price point. If they start letting anti-consumer practices get into their top-range phones, you shouldn’t be surprised when you see these trickle down to the lower end phone you may actually buy. Hence why literally contesting this at the top might be the best way to save yourself whether you’re at the mid-range or the bottom. Of course, chances are the voices of a smaller market like Zimbabwe aren’t top billing on the customers to listen to anyway, but that’s what internet fan culture and consumer culture are about isn’t it? When you all become one massive, noisy movement protesting something, it doesn’t really matter where you come from. Either way, the market is changing, and not in a way that’s friendly to seemingly any of us, and that’s something we all need to be careful of.

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