What Happened To All The Other iPhones?

iphone_4Apple issued this statement today about the pre-orders of the iPhone:

Yesterday Apple and its carrier partners took pre-orders for more than 600,000 of Apple’s new iPhone 4. It was the largest number of pre-orders Apple has ever taken in a single day and was far higher than we anticipated, resulting in many order and approval system malfunctions,” the company said.

Congratulations, I say, that someone is listening to the consumer enough so that they are building products with a huge amount of initial demand. I applaud Apple for creativity and good marketing, outstanding design and superior engineering. (Oh … and how many other CEOs can you name that get a standing ovation when they walk on stage? Steve Jobs is as much of an icon and loved as much as the iPhone is).

But, on the other hand….

  • Either these phones are going to brand new AT&T customers that have never had a phone before. In that case, both the folks at Apple and AT&T slept well last night -or-
  • Some of the 600,000 customers decided that the phone they have now is not good enough. If this is the case then some large chunk of  individual phones were made obsolete overnight. At this point, they are destined for a life in the top drawer, as trade-ins or most likely they are destined for an early death at the landfill.

Now granted, these numbers are a “worst case scenerio” because they assume each of these new iPhones are going to replace an existing phone. (I would guess that that is a very likely case!)

This announcement was a truly rare event that “moved the consumer needle”. That’s because 600,000 is a huge number and because it happened so fast.

End to end, the 600,000 iPhones sold in just the first day would stretch for 43 miles. Stacked on top of each other, the first day iPhone4 sales would be 3.5 miles high. Assuming a $200.00 list price, first day sales would have generated about 119.4 million dollars. Add to that the fact that AT&T now gets to collect monthly fees from each of these 600,000 owners of the new iPhone. They have to be smiling in Cupertino!

Contrast this with the contents of a slide that Apple showed in Steve Job’s keynote as he introduced the iPhone. The slide said that the phone was “green” and it listed the manufacturing and product features that pointed to that fact. I applaud the fact that responsible manufacturing is on Apple’s radar.

But, what Apple did not take responsibility for is the mass obsolescence and huge amount of potential trash that they created in one brilliantly executed marketing move.  I am not sure that Apple realized what they created with the iPhone4… or did they.


I wonder if consequences ever enter into decisions about what we make and what we buy and how it effects the world we live in. Or, is making money and the excitement of  “the next big thing” enough to push consequences like this to the background.

What a world we live in! If it’s not now, it soon will be full of trash.

Post Script

For more information on dealing with the consequences of what we make and what we consume, I would recommend that you read “From Cradle to Cradle – Rethinking the Way We Make Things” By William McDonough & Michael Braungart

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