iPhone 12: Is Apple’s leap towards carbon neutrality enough?

As soon as you navigate to apple.com/environment, you are presented with Apple’s top initiatives for achieving carbon neutrality by 2030 for both its operations and products. Other tech giants, such as Google and Facebook, have made similar commitments. Carbon neutrality means having net zero carbon impact, in which all greenhouse gas emissions (e.g. carbon dioxide exhausted by automobiles that contribute to global warming) are either reduced (through operating with renewable energy and converting to more energy efficient operations) and/or offset (reducing emissions somewhere else such as investing in renewable energy).

Arguably one of Apple’s most public-facing initiatives towards carbon neutrality is the announcement of the new iPhone 12 earlier this month. They removed the charging adapter and wired EarPods from all four of the upcoming models, which was previously included for years. As a result, Apple claims that their iPhone boxes will be considerably smaller and 70% more phones will fit onto one shipping pallet.

“The initiative by Apple to stop including headphones and chargers is a step forward to reduce unnecessary EEE (electrical and electronic equipment products).” Teresa Domenech of University College London’s Institute for Sustainable Resources told CNBC. “This could not only help to reduce waste but also would prevent upstream environmental impacts linked to the extraction of primary raw materials, manufacturing and distribution of products.”

Lisa Jackson, Apple VP of environment, policy and social initiatives, said: “We know that customers have been accumulating USB power adapters, and that producing millions of unneeded adapters consumes resources and adds to our carbon footprint.”

Apple believes that there are over 700 million pairs of wired EarPods and around 2 billion power adapters in circulation around the world. This number doesn’t even include the millions of 3rd party adapters out there! We can only hope that other competitors out there like Samsung, Google and Huawei will consider these impacts.

Summary of Apple’s Current Initiatives

In addition to reducing the size of the iPhone box in most markets*, Apple is also committing to source 100% recycled and renewable materials for all products and packaging. So far, they’ve reduced plastic in their packaging by 58%, every 12-inch Macbook Air with Retina display since July 2019 contains over 40% recycled content, and the Taptic Engine (the vibration feedback you feel after touch input) is made of 100% recycled earth elements. They even built their own robot to extract useful materials from recycled devices.

*iPhones sold in France still include the EarPods to comply with French law (every mobile phone must include some form of hands-free kit or headset to protect children aged under 14 years old from exposure to electromagnetic waves).

Currently, all operations (e.g. Apple Stores, Data Centres, etc.) are running on 100% renewable energy and by 2030, all products will be manufactured with 100% renewable energy. This is no small feat as this requires an agreement between Apple and their manufacturing partners to use renewable energy (70+ suppliers have agreed at the time this article was written). They are also continuously making their products more energy efficient. In fact, based on U.S. average electricity costs, Apple estimated that it only costs about 70 cents a year to charge your iPhone once a day.

Underlying Problems

Don’t get me wrong, Apple has done a lot but for a company that is responsible for a large chunk of the global 53.6 million metric tons of e-waste (2019), the real question is if it is enough. Note that Apple (like other tech companies) is not required to disclose their electronic waste totals although they do claim that they are working on collecting and reporting this data in future years.

USB-C Power Cable Included in Box

At first glance, Apple has great intentions to remove the charging adapter and EarPods however, they included a USB-C to Lightning cable. This cable is only compatible with USB-C charging adapters, which many won’t have yet if they are coming from an older iPhone.

Kaiann Drance, VP of iPhone Marketing, does explain that old adapters and cables will still work with your new iPhone 12, although the new USB-C cables offer faster charging/data transfer. She goes on to say, “if you’re an Apple user and you happen to have a Mac or an iPad, we’ve also included those USB-C power adapters in recent years for those products, and the computer ports themselves include USB-C. So those are other options for you.”

So, if you want to make use of the new cable that comes with the phone (and don’t have a Mac or iPad), you’ll have to purchase a USB-C adapter separately…in its own packaging.

Or maybe you picked up the MagSafe charger with your iPhone 12. In that case, you still need to make sure you have a USB-C adapter because it doesn’t come with one in that box either!

