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The Big Bad Apple

Andrew Knowles outlines why he will never buy into the Apple brand

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Apple is one of the world's most iconic brands
Apple is one of the world's most iconic brands

Throughout 2012, Apple was ranked consistently as the world's most valuable publicly traded corporation. Although its shares have been plummeting since late 2012, its size is still staggering, especially when you compare it to that of the late 90s. In the not so distant past Apple was a mere minnow in the global markets- and indeed the technology world as well. But throughout the first two decades of the millennium, the rise of Apple has been nothing short of meteoric.

However, Apple's journey to success is one epitomised by greed and aggressiveness, with the most serious issue revolving around severe human rights failings. The supply side of Apple's products has consistently been exposed as being morally questionable, with inhumane factory conditions and damaging environmental waste incidents. Attention to this issue was highlighted by damning articles published by the New York Times early last year, which exposed the company as being largely indifferent as to where their electronics were made. All that seems to matter is that the goods are made for as little money as possible.

The consequences of this global tech firm minimising costs and maximising profits are sobering, with the impact on human life most shocking. There have been reports of multiple suicides by stressed workers, extensive use of child labour and fatal dust explosions in recent years, all the while workers are on 72 hour weeks, crammed into dormitories. However despite the scandal, a recent proposal at Apple's annual meeting for a board committee on human rights was voted down.

Furthermore, within the legal world Apple is seen as a corporation with a chronic addiction to litigation. In recent years, there have been several high-profile law-suits instigated by Apple with firms such as HTC and Samsung. In the high-profile Samsung case of late 2012, Apple emerged victorious, with the courts ordering Samsung to pay more than $1 billion dollars to Apple- although that fine has now been reduced.

Apple has accused Samsung of infringing upon many design patents. These are notoriously ambiguous patents, of which Apple has a disproportionate number of. Litigation is now unfortunately part of everyday life for a major firm these days, but Apple uses it as a major part of its business strategy.

These 'patent wars' are problematic for competitors, because there is now a thicket of patents that tech firms have to work around. It is now effectively impossible for a new start-up to begin making phones and tablets due to the sheer volume of the patents they'll inevitably infringe upon. Apple has played a large part in creating this anti-competitive, litigation-drenched market where only a few dominant firms can compete.

As well as enjoying low manufacturing costs, Apple's enviable brand image created through years of clever marketing has been instrumental to its success. Through its nauseatingly smug adverts, Apple's marketing team have made their engineering departments job a whole lot easier. And abuse this brand power they do. The corporation has gained notoriety for producing endless products with just incremental upgrades- just look at the iPhone 'it's slightly taller!' 5. Apple happily perpetuates the message that consumption is beautiful, endless and cool.

It is for the reasons I've discussed- and others that there isn't space for- that I will never buy an Apple product. Although no international firms are going to be perfect, Apple is one of a few that for me does more than enough to deserve an individual boycott.

Photo Credit: medically_irrelevant

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4 Comment

Malcolm G Posted on Saturday 16 Jan 2021

There are far worse companies from an ethical standpoint. Nestle, say, is a prime example of a company which many would decry as plain evil. The difference is that Apple has, thrice, and with varying degrees of importance, revolutionised the field of technology.

The barrier to entry for a start-up does not lie in potential patent infringement (and, if under extreme circumstances it does, this is the fault of a broken system for protecting copyright, not Apple or anyone else's use thereof), it's the same reason that Joe Bloggs doesn't start his own ISP: the price. If the smartphone market is lacking in competition, this is because everyone who isn't Apple has been playing catch-up for the last few years. Only very recently has anything been able to innovate to a remotely interesting degree beyond Apple's offering, and this has not taken the form of a phone which surpasses the iPhone, rather a component or software feature which Apple hasn't thought of.

Apple changed the world with the introduction of the iPhone in 2007. This is undeniable, and would not be contested by any of its competitors. If its changes ever since have been incremental, this is hardly unusual. No one innovates on a yearly cycle such as to create the gulf between pre- and post-iPhone release with every product launch.

Of course, none of this is to say that Apple is a pinnacle of ethical capitalism: they definitely aren't. But to attack them with integrity, you've got to apply the same standards to every company of note. Find me a Fortune 500 devoid of ethical controversy and I'll owe you an iPint or two. The only difference between Nestle's egregiousness and Apple's? No one has enough of an opinion about Nestle's products to care much what they're up to.


DWM Posted on Saturday 16 Jan 2021

Best of luck finding any smartphones or computer components that you can verify are manufactured ethically and from ethically sound components. George Monbiot has been having rather poor results. Lots of stuff is manufactured by FoxConn, and most manufacturers have no idea where their rare earth metals etc. are sourced.


Josh Posted on Saturday 16 Jan 2021

Because i'm sure the computer you are using now is made from ethically produced peace hemp, woven by a small cooperative of workers who are paid in legumes and sit round a fire and sing Kumbaya while they wait for the operating system to install (Ubuntu naturally).


DWM Posted on Saturday 16 Jan 2021

@ Josh
Not sure where I implied that any of the electronics I own were ethically produced. Of course, the possibility of not using what amounts to forced (and child) labour in awful conditions to produce goods should be rightfully derided as a hippy daydream. Children dying in mines so we can play Candy Crush and send each other photos of our genitals is just... how it is, y'know?


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