The big­gest ques­tion about the next iPhone: What’s in the box?

Your next iPhone box might come with con­sid­er­ably less in­side. Dan Moren re­ports

iPad&iPhone user - - CONTENTS -

Few prod­ucts ex­ert the kind of grav­ity on ru­mours and spec­u­la­tion as Ap­ple’s iPhone. Every year, the process re­peats it­self: web­sites and tweets full of con­jec­ture, hy­pothe­ses and more about what the lat­est ver­sion of Ap­ple’s smart­phone might look like, what new fea­tures it might add, how it will com­pare to last year’s model.

Though we’re still a lit­tle way off from any for­mal an­nounce­ment of this year’s iPhone, there is a bit of a dif­fer­ent spin on the the­o­riz­ing this year. The

most in­tense spec­u­la­tion isn’t about the aes­thet­ics or func­tion­al­ity of Ap­ple’s up­com­ing de­vice, but some­thing ar­guably a lit­tle more mun­dane: what’s in­cluded with the phone?

Let’s take a mo­ment to cog­i­tate on what might ac­tu­ally be in that box this au­tumn – aside from a brand‑new iPhone, nat­u­rally – and then delve a lit­tle bit into why this seems to be chang­ing right now.

Cut­ting the cords

Since its ear­li­est days, the iPhone has come pack­aged with a set of Ap­ple’s ear­buds. At first, they were more or less the same as those in­cluded with the iPod that pre­ceded it, al­beit with a built‑in mi­cro­phone for mak­ing calls and a clicker for con­trol. (One ma­jor ad­van­tage of Ap­ple’s own head­phones in those ear­li­est of days? The plug was one of the few thin enough to fit in the orig­i­nal iPhone’s re­cessed head­phone jack. Boy, was that an­noy­ing.)

Over the years, the de­sign of those head­phones has been re­fined, most re­cently into the EarPods that Ap­ple has now been ship­ping since 2012. The most sig­nif­i­cant change since then has prob­a­bly been the switch from the tra­di­tion 3.5mm jack to a Light­ning con­nec­tor when Ap­ple re­moved the iPhone’s head­phone jack in 2016.

But, if ru­mours prove true, the EarPods may lose their vaunted ‘in box’ sta­tus this au­tumn, as Ap­ple re­moves them and re­places them with... well, pos­si­bly noth­ing? While this is sure to en­gen­der some con­tro­versy, the truth is that many peo­ple al­ready have head­phones they like – in­clud­ing, po­ten­tially, old pairs of iPhone and iPod head­phones that they still use. And,

of course, more and more peo­ple are mov­ing to wire­less head­phones, whether they be from a third‑party or Ap­ple, and fur­ther ru­mour has it that the com­pany may ex­pand its line of au­dio ear­phones to in­clude an over‑the‑head model.

Put a plug in it

An­other long standby of the iPhone box has been the in­clu­sion of a power adapter, the old trusty wall plug. Ap­ple’s 5‑watt USB power adapter has gone through its own changes over the year, in­clud­ing get­ting smaller and los­ing its mod­u­lar head (à la the MacBook adapter).

Last year, for the first time, Ap­ple in­cluded a more pow­er­ful charger with the iPhone 11 Pro and Pro Max: an 18‑watt adapter with a USB‑C port. But every other model of the phone still re­lies on the same 5‑watt charger with a USB‑A port that Ap­ple’s been ship­ping since the iPhone 5.

But like the in­cluded head­phones, the wall charger may not be long for this world, if sug­ges­tions are true. In­stead, Ap­ple may only in­clude a charg­ing ca­ble, trust­ing that ei­ther con­sumers have plenty of charg­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties around, whether it be old power

adapters or plug­ging the phone into a com­puter, or have switched to the in­duc­tive charg­ing of­fered by newer mod­els of iPhones. Or, it may opt to in­clude the charger only with cer­tain mod­els of the phone.

Cer­tainly, there are no short­age of places to charge your de­vices these days, but this does worry me on one front: plug­ging into USB ports, es­pe­cially in pub­lic places – one we start go­ing to them again – has proved to be a po­ten­tial se­cu­rity risk. Wall charg­ers and in­duc­tive charg­ing, on the other hand, re­main rel­a­tively safe. It’s per­haps not a wide­spread con­cern, but some­thing to think about.

Ours not to rea­son why, ours but to do and buy

Of course, the real ques­tion is why Ap­ple might do this. The most ob­vi­ous an­swer is money: forc­ing peo­ple to shell out for ac­ces­sories that used to be in­cluded means bring­ing in a lit­tle ex­tra rev­enue, es­pe­cially since Ap­ple’s prob­a­bly not about to com­pen­sate by mak­ing its phones cheaper.

But the en­vi­ron­ment is a fac­tor as well. Less stuff in the box means that Ap­ple can make the iPhone’s pack­age smaller. Smaller boxes means you can fit more on a pal­let or in a plane, which means ship­ping the same amount of phones with fewer flights. And that, in turn, cuts down on Ap­ple’s car­bon foot­print. Given that the com­pany re­cently boasted it would go car­bon neu­tral in ten years (see page 11) , this is one place where a small de­ci­sion can have a big im­pact. But even this is also about Ap­ple’s bot­tom line: ship­ping more phones in the same space is more cost‑ef­fec­tive for Ap­ple’s sup­ply chain.

In the end, it’s the con­sumer who ends up pay­ing the same for less. Some will be upset and will cer­tainly ac­cuse the com­pany of short‑chang­ing cus­tomers, though Ap­ple is surely bank­ing on the fact that most won’t be upset enough to not buy a new phone. And, hey, if a truly port‑less iPhone is in the fu­ture, then it may not be long be­fore the charg­ing ca­ble joins the rest on the chop­ping block.

But at least we can sleep soundly at night know­ing that our Ap­ple stick­ers will al­ways be there.

The 5-watt charger Ap­ple in­cludes in the box of­ten never leaves the box

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