Apple MagSafe Charger

When will Apple move to the USB-C industry standard?

Why hasn’t Apple moved towards USB-C cables instead of their proprietary Lightning cables for their iPhones? The iPad has been using USB-C for two generations and MacBooks even longer. The more Lightning cables are produced and provided to consumers, the more end up in landfills once Apple finally moves to the industry standard and the cables become obsolete.

There are a number of claims, one from reputable Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, that the new MagSafe charging feature could be Apple’s first step towards a completely wireless future. The iPhone 12 debuted the MagSafe technology so that people are ready for iPhone 13 (or whatever it may be called in 2021), which is rumoured to not have a charging port at all! With no port, this unfortunately means that all Lightning cables will be of no use and eventually end up in landfills.

So is it enough?

Well, this is the big question and not one that can be answered easily. I am not one that believes companies need to drop everything to save the planet. Apple is a business so its main goal is to make money and its advances in technology are definitely exciting for consumers.

The short answer is no, it’s not enough. Although Apple’s making great strides towards carbon neutrality, their focus is still on mass production. Until they start adopting strategies that focus on reuse (modular and repairable components), they will continue to deplete natural resources.

What I do hope in the short term is that Apple continues to increase their transparency (such as reporting on e-waste) and share its environmental efforts in a way that helps consumers make their purchase decisions. Consumers need to become more aware of how Apple is impacting people, profits AND the planet both positively and negatively.

About me

A little about me, something I haven’t shared much through this blog yet is that I have a Master’s of Environment and Business from the University of Waterloo. I firmly believe that proper inter-functional collaboration and corporate social responsibility can have a positive impact on society. As you know, in my free time I share my thoughts and reviews on the latest technology. My best work comes from the perspective of a consumer who loves technology, and also understands the social, economic and environmental impact it has on society, both positively and negatively. I hope you will follow me here on technomuscle.com and @technomuscle on social 🙂.

OnePlus 8 Pro – More like one more broke bro

OnePlus 8 Pro specifications

OnePlus just announced their new OnePlus 8 flagship series. I think many would agree that it felt a lot like an iPhone launch. For the most part, the OnePlus 8 Pro is your typical flagship phone that checks all the boxes. There are 3 key features that stand out but it comes with at a disappointing price point.

Display

It’s clear that there was a focus on the material design of the phone. They claim that they’ve tested hundreds of colors, materials and finishings to develop a new matte-frosted glass in Onyx Black, Glacial Green and Ultramarine Blue. One of the best features of the OnePlus 8 is the 120Hz refresh rate that provides an extremely smooth scrolling experience. Other phones have this 120Hz display, but OnePlus offers it with their QHD (1440p) display turned on. In my previous post about Samsung’s new S20 series, I shared how they only offer 120Hz with the FHD (1080p) display. The OnePlus 8 has a JNCD (just noticeable colour difference) of 0.4 which allows for colour reproduction on the display to be apparently indiscernible from real life. It sounds a bit like a gimmick but DisplayMate, the industry standard of excellence for image and picture quality rated it very high in a wide array of tests in their recent article.

Camera

OnePlus 8 Pro Camera Modules

The 8 Pro’s 48-megapixel main camera and ultra wide-angle camera can shoot sharp, vibrant daytime shots and above average shots in dark environments. The hybrid zoom camera has 3x hybrid optical and 30x digital zoom (the max I would probably go is 10x for a decent quality picture). The color filter camera is fairly new – it allows you to swap out colours in your pictures on-the-go to supposedly bring out your inner creativity. This seems like an unnecessary gimmick so that they can say it’s the first OnePlus phone with four camera modules. Here are some of the unique camera features:

  1. Optical image and video stabilization on both the ultra wide and main camera
  2. Dynamic video that captures three different exposures and blends them together for the best quality
  3. Windscreen technology that aims to filter out wind noise from your videos
  4. Audio zoom technology that lets you zoom in to different audio sources (for your eavesdropping pleasure)

Warp Charge

Finally, an amazing feature you didn’t know you needed… warp charge. You can get up to 60% charge in 30 minutes when plugged into their warp charger and a never-before seen 50% charge in 30 minutes using their warp wireless charger! OnePlus’ whole reasoning for not supporting wireless charging until now was that previous technology wasn’t fast enough for them to support. It’s great to see they’ve really pushed the boundaries of current technology. Check out how fast the 8 Pro charges compared to the new Samsung S20 Ultra and Apple iPhone 11 Pro below.

