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Apple and Samsung’s Removal of Chargers from Phone Boxes: Environmental Considerations or Profit-Driven Strategy?

Apple and Samsung’s Removal of Chargers from Phone Boxes: Environmental Considerations or Profit-Driven Strategy?

In recent years, two of the most influential technology giants, Apple and Samsung, have made a significant shift in their product packaging strategy by removing chargers from their smartphone boxes. This move has sparked considerable debate and speculation about the motivations behind it. On one hand, both companies have cited environmental reasons as the primary driver for this decision. On the other hand, skeptics argue that the exclusion of chargers is a veiled attempt to boost profits. This essay aims to explore the stated intentions behind this decision and critically analyze whether it was primarily an environmentally motivated initiative or a money-making scheme.

Apple’s Justification: Environmental Sustainability

Apple was the first to take the bold step of removing chargers from the boxes of its iPhone 12 lineup in October 2020. The company announced that this change was part of its broader environmental goals. Apple emphasized that by excluding chargers and EarPods from the packaging, it could significantly reduce the carbon footprint associated with the production and shipping of its devices. The company highlighted several key points:

  1. Reduction in Electronic Waste: Apple claimed that most consumers already own chargers from previous purchases, thus the inclusion of new chargers leads to unnecessary electronic waste. By eliminating chargers from new phone boxes, Apple intended to minimize the environmental impact associated with discarded electronic accessories.

  2. Smaller Packaging: The exclusion of chargers allowed Apple to reduce the size of its iPhone boxes. Smaller packaging not only means fewer raw materials used in the production of boxes but also increased efficiency in shipping. More products can be transported at once, reducing the carbon emissions per device shipped.

  3. Long-term Environmental Goals: Apple has set ambitious environmental targets, such as becoming carbon neutral across its entire business, manufacturing supply chain, and product life cycle by 2030. The removal of chargers was presented as a step towards achieving these goals, demonstrating Apple’s commitment to sustainability.

Samsung’s Follow-Up: Aligning with Environmental Trends

Following Apple’s lead, Samsung also decided to remove chargers from its flagship Galaxy S21 series in January 2021. Samsung echoed similar environmental arguments as Apple. The South Korean company highlighted the following points:

  1. Environmental Impact: Samsung emphasized its commitment to promoting sustainable practices. The company pointed out that reducing the number of included accessories would decrease the environmental impact associated with their production, transportation, and disposal.

  2. Consumer Behavior: Like Apple, Samsung noted that many consumers already have compatible chargers from previous devices. By not including a charger, Samsung aimed to reduce redundancy and the proliferation of unnecessary electronic waste.

  3. Sustainability Goals: Samsung has its own set of environmental objectives, including reducing the company’s carbon footprint and encouraging the recycling and reuse of materials. The exclusion of chargers was portrayed as a step towards meeting these goals.

Analyzing the Financial Implications

While the environmental justifications presented by Apple and Samsung are compelling, it is essential to scrutinize the financial implications of their decisions. Critics argue that the exclusion of chargers is a strategic move to increase profits rather than solely an environmentally driven initiative. The analysis can be broken down into several key points:

  1. Cost Savings: By not including chargers in the box, Apple and Samsung save on manufacturing costs. Chargers and EarPods are relatively inexpensive to produce individually, but when multiplied by the millions of units sold annually, the savings become substantial. These cost savings can significantly enhance the profit margins on each device sold.

  2. Increased Accessory Sales: The removal of chargers potentially drives sales of accessories. Consumers who do not have compatible chargers or wish to upgrade to faster charging solutions are likely to purchase these accessories separately. Both Apple and Samsung offer chargers and other accessories at premium prices, thus boosting their revenue from accessory sales.

  3. Marketing Strategy: The decision to exclude chargers can be viewed as a marketing strategy that aligns with a broader trend of offering "eco-friendly" products. This approach may enhance the brand’s image and appeal to environmentally conscious consumers, potentially increasing overall sales and customer loyalty.

  4. Price Retention: Despite the removal of chargers, the retail prices of new smartphones did not decrease. This has led to speculation that the companies are using this as a strategy to maintain or even increase their profit margins while marketing the change as an eco-friendly initiative.

Weighing Environmental Benefits Against Financial Gains

While the financial benefits of excluding chargers are evident, it is crucial to consider whether these actions genuinely contribute to environmental sustainability. The reduction in electronic waste and carbon emissions is a valid argument, and smaller packaging does indeed have environmental benefits. However, the net positive impact on the environment largely depends on consumer behavior. If consumers purchase additional chargers, the environmental benefits may be offset by the production and shipping of these separate accessories.

Furthermore, the environmental argument is somewhat weakened by the companies’ continued release of new devices with slightly modified features, which encourages a culture of frequent upgrading and potential waste generation. Thus, while the removal of chargers may be a step towards sustainability, it must be part of a broader, more comprehensive strategy to have a meaningful impact.


The decision by Apple and Samsung to remove chargers from their smartphone boxes is a complex issue with both environmental and financial dimensions. While both companies have presented convincing environmental justifications, the financial benefits cannot be overlooked. The move does align with broader sustainability goals and has the potential to reduce electronic waste and carbon emissions. However, the skepticism regarding profit motives is also valid, as the exclusion of chargers results in significant cost savings and increased accessory sales.

Ultimately, the exclusion of chargers can be seen as a dual-purpose strategy that serves both environmental and financial objectives. For the move to be genuinely impactful from an environmental perspective, it should be part of a larger, sustained effort towards sustainability, including promoting longer product lifecycles, enhancing recycling programs, and encouraging responsible consumer behavior. Only time will tell whether the primary driver was environmental responsibility or profit maximization, but the move has undeniably set a new standard in the tech industry that other companies (i.e. Xiaomi) will follow.

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