Monday, February 6, 2012

My iPhone and a Moral Dilemma

I bought my first iPhone 3G a couple of years ago.  About two weeks after purchasing mine, Apple announced that they were coming out with a newer version, the 3Gs.  With the advances in the new phone, my phone was antiquated before I knew it.  I didn’t see the appeal at all…I was not impressed as it was slow and had a terrible signal.  That was until I was finally able to upgrade a year or so ago to the IPhone4 (Yes, they have since come out with 4s, and I am eligible to upgrade but there aren’t too many differences between the two so my plan is to wait until the 5 comes out).  Since then, this phone has become an extension of body.  I have pretty much become the person I couldn’t stand who was always playing with his/her fancy new phone.  This phone does so much.  I don’t know what I’d do if I couldn’t check my email, the weather, text during a meeting, look something up on wikipedia the minute a question pops into my head, or waste my time on Facebook and playing Words with Friends or Angry Birds.  I am a total iPhone addict.

Over the last few months, the findings of an investigation into Foxconn have brought to light the working conditions of its employees.  Foxconn, based in China, is a major manufacturer of consumer electronics like the iPhone, iPad, Kindle, Xbox, and other über popular products.  According to the news reports, workers live eight to a room in dormitories, work up to 36 hour shifts, and make less than a dollar an hour.  Any worker who expresses an objection or tries to form a union can be sentenced to prison.  The factory has an increasing number of suicides.  Foxconn has responded by installing nets around the buildings.  

Like most news stories, the morality of these working conditions depend on which news outlet you listen to.  The pro-human rights news calls for boycotts of the products until conditions change, while the pro-business news thinks the public should continue to buy the products to keep these workers in a job that they wouldn’t otherwise have.  I’m not a financial whiz by any stretch of the imagination, but I guess I don’t understand why both the human rights and the successful business can’t co-mingle in this scenario.  With a company like Apple, that is worth more than $300 Billion, how is it that they can’t find a heart somewhere in all that money and make sure that these people are better taken care of…at least to the point that they’d rather live than thrown themselves off the roof. 

With the presidential election quickly coming upon us, we hear a lot of the candidates speaking out about “bringing the jobs back to America” and that businesses need the tax breaks to do that.  It seems to me that no matter the tax break, these companies are making bank in other countries that allow the working conditions described above. Not having pesky labor laws like we do in this country allows the business to make way more money than they would if the jobs were based here.  Sure, maybe the people in these countries are just happy to have jobs, but that still doesn’t make it right. 

And now I have to decide if and when the iPhone 5 comes out am I’m willing to take the “out of sight, out of mind” approach and upgrade as I had planned, or if I will take a stand and not purchase the product until the situation is taken care of.  Sadly, though, I think most of the products we buy these days come from manufacturing companies like Foxconn.  Even if one is boycotted, there are probably a hundred more waiting for your business.  I wonder if my boycott of one would even matter. 


  1. I had never considered that Apple would be involved in this type of labour... and it's funny that i read this article as last week my son did a school play to parents about child labour in the east/developing countries. Making footballs for FIFA and the World Cup for nothing more than pennies, working long hours with no education etc. A boycott went ahead, meetings planned and a way forward was found for these children to have education in the evening whilst stitching balls for their family income during the day. This type of cheap child/workers labour is rife in developing countries. Very sad. Perhaps you could go for the upgrade but write to those who SHOULD care about these things or get a petition started to highlight problem. Shame upon APPLE!
    Great thoughtful blog post.
    Jennie. xx

  2. This makes me so sad. I didn't even think about where these products were made. I always wonder if boycotts do make a difference.

  3. @jennie louise - first, I love that your son did a play on this issue...what an experience! Yes, at least the Foxconn people aren't young children, but they are still people who are being taken advantage of. There shouldn't be any tolerance for that.

    @becky - I'll have to spend some time researching what a few are doing that are making an impact.

  4. Oh yessies they do LwK. Remember that South Africa looked very much like Alabama of the 1880 until 1990.
    And with a Corp that's so very much up it's own nostril -so much so that I think it's a cult,- that it wouldn't shock if i-anything was formed by colour coordinated well-paid hobbits in a mountain vaguely under New Hampshire.
    It had such a do-gooding rep that it was close to prissy.

  5. That's a tough one, for sure!
    And I have no answer for you. Can you live without checking your phone for messages every 5 seconds? I'm not sure that I could. Remember the old days when you walked in the door and your answering machine was flashing the number 3? Wasn't that exciting!
    Your Friend, m.

  6. It would matter to you and that is all that matters.

  7. @Vince - Exactly, the reputation portratyed has really been nothing but sparkling. Everyone LOVES them.
    A bit like "Willy Wonka", huh?
    BTW, I have no idea what LwK means? I even googled it and came up with Large White Kidney or the airport code to the Shetland Islands! Neither seem quite appropriate. ;)

    @Mark - Ugh, I know. I haven't had a house phone for at least 8 years. I won't know what to do if I can't access all my "stuff". Ha! Remember the "blinkies"!?! So funny!

  8. Although, I think that before you ban iPhones, you should do the research into how/where the other mobile manufacturers operate.

    You may find they are all the same.

  9. @Hula - Ya, that's my suspicion too. I've got some time. The rumor is the 5 comes out in the summer, hopefully by then they will have come up with a plan of action or ??? Now that I've posted my outrage I can't just be complacent now can I? Fingers crossed that they fix it cuz I truly love my phone! :)

  10. Life with Kaishon (LwK).
    I had to leave the comment hanging about for a while and you got in before me.

    What I wondering is when I upgrade my PC will I get away with simply getting one of those pad thing-a-ma-jigs. They have phones, right. They certainly have more clout memory-wise that what I have now. For what I'm driving on the WWW is the equivalent of a vintage banger 40 years old in computer terms.

  11. @Vince - Oh, got it! I thought maybe I was lost in translation! I was on the fence about the iPad, but then I found out that you can get the Office product apps (word, excel, etc)which basically allows you to do everything needed on the computer. It's like my phone only bigger. And yes, I do believe you can use it as a phone if you have an app to do's all about the apps! On the 3G it's decent (faster if they go 4g) but on wifi it's very fast. I have a couple of friends that have them and they are so light and easy to carry around, even more so than a laptop. I'm a PC girl, but the Apple gadgets are pretty cool. I want one too, but this foxconn thing is putting a wrench in that plan!

  12. Ah I expect the speed that this thing will be cleaned up will make your head spin. We'd the shite about 'things are different in China' between midday and two yesterday. Then the narrative changed to Microsoft for an hour when the spin-doctors dumped that info on the news desks. But twitter was driving this in a major way and Joe Public was having none of the usual shit. By three pm Greenwich we'd live feed of 'dark satanic mills' of the 21st century.

  13. @Vince - Hence why I shouldn't watch or read the news. All of it fires me up only for them to move on to something else that fires me up! This is my current outrage...,0,2044049.story

  14. So what I'm gathering from this post and the comments is that we should just all go back to old fashioned telephones. And probably abandon all computer use as well?

    Or not. Maybe we could just go on as usual but not be happy about it.

  15. I vote for Jason's idea. Keep buying the iPhone and iMac and iPods and iPads, but everytime you use it in front of anyone, lament for several minutes about how you don't like the way that they are made, shrug your shoulders and continue drinking coffee made from slave picked beans.