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What Color Of ‘Green’ Is The Apple Charging Ecosystem?

By Manik Berry

TL;DR Apple has a seamless ecosystem when it comes to hardware-software unity. However, the ecosystem is broken by different wires, connectors, and power bricks for different Apple products. The company also claims to be environment-conscious but at the same time, makes more unnecessary chargers to make a few extra bucks.

You have environment-green, and dollar-green. Apple insists that its favorite is the environment-green color. Well, the toned-down phone boxes and the exclusion of charging bricks come dancing to defend Apple there. You’ll also see labels like “100% recycled” liberally thrown around Apple products.

However, there’s more to all those eco-conscious boxes and phones. You need to charge these things to use them. That’s where Apple goes from environment-green to dollar-green. Not saying that it’s a bad shade of green. Apple is a business and it needs money to deliver what it delivers. Nonetheless, the environment-green claims go down a bit when it comes to Apple’s charging ecosystem.

I’d like to think I’m a part of the Apple ecosystem since I bought an iPhone and a MacBook. While I’m yet to drown in the iPad experience, I think there’s a limit to immersing in the Apple ecosystem. While the gadget ecosystem is something I’ve already written about, let’s focus on the charging ecosystem for the time.

The MacBook Charger

MacBook Pro MagSafe 3

Apple launched the 14 and 16-inch MacBook Pros and gave them a notch. Design malfunctions aside, they got the HDMI and SD card slot back along with MagSafe, which is a good thing. What’s even better is that you can charge the new MacBook Pros with a standard Type-C cable as well. However, there’s something about MacBooks and their chargers that just feels off.

Apple MacBook charger comparison

Please tell me you see the Dollar-green above? Nope? Let me explain. The MacBook Air and the MacBook Pro 13 were launched less than a year before the MacBook Pro 14 and 16. It is also true that MacBooks have unbeatable battery life and charging speeds. However, Apple has 5 different chargers for four MacBooks.

You can pick between 30-watts for the Air, all the way up to a beefed-up 140-watt charger for the Pro 16. I contacted Apple support to ask if I could use a higher wattage MacBook Pro charger with the MacBook Air. Turns out you can use the 96-watt charger with the MacBook Air, which comes with a 30-watt brick.

It won’t fast charge your laptop, but it will work. So there’s no point in having four chargers for two closely placed laptops and the new MBP14.

Apple could’ve reduced the number of chargers by making a single 96W adapter for MBP13/14/Air and a 140W adapter for the MBP16. Of course, it would be priced more tightly then, but that’d be more responsible.

Even now, you get a 67-watt charger with the MacBook Pro 14 by default. You can pay $20 more to get a 96-watt brick or choose a 10-core M1 Pro model. So Apple is making a 67-watt charger to include in the box of the base model and asking you to pay $20 more to get the full charging speed. By doing this, Apple is deliberately manufacturing a weaker charger that you pay for while purchasing your new Mac.

MacBook Pro 14 specs configuration
A screenshot of the Apple Store purchase page for MacBook Pro 14

It is a $2,000 laptop, and anyone spending that kind of premium won’t have a problem spending $20 more. But if you order it from anywhere else, like Amazon, you’ll get the 67-watt brick only. Then, you’ll probably spend the full amount to get the 96-watt charger, and now you have two chargers.

By now, dollar-green is laughing while environment-green tries to explain the Apple charging ecosystem.

iPad And iPhone

Come on, we got more. It’s not as bad as the current MacBook scene, but it isn’t good either. You don’t get a charger with the iPhone anymore. You do get a charger with the iPad, but that’s a different story. Let’s break it down and then add it up.

iPad Chargers

all variants of Apple iPad

Apple sells 4 iPad models and all of them come with a 20-watt USB-C adapter. Kudos for consistency. However, the cheapest model, the $329 iPad, still has a Lightning port. So Apple makes Type-C to Type-C cables for 3 models, and Type-C to Lightning for this one.

I understand that this comes from the older design of the iPad. This is also there so you can see and be reminded of where Apple cut costs on the cheapest iPad.

iPhone Chargers

iPhone Lightning Connector

Coming to the iPhone and its infamous Lightning port. By far, the iPhone is the worst part of Apple’s charging ecosystem. It has to have its own cable, no matter what. Despite leaving the charger out of the box, Apple would rather produce more cables than accept USB-C. It looks odd too, seeing the same company deploying Type-C to Type-C charging cables for the Mac and the iPad.

Now some may come after me with MagSafe, and I have used and reviewed MagSafe with my iPhone 12 Mini. It is a fairly good gimmick, but it isn’t the only charger you can live with. It is slow, it heats up the phone, and it wastes energy. Combine all 3 and it won’t be environment-green anymore.

One good thing about MagSafe is that it can now charge the AirPods 3. This should make for one less charging cable dangling off the table. Apple also left the Lightning port on AirPods 3, so you can also charge it with your iPhone’s cable. This is another example of selective harmony within the ecosystem.

The same wire works with the iPhone and AirPods, but a different wire for MacBook and iPads, and a completely different puck for the Watch.

Apple Watch Puck

Bear with me, this is the last one. Apple Watch has been around for a while now, but it just refuses to update. We have MagSafe, but there’s a different “Magnetic fast charger” for the Apple Watch. It isn’t old or backward, because Apple updated it with a metallic shell and fast charging.

However, it is sheer ignorance, because now there are two different Magnetic chargers, instead of one MagSafe that should work across iPhone, Watch, and AirPods.

The Apple Watch Series 7 launched a month apart from the new AirPods, and after 1 full year of MagSafe on iPhone. Still, the Watch has its own little magnetic puck for the charger. Dollar-Green gets another point.

The Apple Charging Ecosystem

Apple Charging Ecosystem

Summing up the entire article, this is where Dollar green shines at the brightest. Apple is making just one charging brick for the iPhone, the iPad, and the Apple Watch. However, the cable e-waste still remains because of poor cable management. There’s one charger, but it ends in 4 different combinations.

We have a longer, stronger Type-C to Type-C cable for the Mac and a different one for the iPad. Then there’s a Type-C to lightning cable, a Type-C to MagSafe, and a Type-C to Apple Watch charger. This means you get 5 different cables, 6 if you include the MagSafe 3.0 cable too. And this is happening when all of this ecosystem could be handled by just 3 cables.

In an ideal scenario, it should be a Type-C to Type-C for the Mac, iPad, and iPhone; and a Type-C to MagSafe for the iPhone (optional), Watch, and AirPods.

The iPhone, Mac, iPad, Apple Watch, and AirPods broadly make for the Apple ecosystem. Apple’s switch to custom silicon for Macs was to make this integration even tighter. So everything you can run on one device automatically works across every other device in this ecosystem. This software harmony is seamless, but the hardware is disrupting it.

Despite the airtight integration, I still can’t carry a single charging cable for everything Apple. While the company may take chargers away from the phone boxes, it should do so only when it is ready to do it. When you see all the Apple gadgets neatly laid together, imagine the number of cables running under the table to power them.

So for the most part, Apple’s ecosystem is environment-green in color. However, when it comes to chargers, it is dollar-green. It is just not in line with Apple’s vision. On the other hand, I am still optimistic that Apple will bridge this gap between its devices in the future.

My reason for pointing this out is that no company just snaps its fingers and brings out a gadget. It takes a ton of research and development to make something as polished as Apple products. Despite such refined infrastructure, Apple still doesn’t offer a universal port. And that is where dollar-green is more visible than environment-green.

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