Samsung Galaxy S21 to drop the charger? What Samsung can learn from the iPhone 12

Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus
The Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus on charge (Image credit: Future)

You’ve probably heard that Apple dropped the charger from its iPhone 12 family earlier this year, and a variety of leaks and rumors suggest one of the biggest Android phone makers will be following suit when the Samsung Galaxy S21 lands next year.

A new listing this week from Brazil’s Anatel (a telecommunications agency in the country) suggested that Samsung won’t be including a charging plug in the box. It also claims there won’t be free headphones either, while it's unclear if a charging cable will be included.

While this isn't a certainty, this is the strongest evidence yet that Samsung's next flagship phone will be following Apple's lead and dropping its in-box charging technology.

If this does happen, Samsung has an advantage in the fact that one of its main competitors has already been through this process, and it can learn from what Apple did to try and tackle this emotive subject.

Some have been annoyed at the extra cost added onto the iPhone 12 series to ensure you have a compatible charger, but it's clear that in-box chargers are a major contribution to e-waste around the world.

Apple’s VP of environment, policy and social initiatives, Lisa Jackson, said during the iPhone 12 launch, “There are over 2 billion Apple power adapters out there in the world and that's not counting the billions of third-party adapters. 

"We're removing these items from the iPhone box, which reduces carbon emissions and avoids the mining and use of precious materials”.

That’s just Apple technology too, so imagine how much e-waste is produced by other manufacturers who are also including chargers in the box. That said, there are ways Samsung can use what Apple did to its advantage and hopefully provide a better experience to customers overall.

 1. It needs to be explained well 

iPhone 12 event

A screenshot of Apple's iPhone 12 launch (Image credit: Apple)

Explaining why it's dropping charging tech from boxes to the average person who just wants a smartphone that works is undeniably tough for any company. But it’s a message that should be communicated clearly to customers to ensure they understand why there’s an added complication to using their new gadget.

If you watched the iPhone 12 launch, you would have heard directly from Jackson during the event and likely had a full understanding of why this is a positive step for the consumer electronics industry.

If you didn’t though, it’s unlikely you’ve fully understood why Apple dropped the technology. If you don't know about these environmental reasons, you're probably just annoyed about it.

If you don’t have enough interest in technology to be reading the sort of article you're reading right now, it's possible that you haven't even fully understood Apple's reasoning for dropping the tech - either the advertised reason, or the financial one.

Deutsche Bank analysts (via CNBC) said soon after the iPhone 12 launch, "While [Apple] claims that they are not shipping earphones and a charging cube with the iPhone to save the environment, the reality is that such a decision could drive a financial benefit for the company as well."

It may be that Samsung could include a disclaimer on the box that shows why e-waste is a major issue for the environment. The iPhone 12 series' packaging doesn't contain any mention of why it has dropped the tech from the box, and if you want to learn why you have to go and seek out that information for yourself.

2. Make it easy for people to use existing chargers 

iPhone 12 Pro Max review

The charging port on the iPhone 12 Pro Max (Image credit: TechRadar)

This is arguably Apple’s biggest failing in the iPhone 12 charger debacle, and it should be an issue that Samsung can avoid with ease.

If you bought a new iPhone 12 Pro Max and you were upgrading from your iPhone XS Max - a phone that is only two years old - you wouldn’t be able to use your existing charging block with the new cable included in the box.

The iPhone XS series came with a charging block that had a USB connector, while the new cable is USB-C to Lightning. That means the cable in the box would be useless to you, and you’d have to buy a new wall adapter to get the ultimate charging speeds from your new smartphone.

Samsung should be able to avoid this issue as it has been using similar charging technology for the last few years, and most Android manufacturers now use USB-C technology by default. 

It may be a stumbling block if the company decides to change its charging technology for the S21, but that isn't something we've heard will happen on the next-gen handset.

3.  Why should you pay extra? 

Samsung Galaxy Note 20

The Samsung Galaxy Note 20 (Image credit: TechRadar)

A fair argument is, why should you pay extra for a new charger? The cost of a charging block is built into the recommended retail price of all smartphones, and it seems Apple is benefiting when it charges you $19 / £19 or AU$29 for its 20W power adapter.

Samsung could learn from this and offer customers a charger for free, but it doesn't necessarily have to be included in the box by default. It would take some extra planning, but why not include a voucher in the box that can be traded for a free charger at a participating retailer?

Samsung could then explain that it hasn't included one by default so it can cut down on e-waste, but if you need one separately you'd be able to claim your free one from a nearby store.

This way, you wouldn’t be charged extra for one and it would avoid the main issue of a charger being included in the box by default. It's unlikely to happen, but it would be an olive branch to those upgrading their phone who feel like they're being overcharged.

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.