Top mobile phone manufacturers are increasingly adopting the trend of shipping phones without accessories such as chargers and earphones in a move they say is aimed at taming the runaway pollution of electronic waste.
The trend was kickstarted by Apple in 2020 when it shipped its first consignment of iPhones without a bundled charger sparking outrage among consumers who protested the phone maker’s reluctance to cut the prices. The US tech giant said then that the decision to ditch phone chargers and earpieces from the phone pack would aid in the reduction of plastic waste.
Two years on, other phone brands are increasingly taking cue with Samsung releasing its latest S22 series without the in-box proprietary chargers and earphones. Charles Kimari, the director of Internet and Mobile experience at Samsung said the shift is in line with the company’s plan to deal with e-waste management.
Oppo is also said to be on its way to the adoption of the trend.
Making a case for their environmental conservation mission, the manufacturers argue that since the average life of many smartphones ranges from two and a half to three years, many people are stuck with a piling stock of chargers that they do not need. They argue it would not make conservation sense to continue letting out more yet consumers can use the accessories they have already piled in their houses.
The populace in many consumer economies including in Kenya has however expressed their dissatisfaction with the shift, the main concern being the cost stagnation.
“If the old charger would serve me well with the new gadget, then it is only logical not to get a new one, but the new phone should come at a lower price. Alternatively, phone makers can ship different packages, some with the in-box accessories and others without, price them differently and let the consumer make a choice,” says Christopher Mwangi, a site clerk at Mahiga Homes Limited.
Mercy Gachuiri, who works as a ticket manager at the Nairobi Expressway, sees the environmental case as a cosmetic argument by the phone makers to hoodwink the public and hide their bigger mission of cutting costs.
“Buying a charger and earphones separately means they come in different boxes which is actually a negation of any gains made in as far the reduction of carbon footprint is concerned,” notes Ms Gachuiri.
“Instead of creating a slightly bigger box that can accommodate the phone and the accessories, manufacturers will now have to make two different packages for both the phone and the charger meaning more waste. This is just a cover for them to make more cash.”
The model change is set to significantly disrupt the phones market with users expected to lean more towards technologies like Gallium Nitride chargers (GAN) which are more compact and allow for the charging of multiple devices with one adapter at the same time.
Kenya’s Ambassador to Belgium Professor Bitange Ndemo views the shift as a grand opportunity for Kenya to unleash its innovative self.
“This is an opportunity window that Kenya should grab and run with. Our young people now have the chance to widen their innovative scope and start the manufacture of chargers. The local market is about to get huge. If given the correct government support, the sector could be a huge point of an economic turnaround,” Prof Ndemo said in response to Business Daily queries.
Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) data shows that Kenya’s unique mobile penetration, which weeds out the impact of multiple SIM card ownership, stands at 61 percent which is the highest among East African peers. This means the country will bear a significant extent of the spillover effects once the model overhaul is complete.
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