Climate change is a disaster, but at least it might make people value their iPhones more.
That’s the key prediction in Apple’s environmental impact report, filed last year to the British nonprofit Carbon Disclosure Project and surfaced by Bloomberg’s Christopher Flavelle this week. CDP collected these impact reports — which include “risks and opportunities” posed by climate change — from about 7,000 companies, including 1,800 in the US, in an attempt to paint a picture of how President Trump’s environmental policies could ripple into all corners of the economy. Broad strokes: It will be bad.
But Apple saw one bright side, writing, “As people begin to experience severe weather events with greater frequency, we expect an increasing need for confidence and preparedness in the arena of personal safety and the well-being of loved ones.” More specifically, the company believes that the iPhone will become extra-useful when people realize they can use it as a flashlight, siren, or radio, or when they start asking Siri for first-aid instructions.
This comment comes just a few weeks after Apple lowered its revenue expectation for the first quarter of 2019 by $9 billion, citing low iPhone sales — partly because of slowed growth in China and other developing markets, and partly because more people in the US are buying new batteries for old phones instead of shelling out for a $1,000 upgrade.
Anyway, iPhones “can be charged for many days via car batteries or even hand cranks,’’ the report states. Sure, there are YouTube videos that will show you how to do the former, and the latter is technically true but physically a little improbable. Most hand cranks require around two minutes of cranking to get enough charge to place a quick emergency call, so if you’re planning to rely on one for days at a time post-climate disaster, you should probably start working on your triceps right now. (A solar charger is a better idea!)
Apple is not the only major company that stands to benefit from impending disaster. The report filed by Home Depot predicts a rise in demand for air conditioners and ceiling fans. Google is a little worried that “fluctuating socio-economic conditions” will negatively affect its advertising business but suspects that Google Earth will become a more interesting product once the real Earth is on its last legs. “If customers value Google Earth Engine as a tool to examine the physical changes to the Earth’s natural resources and climate, this could result in increased customer loyalty or brand value,” its report states.
To be fair, an iPhone is useful in emergency situations, and not at all a luxury item at this point. Most people don’t have landline phones anymore, and smartphones have also made it increasingly unnecessary for some people to own home computers … or maps. (Though they hopefully do all own flashlights.) Both Apple and Google have used renewable energy for almost all of their global operations since April 2018, offsetting the rest by purchasing additional green energy, and they’ve openly sparred with Trump over the Paris climate deal.
A hand-crank iPhone future is not exactly what anyone at the company is dreaming of, and it’s more likely just a morbid thought that flitted through someone’s head while they were writing a report they didn’t think very many people would know or care about. Nevertheless, now it will be stuck in yours.