(originally published on http://truth-out.org/op-ed/item/26390-the-growing-cost-of-iphones-and-advancing-technology)
As consumers get ready for the new iPhone 6 coming out this month, the continuous race of technology companies trying to outdo one another continues. Some techies are already predicting what Apple is holding back for the iPhone 6s version. Yet, with all this bombardment of new devices with smaller chips, faster processors, and fancier and clearer screens, we tend to overlook the true cost of what goes in to make these devices possible.
The role of technology saturating our everyday lives is the new norm and every six months or so we hear of a new device, app, system, platform, or idea that will help make our lives a little better. It’s true that technology has made the world more convenient for lots of people. Our instant connection with people half a world away and ease with which apps help us decide where to eat, how to look up obscure movie names, and get our job done quicker, have all been little breakthroughs that everyone can appreciate. But we never stop to think of how the devices we carry around are produced and made, or what kind of factory conditions the people putting it together work in. We use these devices for a while and exchange them for new ones at the hint of the latest edition.
The iPhones are lining shelves as customers already wait in long lines to grab the newest device, while thousands of other customers are waiting on backorder since there isn’t enough supply for the demand. Yet, even with this height of demand, these companies aren’t capable of paying everyone down the chain properly. Apple is not the only company at fault for this. Since the Foxconn suicides (which house other companies like Dell, Samsung, and Microsoft) Apple products were the most famous of the Foxconn debacle. Apple and its idol, Steve Jobs, could do no wrong in the public eyes, yet, Jobs was the one who made labor conditions so poor not just for the factory workers overseas, but even at home by breaking anti-trust laws and keeping the pay of software engineers low as possible.
With Apple, Samsung, Microsoft, Sony, and various other electronic companies making huge profits with every new device they come out with, it seems logical that the profit would at least trickle down to more livable situations for the workers overseas. Yet, that’s not the case. Some may argue that companies like Apple and their contracts with Foxconn help the people in other countries, even with little pay. The problem comes when we use that as an excuse and ignore the inhumane working conditions. Yet, as globalization expanded in the ’80s and ’90s to the mess it is today, people didn’t think to question the lower prices in technology or the disappearing manufacture jobs back home.
Apple is the main subject because the iPhone is such a big deal and takes over the news every time a new phone or product comes out. Go to any message board and you’ll find Apple fans “who can’t wait another week” to get the new phone even though they have the 5s(which came out last September). The large following that Apple has succeeded in producing and the rate at which these consumers buy any new product the company makes, reveals the failure of the company to use that ability to properly pay its employees. Settling ever for more “profit” for themselves while trickling the pennies to its labor below.
Without change, the suicides will continue (their numbers may be smaller, but they’re still occurring), workers will become more agitated and demand unions to be formed in effort to build a stronger voice for labor. Whether the prices in our technology change, or the process through which we make them, or just merely acknowledging the source at which our lovely devices are made will help set up a path toward changing the situation.