When Apple made the bold decision to drop accessories, including chargers starting with the iPhone 12, it was a legal requirement in France to include in-ear headphones with new phones. This is due to a health issue related to the fact that phones emit radio frequency energy which could be harmful to the brain. As a result, Apple must release a different iPhone packaging for France which seems to be creating more waste than originally expected.
Now it looks like the old law has been overturned and manufacturers can now ship phones with fewer accessories in the name of durability. This means there are no more free EarPods on upcoming batches of new iPhone units.
The decision to remove mandatory wired headphones was decided last November. The bill was amended as part of the government initiative to reduce the environmental footprint of digital technology in France. It has been said that wired headphones that come with smartphones are a major source of waste and the health argument cannot justify this source of waste. A French senator said that international experts including the World Health Organization (WHO) had so far refuted the existence of an established causal link between exposure to electromagnetic waves produced by telephones and chronic pathologies.
However, it was clarified that smartphone brands are still allowed to include headphones if they wish. In some price segments, a hands-free kit is considered an important selling point for consumers. In the future, it seems that French consumers will finally be able to see new smartphones sold in slimmer packaging.
As of this writing, Apple’s UK website still lists EarPods with Lightning connector for its current line of iPhone models. Likewise, Samsung France still includes USB-C headphones with its current Galaxy S21 series smartphones. Power adapters aren’t included, but you still get a USB-C cable in the box, just like in Malaysia.
With the slow disappearance of the headphone jack and the growing popularity of wireless headphones, wired headphones are slowly becoming useless among smartphone users. Even Samsung is slowly ditching the good old 3.5mm headphone jack from its newer mid-range devices.
For audio enthusiasts, most would often get their own favorite pair of headphones, as the free headphones in the box are usually pretty mediocre. Nowadays, consumers are spoiled by the heaps of wireless earphones offered in the market and sometimes brands offer free earphones during their pre-order or sales promotion.