Is Nokia Mobile discriminating by not including the charger with X20 and X10 in the EU?

On April 8th, Nokia Mobile announced six new devices divided into 3 series of phones – the best that industry can offer in Nokia X series, intermediate G series and ultra affordable Nokia C series. The announced Nokia X20 and X10 feature the 5G capable Snapdragon 480 SoC, but what was more interesting than 5G, at least to me, was the decision to remove the charging brick from the sales package in the European Union.

When asked why is the European Union the first block of countries to suffer this decision, Nokia Mobile’s representative responded that it is just the start and that a similar praxis will be extended to other markets. The reason why is environmental protection. A study in EU showed that if we use our phones a year longer, we can have the same CO2 reduction effect as removing 2 million cars from the traffic. In 2019, it was estimated that EU households have 12000 tonnes of electronic waste in forms of chargers. The first study is reason why Nokia Mobile will offer 3 years of updates and warranty, while the other is the reason why there is no charger in the sales package.

Nokia X20

Extra warranty and exclusion of chargers are both legitimate moves that can be explained as care for the environment, but I’m personally a bit sceptical because it looks like the only environment Nokia Mobile cares about for now is the one of the EU?

Stats from 2017 show that the EU emitted around 7 tonnes of CO2 per inhabitant in 2017. In the same year, an Australian emitted 17 tonnes, an American 16 tonnes, while a Canadian emitted 15 tonnes of CO2. In EU’s 2020 document EU in the world, one can see a stat from 2012 regarding greenhouse emission where EU had a 7.7% share in greenhouse emissions, compared to China’s 23.3% or US’ 11.9%. Regarding waste, not only does EU27 countries generate less waste per inhabitant than US or Australia for example, but the recycling/composting percent is higher as well.

Nokia 3.4 5W charger

There are also 195 million households in the EU, so if we take the 12000 tonnes of chargers in households and divide it by the number of households, we get that an EU household has around 60 grams of charger waste. We can further divide that by the average 2.3 members per household and get that an EU citizen has around 26 grams of chargers. If a charger weights around 50g, that means half a charger laying around wasted per EU inhabitant.

If my math is nearly correct, does the EU really have such a charger waste problem that it should be the first and only market where Nokia Mobile decided to drop the chargers for environmental reasons?

My personal issue with this move is that it isn’t enforced in all markets. Apple did the same, but at least they treated every customer the same, with the exception of the markets where regulators weren’t happy with their decision and they were forced to include the charger. Chargers aren’t really universally compatible as well. Most manufacturers were just recently in a race to achieve ultra high charging speeds, and usually those speeds can be achieved only with proprietary chargers, coming with the device.

What’s more stranger is that the Nokia X10 and X20 support 18W charging and the only other Nokia phone announced in years supporting that speed is Nokia 8.3 5G. So, if you are a Nokia user in the EU upgrading to Nokia X10/20 and you want to reuse your current charger, you have to own the Nokia 8.3 5G to have the declared charging speeds. You can buy Nokia’s 18W charger if you are lucky and the charger is available in your country. Other options are to charge your phone with a slower charger or get lucky buying a third party charger that will be compatible enough to charge X10/20 at the advertised charging speed. Or buy a phone that includes the charger in the box?

The little green spy boat seen from the old Nokia House in the Keilalahti bay, Espoo, Finland. Photo by Jari Ijäs on December 8, 2010, with a Nokia C7.

In any case, the EU customers shouldn’t be market research and test subjects for any company, and there are many countries with worse environmental situation than the EU – that probably has one of the strictest environmental and consumer protection laws on the planet. Targeting just the EU and helping just the European environment can be interpreted as insensitive towards other markets, so the right decision would be to care for everyone’s environment and drop the chargers in all markets. Or reverse this decision and offer buybacks for old chargers, cables, batteries and phones.