There have been so many comparisons of the Samsung Galaxy S3 and the iPhone 5, with debate after debate focusing on the specs, the user experience, the OS, and so on. However, we’re about to have a very different look at how these two phones compare – what happens behind the scenes to get these phones to the stores.
iPhone 5 vs Samsung Galaxy S3: ethical reasoning
Many gadgets and products hail from China these days – watches, laptops, handbags and so on. Many, thankfully, are made by happy, empowered workers, but some are not. Some are made in sweatshops where workers toil in appalling conditions – sometimes losing their health and even their lives. Our problem in the west is that we don’t know whether we’re funding misery or good honest toil.
Apple has revealed the manufacturing process behind the iPhone 5 in minute detail. However, China says different – workers struggling to meet impossible targets under the cosh of brutal management. This would have caused boycotts and outrage once, but now we seem to shrug and flash our credit cards. Why? What has caused this change? Do we not care about these poor workers, as long as we get that slim iPhone 5?
Gizmodo reports that a few years ago people would have refused to buy Apple products because of this dreadful treatment – Nike and Gap have been put through the human rights mill, with people eschewing their goods until they pulled their (overpriced) socks up. The idea of a young child hunched over a sewing machine in a ramshackle firetrap factory instead of going to school isn’t great advertising, so Gap and Nike had to change.
Nike, fair play to it, sorted the problems. The minimum age to work in one of its factories was changed to 16, outside inspectors were allowed in, and air filtration was upped to meet US regulations.
Apple came out with the iPhone, and it rapidly became the must-have gadget, making Apple one of the richest companies ever. Labour conditions became a concern, though, and despite Apple’s wealth, it seems to have done little about it. There have been strikes by workers who had been battling to assemble the iPhone 5 – one of the trickiest devices to put together. Gizmodo claims that a Foxconn exec admitted that it is one of the most complicated devices assembled, and we know how precise Apple likes things. Customers expect perfection, and waste no time in whining if there’s a flaw, without having a clue about how complex their device actually is. Think back to the SNL skit from last month.
This perfection costs a lot – mainly the human cost as every last drop of labour is wrung from over-worked, under-paid and maybe under-aged workers.
China Labor watch says that fights often break out in the factories, and employees refuse to work on the iPhone 5. Foxconn tried to minimise this issue, though, but what is interesting is that it has been a single product – not a company (like HP or Nintendo) – that’s been causing the hoo-hah. The iPhone 5 has been called out many times for being really hard to put together.
Apple now have the iPad Mini – another device that demands perfection. It has edges cut with mono-crystalline diamond and metallic finishes, and is designed to the highest of specs. This gadget isn’t going to be any easier to assemble than the iPhone 5.
For Apple and its customers, nothing less than perfect will do – and the products are stunning, there’s no doubt. But – the human cost of this perfection may be found to be unacceptable.
Two of the big rivals to the iPhone 5 and the iPad Mini are the Samsung Galaxy S3 and the Google Nexus 7. They’ve both been slated for their cheap looks, but they perform just as well (at least) as the iPhone 5 and the iPad Mini. In fact it may be this simple design and choice of build materials that has Samsung and ASUS able to keep up with demand.
The Samsung Galaxy S3 is selling neck-and-neck with the iPhone 5 (hit 30 million units sold just this week), and there are no striking workers holding up supplies. Apple can’t say this as many Asian nations are still waiting for their first iPhone 5 shipments.
The iPhone 5 retails for considerably more than the Samsung Galaxy S3, too. So, a higher cost to consumers and to workers? As Gizmodo says, look to the more ethical device, as well as the one that hurts your wallet less.