No, you don't need a charger with your iPhone 12 or Samsung Galaxy S30

iPhone 11 Pro Max review
The iPhone 11 Pro Max comes with a charging brick in the box (Image credit: TechRadar)

Leaks are suggesting both Apple and Samsung are preparing to sell smartphones - such as the rumored iPhone 12 and Samsung Galaxy S21 - that don’t come with a charging block or cable in the box.

Instead, these companies are likely to ask you to buy a separate charger or use your existing tech that you already have in your home. This has proved divisive, as with any manufacturer losing a key part of their tech, but I believe this is the right thing to do.

In my opinion, it's far past the time manufacturers took on more responsibility for the waste that comes from the average person purchasing new technology, and dropping the unnecessary accessories in the box is a bigger step toward curving e-waste than you may expect.

The story so far

According to trusted analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, the iPhone 12 won’t have those EarPods headphones - the cheap, wired headset you get for free - or a charger in the box when it lands later in the year.

A further report - soon after this iPhone 12 rumor - has suggested Samsung is deliberating on whether to follow suit in 2021 with some of its smartphones. Neither of these reports suggested exact models, or whether it'd be for all devices.

If this proves true, it means your phone won't come packaged with accessories. Why? Because it's very likely you already have what you need. 

According to statistics provided by the European Parliament, the world generates 50 million metric tonnes of e-waste every year. That's everything from your broken kit to companies replacing your work laptop.

The e-waste isn't worth it

Now, let's look specifically at chargers. Exact figures are difficult to come by, but the International Telecommunications Union said in 2016 that it believes "one million tons of external power supplies are manufactured each year".

That's four years ago now, and it's likely to be a similar figure if not higher in 2020 considering almost every new gadget you buy is likely to come with a charging brick included in the box.

The maths here isn't exact, but I make that around 2% of all e-waste could be from chargers alone. There aren't exact figures on how many chargers are used with their new products, but it's very likely you're replacing your existing charger when you get this brick out of the box to use with your new smartphone or other gadget.

Is that older charger being recycled? The Environmental Protection Agency claimed that only 15 to 20 percent of of e-waste in the United States is recycled. Figures may differ around the rest of the world, but it's a difficult statistic to find.

If you need a new charger, you deserve one

I'm not saying you don't need a new charger. If you have an older one, you've broken your existing charger or you just want to ensure you're getting the best charging experience, I believe you're owed a charger from your manufacturer.

Is the charger in the box the best option for you? More often than not, manufacturers don't offer you the best option by default.

Take, for example, the iPhone 11. It's capable of up to 18W fast-charging, but the charger you’re getting in the box is just capable of 5W charging. You’ll need to buy a third-party (or Apple’s specifically designed charger) separately to be able to make the most of that speedy feature.

If you choose to do that - and many don’t even realize that’s an option - you’re then getting a standard 5W charger in the box that you’re very unlikely to use. That - plus your existing iPhone charger - probably means you've got three chargers now, and you're only going to be using one.

The iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max include a fast-charger in the box, but if you own one of those devices and upgrade in 2020 you’re then going to be owning two chargers as well.

It's a similar case for Android manufacturers too where you won't always get the top-end charger in the box and you'll need to spend on a separate brick to be able to get that.

Discouraging people may help

Could ensuring you think about whether you need a new charger help?

In England, the government brought in a plastic carrier bag charge in October 2015 for larger stores. It was thought it would discourage you from using the widely used plastic carrier bag and instead bring your own way of carrying your items.

Carrier bags cost 5 pence (around 10 cents in the US) but it was still affordable for those who forgot their bags or wanted to opt for the plastic option.

According to the UK government's own figures, the seven main supermarket retailers saw a drop of 83% in plastic bag use after the charge was brought in.

Could a similar idea work for phone chargers? Making you think, "do I really need a new phone charger" may be something that ensures some customers sit back and consider whether it's really necessary.

Many will be disappointed to have to buy a new phone charger, but it would make sense if Apple and Samsung still offered a charger along with your purchase for free but make sure you have to opt in to get one.

We don't know how manufacturers would implement the lack of a charger in the box, but it may be it's brought in as an option that is still free when you buy a new device but you'll have to request it rather than getting one by default.

That would crack down on e-waste, but it also wouldn't increase the cost of buying a new phone for anyone who does genuinely need a new one.

Plus, remember portless is coming

A portless concept device from Chinese manufacturer Oppo

A portless concept device from Chinese manufacturer Oppo (Image credit: Future)

The other thing to remember is that phones are likely to go portless in the near future.

A variety of rumors have suggested the 2021 iPhone may be the first portless device from the company, and we've seen concept phones from other manufacturers that show how the idea may work.

That’ll mean you’ll have to use wireless charging to be able to charge up your device, and there won’t be an option for a headphone through a Lightning cable.

Whether you think that’s a good idea is an entirely different question, but that may be why Apple and Samsung see phasing out physical chargers as a possibility now. 

You may only have a few more years where you need a physical charging cable and brick anyway. 

No-one knows exactly what will happen in the next few years, but I'm certain that dropping the charger in the box with your next-gen smartphone is set to be better for the environment even if it isn't better for your bank account.

James Peckham

James is Managing Editor for Android Police. Previously, he was Senior Phones Editor for TechRadar, and he has covered smartphones and the mobile space for the best part of a decade bringing you news on all the big announcements from top manufacturers making mobile phones and other portable gadgets. James is often testing out and reviewing the latest and greatest mobile phones, smartwatches, tablets, virtual reality headsets, fitness trackers and more. He once fell over.