Pricing

Pricing is not a highlight here, it’s actually quite disappointing considering the first OnePlus One phone was known for its “Never Settle” campaign, offering flagship specifications for a fraction of the cost. There’s no doubt that you’re still getting value – it’s just a shame it couldn’t come for less this time around. The OnePlus 8 doesn’t have all the features of the Pro model but comes it in at $200 USD less.

OnePlus 8 Pro pricing; $899 for 128GB and $999 for 256GB.
OnePlus 8 pricing; $699 for 128GB and $799 for 256GB.

What do you think of OnePlus’ new colour filter camera? Would you use it? The OnePlus 8 is a strong contender in the current market but to be honest, it’s hard to be excited when the world is at a halt. Good thing technology never sleeps, just like Technomuscle.

Think twice! Don’t pre-order the new iPhone X just yet…

If you are one of those Apple fans that line up in the middle of the night for the next greatest Apple product or MUST HAVE the new phone even though it starts at $1319+ CAD then this may not be for you. Don’t get me wrong, the new iPhones are beautiful phones with some amazing internals and new features but if you care about your wallet and can compromise some of the new features then check the phones below out because there are actually a lot of comparable devices out there, often at a much lower price point.

Xiaomi Mi Mix

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The first comparable device that deserves a look at is the Xiaomi Mi Mix. This phone is not as expensive but is not cheap either at almost $900 CAD. However, it is a beautiful phone with a 6.4″ bezel-less display and no compromises. The particular model linked below has a Snapdragon 820 processor, 256GB of internal memory, 6GB of RAM, fingerprint reader (on the back), all of which are standard on most Android flagship phones this year but for a few hundred dollars cheaper.

The bezels are even more impressive than the iPhone X because you don’t get the top cutout from the front-facing camera and microphone etc. Some argue that the selfie video experience  on the Mi Mix isn’t as good but I think it’s a small compromise for a beautiful bezel-less experience. You also get a unibody ceramic finish which is a premium material that is extremely durable compared to glass on the iPhone.

You can purchase the Xiaomi Mi Mix on Amazon.

Doogee Mix

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The Doogee Mix is the other end of the spectrum and it has not had a lot of media coverage which is probably the reason for its low price. They didn’t spend too much on international advertising.

However, this phone deserves more attention because it is such a beautiful phone for literally a fraction of the cost of our flagship devices today. For only $280 CAD off Amazon, you get a bezel-less 5.5 inch Super AMOLED display, 6GB RAM, 64 GB, dual rear-facing cameras, internal storage, and can be expanded by 128GB with external microSD. Sound familiar? These are basically the specs on the new Samsung Galaxy S8 except the S8 only has 4GB of RAM!

Don’t get me wrong, the picture quality is definitely not as good as the S8 or other flagships and the materials used to build the phone are not quite as refined but it is still a great phone for almost a quarter of the price! Definitely a device to consider before dropping insane amounts of money on a phone outright or financing through your carrier.

You can purchase the Doogee Mix on Amazon.

These are only two comparable phones I wanted to feature. One that has typical flagship pricing but is still much cheaper than the iPhone X and another that is literally less than a 1/4 of the price of the iPhone. I hope this post helped to shed some light that there are other options out there for phones that have flagship specs and still look great but don’t break the bank.

