Is iPhone 4S Greener? Siri’s Answer: “No”

Posted on October 14, 2011


Product Images: Courtesy of Apple

Free electricity or an iPhone 4S? What do consumers want?  Here’s the hint: Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple, waited in line for his iPhone 4S at the Apple Store in Los Gatos.  Thousands of consumers across the country are waiting in line at Apple Retail Stores to get an iPhone 4S. So when Apple launches new products, consumers are not thinking about the environmental impact of their products. They buy the iPhone 4S for the “insanely great experience” it will give them.

So if you were to ask Siri – Apple’s voice assistant : “Is the iPhone 4S greener than the iPhone 4?”, Siri’s answer should be: “No.” * According to Apple’s own iPhone Environmental Reports, the iPhone 4S will produce 27% more greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions over its life cycle than that of an iPhone 4. So given a modest forecast of at least 100 million iPhone 4S’s to be sold between now (the official launch) and 2012, the new iPhone 4S models will be emitting an additional amount of GHG that is equivalent to the electricity used by nearly 200,000 U.S. homes for one year.

Kudos to Apple for its honesty, yet the iPhone 4S has only one feature greener than the iPhone 4: a slightly more green-tinted display than the previous model. See the comparison below for their 4S GHG emissions.

The biggest hit in additional GHG comes from production. It’s likely stemming from the following:

  • Dual core A5 processor which is up to 2X faster performance than the previous chip;
  • 8 megapixels camera with all-new optics;
  • Global phone capabilities which require additional circuitry; and
  • Weight: Although it has 6 grams more glass and 1 gram more stainless steel than the iPhone 4, the iPhone 4S weighs 3 grams more.

Here’s the good news. After getting dinged by Greenpeace for relying on “dirty energy” for their North Carolina data center, Apple is working on ways to improve its environmental footprint – especially with their products. So although the iPhone 4S was a step backward in its carbon footprint, Apple is far ahead of its competitors in:

  • Publishing life cycle carbon footprint reports for each new product including production and operations;
  • Utilizing PVC-free and BFR-free materials as well as arsenic-free display glass;
  • Providing free and easy recycling services in many of the countries where products are sold;
  • Publishing an annual report on the results of its labor conditions policy as well as corrective actions for any deviations found; and
  • Supplying a USB power adapter that outperforms the stringent requirements of the Energy Star specification.

You will not find all of the above Sustainability accomplishments at Samsung, HTC, RIM, Motorola or at any of the other smartphone competitors. So if Apple is measuring the carbon footprint of the iPhone 4S, it will seek to manage its carbon footprint on this and future iPhones. Then it will master its Sustainability message and include its next green iPhone innovations as incredible, phenomenal and magical features for another unbelievable experience that consumers will line up to buy.

* Given that my iPhone 4S is on back order, I’m interested in how Siri would actually respond for those of you that are using it today. Send in your Siri responses via the comments section below.

What green features would you like to see in your next smartphone? EcoLeader welcomes your comments.

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© 2011 by Ed Valdez

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Posted in: Eco Leader