05/16/19
Brice Bunner
Finance

Apple unwittingly ran a social experiment that proves they’ve got it wrong

    

Image ©: NewsweekThe big fruit tech company that so many of us love was recently involved in a nationwide experiment to vet out the Right to Repair (RTR) legislation it has been fighting. The only problem is, Apple was completely unaware of what they were doing, and to this day, still can’t see the writing on the wall.

When things go social

With most news today, we hear about Americans constantly upgrading their electronic devices and throwing away perfectly good last-gen technology. However, there may be a problem with that assessment. Namely, that it isn’t exactly true.

Perhaps this is why Apple is still stuck on saying “no” to the RTR bill. That’s the one that would force them to design in replaceable solutions for things like batteries and screens. The idea being that we need to be able to more easily repair or refurbish devices as a way to keep them out of the waste bin.

Apple must think that their customers want to chuck their current phone or tablet in preference of whatever the tech giant releases next. But when Apple sent out an update that made older device batteries degrade—the customers spoke up.

Eleven Million customers proved that they would rather pay $20 for repairs than purchase Apple’s latest model phone. That’s 11 million customers who didn’t dump their phones—even when there was a legitimate reason to. This flies in the face of most headlines today. And, if Apple was listening, they would see what this social experiment proved.

Don’t buy this technology

Apple is not interested in making devices that every person can have. That has been clear since the first Macintosh left Wozniak’s garage. These are luxury items that have a specific quality guarantee. Given that reality, we can see that Apple throttling phones was an attempt to maintain a brand promise. Similarly, their stance on the RTR bill is predicated upon the thought that if repairs were easy, Apple devices could be compromised with after-market guts or inferior components.

But this is flawed fundamentally since Apple’s customers have proven they take into consideration responsible consumption. You just don’t willy-nilly drop a solid G on a new phone because it looks cool (or, you shouldn’t). This same mentality is what allowed Patagonia’s Don’t Buy This Jacket campaign to succeed; conscientious consumers are willing to pay for sustainable brands.  

We (as in the royal We) want to be sustainable. Especially in lieu of all the bad news surrounding the current planetary status. Given this reality, Apple would be better off acquiescing to their customer’s wants—as evidenced by the payout they had to commit to so many months ago.

Incidentally, this kind of outcry from the paying public is what we referred to in a recent post as bottom-up sustainability; that each of us has the potential to bring significant change to how our society runs so long as we make those choices known to the manufacturers and corporations plodding along in their ways.

The impact of 11 million consumers may not be shifting Apple’s perspective (yet!), but at the very least, it kept that many phones from landing in a waste bin. And that counts for a whole lot when you consider just how environmentally costly these devices are to make in the first place. Small choices add up to potent numbers when we forget what the headlines are saying and consume responsibly.

About Sage

Sage Sustainable Electronics leads the market in sustainable IT asset management and disposition (ITAD) by reusing more and recycling less. Every year, businesses retire millions of used-but-still-useful technology products, creating the fastest growing business and consumer waste stream in the world. We strategically and passionately help companies reuse more and recycle less than anyone else in the industry.

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