 

Apple Pay Debuts in Canada (American Express First to Adopt)

Apply Pay has finally come to Canada today and its first and so far only adopter is American Express! Looking at the source link on Apple’s website, Canada’s list is quite embarassing, but it’s better than nothing. I live in Canada and just so happen to have an American Express so I am excited to try it for the first time! If you have an American Express card and an iPhone6/6+ or newer, then you can add you card to the Wallet app as well.

Although American Express now supports Apple Pay, we also have to wait for merchants to start adopting the technology (NFC scanners etc.) in order to actually use it. Otherwise, all we have is a pretty american express card in our Wallet app that we can never use.

If you are wondering why only American Express has adopted this technology, I can speculate that it is probably due to fee agreements (who should pay who) and/or concerns about security. Hopefully more cards are able to come to agreements with Apple so that this technology can be pushed in Canada, and more merchants can adopt the NFC technology required.

Sources: Apple

Apple’s Indoor Directions and iBeacon

Companies have ventured into providing indoor interactive maps including Google. Large malls have developed their own mobile apps that provide indoor maps and directories, some even interactive. However, Apple is looking to join and take over the scene with the ability to map an entire indoor space without any additional hardware except the latest iPhone!

Sources show a new app that was officially published to the App Store by Apple called “Indoor Survey” that requires special permissions to log onto and use. Apparently this app will allow the user to broadcast their location and through the phones GPS and other sensors, beam information about the space indoors.

If this app succeeds and works as described, you could safely assume that any well-visited and popular indoor venue will be mapped. The consumers may not benefit from this as much as the corporations, in particular all the retail stores in malls! If consumers are broadcasting their location (relatively accurately) indoors, a retail store can ping a potential customer through Apple’s iBeacon service very easily, notifying the customer of new promotions and incentives. Maybe you won’t be greeted by a friendly employee handing you a sale flyer for much longer!

Apple Pencil Accessory Will Come With a Charging Adapter for Lightning Cable

picture of lightning to lightning adapterWhen the Apple Ipad Pro was teased and announced, one of my biggest worries was the fact that the Apple Pencil accessory would have to be charged by plugging into the Ipad Pro’s charging port. So many concerns arose… What happens if my iPad is already out of juice? What if my desk is relatively narrow and someone accidentally hits the thin portruding Pencil as it hangs off my desk? What if I really just don’t like how the Pencil looks when it is plugged into the iPad?

Thankfully I can still look forward to this promising device now! According to 9to5Mac, the Apple Pencil accessory will come with an adapter for our regular lightning cables that will allow the lightning cable to insert at one end and the pencil at another. Now, charging the Pencil through the charging port of the iPad is merely a bonus feature for convenience but isn’t absolutely necessary. Now what I am looking for next is a nice case (maybe even a keyboard case) that has effective storage for the Pencil.

Sources: 9to5Mac, TechnoBuffalo

Apple TV Now Available in Stores with App Store Functionality!

Apple TV is now available in its retail stores! It retails for $149USD/$199CAD or $199USD/$269CAD for the 32GB or 64GB model respectively.

The most exciting feature I would say is the support for a full App Store. This means developers will start and probably have already released several third-party apps and most interesting, games! Although I would not compare the Apple TV to a Playstation, Xbox or the Wii U, it is much more affordable and will have its own set of unique games for also much more affordable prices! Considering the fact that gaming on mobile phones is quickly becoming very popular with almost 50% of smartphone users playing games at least once a month in the UK according to TechRadar, I would not be surprised if they dig a nice whole into the traditional console’s market.

Apple fans who have not yet jumped onto the Apple TV train due to its lack of features over any other smart device should definitely think about giving this new 4th gen iteration a shot. In terms of whether or not you should upgrade from a previous model would depend on how much you value the addition of the app store. The new gen device also comes with hardware upgrades to support the new functionality such as a redesigned remote with a mic for Siri as well as a touch panel, accelerometer and gyroscope for more user input. It also supports 7.1 Dolby Digital Surround as opposed to the 5.1 channel of the previous model. Last but not least, a jump from the old single-core A5 chip to the dual-core A8 chip and support for wireless AC.

Sources: Apple, TechnoBuffaloTechRadar