While Apple’s decision to remove the charger and EarPods from its iPhone packaging this year may not sit well with everybody, there are some pretty compelling reasons for it, most notably allowing Apple to reduce its carbon footprint by manufacturing and shipping fewer accessories.
In fact, Apple’s environmental chief, Lisa Jackson, explained that with the volume of iPhones sold each year, simply removing these two accessories would be equivalent to taking 450,000 cars off the road each year. Of course, not every environmental expert agrees with those exact numbers, and some have even waded in saying that Apple is just shifting the environmental burden elsewhere based on the fact that most people will still be purchasing accessories separately, most still generally agree that it should result in a net positive benefit.
With the possible exception of France.
Well known for its somewhat unusual regulatory landscape, it seems that Apple will be forced to continue to include EarPods along with all of its iPhones in order to comply with a law designed to protected children from the potential risk of electromagnetic radiation from cellular phones.
Specifically, French law requires that smartphone manufacturers and mobile carriers “must provide an accessory such as a hands-free kit or headset suitable for children under 14 years of age,” or face a fine of up to 75,000 euros if they fail to do so.
To be clear, French legislators are not specifically taking sides in the ongoing cell phone radiation controversy, but have instead simply decided to err on the side of caution, since the risks of electromagnetic radiation on developing brains are not fully known.
EarPods Stay In
Interestingly, although the text of the law says that companies are only required to do so “at the request of the purchaser of a mobile phone,” Apple has clearly decided it’s easier to just continue bundling the EarPods with every iPhone sold in France to avoid the potential for any confusion. While it seems like Apple could technically get away with supplying them separately as a zero-rated item for customers who requested them, the nature of the law suggests that Apple would still be required to supply them after the fact for customers who ordered an iPhone without realizing that the EarPods wouldn’t be included, which would actually increase shipping and packaging costs.
That said, however, it looks like Apple won’t be changing its primarily iPhone packaging to accommodate French law; according to iGeneration (Google Translate), Apple is instead leveraging the method similar to the one it first began using for packaging Apple Watch bands a couple of years ago.
When Apple released the Apple Watch Series 4 back in 2018, it changed its packaging design to include the Apple Watch hardware and the Apple Watch band in separate boxes, effectively wrapped together in a single sleeve. This allowed customers to order the Apple Watch with their band of choice without having to figure out what to do with the standard band in the box that they might otherwise never use.
Now Apple is following a similar strategy with its French iPhone packaging. Rather than creating a whole new box design for a single country, it seems that iPhone buyers in France will instead get the same iPhone packaging as those in every other country, except that it will be contained inside a larger box that also leaves room for the EarPods.
While more packaging doesn’t seem like a great idea for the environment, it may still be a net positive compared to using an entirely different box, since it allows the same packaging process to be used for every iPhone that comes off the line.
Further, it’s also unclear whether this will apply to every iPhone sold in France or only for those purchased online, as it certainly seems possible Apple’s retail store models could simply use the normal packaging, sans EarPods, with staff offering the earbuds separately at checkout for those customers who need them.