Oh, what a difference literally just two months makes.
Chinese phone maker Xiaomi is taking some flak over the news that its next major phone, the Mi 11, will be shipping without a charger in the box. It’s quite a turnaround coming just two months after the company joined others in dragging Apple for making the same decision with 2020’s iPhone 12.
Confirmation of the move comes from none other than Xiaomi CEO Lei Jun in a post on the Chinese social media platform Weibo (h/t The Verge). In an auto-translated version of the post from the original Chinese, Jun said the move is “a response to the call of technology and environmental protection.”
He also revealed that there would be further discussion of the decision in a press conference set for Dec. 28.
Apple initially drew jeers when it revealed in October that the then-upcoming iPhone 12 would ditch the charging block and headphones that have traditionally been packed in with earlier iOS devices. Samsung and OnePlus joined Xiaomi in dragging Apple at the time.
This is a somewhat fraught issue, though, since chargers (and pack-in headphones) are largely identical and owned by the large swathes of the population that have previously purchased devices inside the same family. That’s made these accessories big contributors to the growing problem of e-waste.
On the other hand, not everyone has owned an Apple device before (or Xiaomi or Samsung or OnePlus or whatever else). And so the move to ditch these somewhat-essentials puts an added financial burden on the customer’s shoulders. Especially since the removal hasn’t exactly translated to reduced costs — the base iPhone 11 debuted at $699, but the charger-free iPhone 12 actually bumped that price up to $799. It’s a similar situation with Xiaomi’s jump from the Mi 10 to Mi 11, with the newer model costing roughly $100 more.
In some ways, all of this is a reflection of Apple’s leadership in the portable tech space. Think back to the company’s suggestion that killing the headphone jack on its smartphones amounted to a “courageous” move. That also drew jeers at the time as competitors used the continuing presence of their own headphone jacks as a selling point — before many of those same competitors embraced Apple’s thinking in subsequent hardware releases.
As it was then, the customers are the only big losers in the end. Just as people had to go out and deal with finicky adapters and pricier Bluetooth headphone purchases back then, so too will many be forced to spend on charging bricks now. (Apple’s own brick sells for $19.) As much as there may be an environmental argument for ditching these things, it’s easy to understand customers’ frustration when any changes aren’t necessarily reflected in hardware pricing.