Apple iPhone 14: Time to put our desire for shiny new things into perspective

Can the launch of the iPhone 14 have come at a worse time? The standard of living of people is falling, inflation is rising rapidly, the pound is crashing and fuel bills are sky high and set to rise further.

While it is all very well for the likes of Apple and Samsung to have a roadmap to release premium smartphones that cost upwards of £1000, one needs to question the value of these products. The iPhone 14’s 48MP camera just about sums up everything that is wrong with the tech sector. Who really needs a 48 megapixel camera to share images on Instagram, where the max resolution is only about 1 MP? Few people will actually bother printing out any of the photos they take and even then 48 MP means A2-sized prints. Is this level of megapixel detail really necessary?

There may be some who would gain immediate value from the emergency satellite communications capability offered by the iPhone 14, but it is a niche, and one Apple and others are likely to exploit, to provide satellite-based mobile broadband for the masses.

A few weeks ago, rival Samsung launched the latest versions of its Flip and Fold devices. Again, these are eye-wateringly expensive gadgets, and are in no way aligned with the current economic crisis many of its customers are facing.

In this week’s issue, Computer Weekly looks at the human and cost of the tech’s sector desire to sell more smart devices to well-heeled consumers. Tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold (otherwise known as 3TG minerals), copper, silver, cobalt, nickel, lithium and aluminium are vital components needed in vast quantities to build a variety of modern technologies, from everyday electronic products such as laptops and phones to any equipment requiring semiconductors or batteries. From the mines of the Congo to the factory floors of China, technology supply chains criss-cross the entire globe. Yet, the sector has been largely unable – or unwilling – to deal with the issues of forced labour and slavery that exist throughout its supply chains. There is a human and environmental cost associated with the latest and greatest smartphone tech.

Here in the UK we have a unprecedented concatenation of events: the economic crisis of spiralling energy costs, partly connected with the war over Ukraine, the death of Queen Elizabeth, the accession of King Charles, and the appointment of a new prime minister; the latter three events over four days. At such a time, we should step back and evaluate what is truly valuable in our lives, and what is not.

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