For several years Android has had the edge on Apple in terms of user numbers, but a recent swing in Apple's favour suggests that Android users are switching platforms. Unfortunately for them, the move may not be as positive an experience as it could be.

A friend who decided to move from Android to iPhone had his excitement at the transition to the new handset dampened somewhat when he realised that a charging plug was absent from the box that his iPhone came in.

The absence of the plug from the box is an inconvenience to the typical iPhone user, but since they most likely have an abundance of Lightning to USB-A cables and plugs scattered around their homes, it doesn't mean that they won't be able to charge their new iPhone. Long-term iPhone users can just grab an old charging cable and plug and fill up the new battery. It probably won't be a USB-C charger, and therefore the process will take a little longer than it could, but it's perfectly sufficient.

It's a different story for my friend who has a history with Android. He might have an abundance of old USB-A chargers, but he has no Lightning cables to plug into his iPhone other than the one in the box, which is designed for USB-C.

As a result, what could have been a positive first experience with an iPhone became one of frustration and annoyance likely to sully his future with the device.

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Why it's not really an environmental benefit

This situation is the result of Apple's decision, announced in mid-2020, that it would stop shipping the charging plug (and for that matter headphones) in the box with a new iPhone. The move doesn't just apply to the iPhone 12 but to all new iPhones - so the plug is also retroactively missing from current iPhone 11 and SE boxes, for example.

Apple positioned the move as good for the environment: the box can be smaller if it doesn't include a chunky plug, for example. Plus Apple's been selling iPhones and iPads with Lighting cables and chargers in the box for more than a decade, so it would likely assume that its customers have plenty lying around, which is certainly true in our case.

Any move that is designed to help the environment is obviously admirable. However, we can't help but wonder whether the environment is being used as an excuse to hide the real reason for the move.

Leaving the charging plug out of the box brings a number of clear benefits to Apple: it can sell more USB-C chargers to its customers; it doesn't have to swallow the cost of shipping the plugs to its customers; and crucially, plugs come in all shapes and sizes so the move has the added advantage that Apple no longer needs to design boxes to accommodate these.

It gets worse. Rather than aiding the environment you could say that the move is anti-environment, with two likely outcomes of the move: either the USB-C cables included in the box are rejected by users who don't wish to pay for a new plug; or the piles of USB-A cables and plugs filling our homes are rejected by users who decide to make the switch to USB-C.

It just feels like bad timing: combining the move from USB-A to USB-C for charging, which only began with the iPhone 11 Pro and Pro Max, with the absence of the USB-C charger from the box. It's a decision that iPhone users can probably accept, but we're not sure Android users moving to the platform for the first time will be so forgiving.

Different Think is a weekly column in which Macworld writers expose their less mainstream opinions to public scrutiny. We've defended the notch, argued that Microsoft is out-designing Apple, and told Apple to stop being so successful. Tune in next Tuesday to see us once again defend the indefensible.