iPhone: Forbidden fruit or must-have accessory?By Graham Land Sep 11, 2013 3:24AM UTC
In ancient Greek, Norse and Biblical mythology, the apple has represented many things: sin, knowledge, temptation, reward… In an ancient Greek myth, Paris rewards Aphrodite with a golden apple (Zeus’ prize for being the most beautiful), a decision that ultimately results in the Trojan War.
In our modern consumer world, what mass produced object is more coveted than the Apple iPhone? It’s a sinful product, if we take into account Apple’s environmental impact and the labor conditions in some of its suppliers’ factories. The overpriced gadget is certainly a temptation for millions of consumers, many of whom already have iPhones, albeit with slightly fewer features. I suppose it also supplies knowledge, especially via its GPS system or if you use it to read WikiLeaks.
Apple’s recently announced two new iPhone models, the colorful and lower priced 5C and the gold or silver 5S, will naturally sell like hotcakes. Maybe Paris Hilton will be rewarded with a golden Apple iPhone for being the most beautiful celebrity heiress, though that might also be a myth.
While most media coverage of the new phones only hype their release, some reports are questioning the tech firm’s morality. Is it “wrong” to buy an (other) iPhone?
For example, despite efforts to clean up their image by being more environmentally responsible – for example launching in-store iPhone recycling – China Labor Watch just keeps finding more factories that violate Apple’s own workplace standards. The latest is a US-owned factory in Wuxi, China.
From an official press release:
Among the infringements uncovered by CLW include millions of dollars in unpaid overtime wages; over 100 hours of monthly mandatory overtime, three times in excess of legal limits; more than 11 hours of standing work every day with no rest outside of 30-minute meal breaks; illegally inadequate pre-work training; hiring discrimination; and more.
That’s what happens when you outsource production and labor to other firms, which often outsource production and labor themselves. It’s called voluntarily losing control. And when you don’t take full responsibility it’s called passing the buck. It’s also called making a lot of bucks, which is the reason Apple’s violations are more publicized than other tech firms.
From the Guardian:
Targeted more than any other consumer electronics company over the treatment of its workers, Apple has arguably done more than any of its rivals to tackle the problem. It has been publishing audits of its suppliers for the past seven years, and is now working with independent campaigner the Fair Labor Association to inspect facilities.
So don’t think you can avoid guilt by avoiding “eating the Apple”. Unless you do a heck of a lot of research, you’re probably still contributing to some horrible stuff. Nokia, Sony, Samsung and Amazon have all contracted Foxconn to build their phones. According to the Guardian, Motorola’s Moto X or handsets made by a Dutch company called Fairphone seem to be the best bets for an “ethical” smartphone. But they don’t have the iPhone OS or that cute little Apple logo on the back and so comparatively few will ever buy them.
Full disclosure: Though I’ve never owned an iPhone or any smart phone for that matter, I wrote this on a MacBook Pro. I am not above temptation.