Apple iPhones are E-Waste in India

iphones are ewaste in india 2016 tech
A man and a woman sit among piles of electronic waste as they dismantle computer peripherals at a family compound of houses in Sangrampur village, West Bengal, India, on Tuesday, Sept. 9, 2014. In 2012, 48.9 million tons of electronic waste, or e-waste, was generated worldwide, according to the Solving the e-Waste Problem (StEP) initiative, a United Nations program based in Germany. Photographer: Sanjit Das/Bloomberg via Getty Images

iphones are ewaste in india 2016 tech

Talk about high and mighty. India authorities consider the iPhone as e-waste. Refurbished phones that is. Ever wonder where those old Phones go that Apple sometimes ask users trade in for new ones? They either go to the hands of that new dismantling robot of theirs to melt down parts for recycling or those phones get refurbished and go to third world countries to be re-sold in hopefully reasonable prices. One such country is India, but they’re not thrilled with the idea.

Never thought that a company like Apple would be open to selling old and refurbished goods. Apple is like a dealer of Ferraris and Jaguars, not Sleazy Dan’s Used Cars. But new phones or refurbished, Apple is known for quality so buyers of these second-hand phones probably won’t see any scratches. The reason for selling refurbished goods to third world countries in the first place would be to push their target market to the Apple ecosystem. To give them that sinful bite of the forbidden fruit. To give them a taste of what it’s like to get an Apple product. To show that even a refurbished unit is worth ten cheap smartphones or tablets. To make them want the real thing—new units.

But according to the Indian Ministry of Environment and Forests, the sale of used and refurbished iPhones and iPads would be in violation of the Hazardous Waste Rules 2008.

“The Central Pollution Control Board has estimated that as much as 800,000 MTs of e-waste was generated in 2005… Refurbished electrical and electronic equipment had shorter functional life and became obsolete quicker, thereby amplifying the country’s e-waste burden. At best, it reasoned, imports that were of less than three year vintage with at least five years of residual life could be allowed.”

Prakash Javadekar, Minister for Environment and Forests

Apple isn’t looking too good right now with regards to its iPhones. They recently posted the first ever decline in iPhone sales and doomsayers are calling it the beginning of Apple’s decline, recalling that dismal period when the company kicked out Steve Jobs as CEO. Apple is crying market saturation while others blame Apple’s lack of groundbreaking innovation with regards to the iPhone. What else can you put into an already good product to make it better? Apple owned the market with the iPhone 6 and continued to do well with the 6S but not as well as expected.

So far rumor has it that the iPhone 7 will do away with the headphone jack (which many think isn’t a good idea), but Tim could probably try to spin it as something groundbreaking and important. Who knows? They’ve proven people wrong with the iPad. Another rumor is the dual rear camera. That would be great if the phone’s main purpose is to take pictures for social media and not as a phone. Another rumor is that the phone will bring back the glass at the back just like the iPhone 4 and of course the requisite improved processor. What else is new? The new voice assistant Viv would probably be thrown in. Anything else that’s compelling enough for fans to trade in their trusty perfectly okay iPhone 4S, iPhone 5S or their newly acquired iPhone 6S? It would probably be nice to include expandable memory. If so, make the cards proprietary so Apple won’t lose profits over the loss of higher-capacity models.

Except for improved specs, the aforementioned phones are very good. The iPhone 5 line should be thrown to Apple’s dismantling robots for terrible batteries. That’s e-waste for you, India. The market is saturated with quality products from Apple and owners find little reason to replace their units immediately. They’ve already reached market saturation in China, so Apple is currently looking to hook in third world countries like India to purchase refurbished iPhones instead. Once takers get a taste of a good iPhone, they’re going to want the real thing. India does have a point. Refurbs with old batteries might not last long, and people might just throw them out instead of fixing them by replacing batteries. The old batteries alone will contribute to the e-waste as well as bricked phones from failed repairs due Apple’s own hack-proof measures that require the phones be brought to the nearest accredited service center.

But here’s an idea. Why not push through with that old affordable phone idea which unfortunately turned out to be the iPhone 5C? Why not give India an Apple feature phone that doubles as an iPod? A simpler affordable phone with Facebook, Instagram and Twitter built-in. Throw in a 5MP camera and a few games. Not only will India be excited to have really new units, so will the rest of the world. The Apple or iPhone brand alone should make the feature phone a best-seller even with a price tag of 100 to 200 US dollars. Apple needs to be careful with their brand name though or risk getting it slapped on toilet seats which might happen in China where they lost the iPhone brand.

Aside from calling e-waste, the country could be holding onto its pride. Putting a patriotic stand that they’re not some hand-me-down bin. They already rejected Freebasics as a statement that they won’t settle for a second-rate web. They want the real thing or nothing. It would be unfortunate for Apple if other countries follow suit.