Photo via Shanghai Daddy/Flickr
Following two high-profile electrocutions in China—one which resulted in the death of a woman and another that put a man in a coma—Apple is doing its version of a gun buy-back. According to an announcement from Apple today:
Starting August 16, 2013, if you have concerns about any of your USB power adapters, you can drop them off at an Apple Retail Store or at an Apple Authorized Service Provider. We will ensure that these adapters are disposed of in an environmentally friendly way.
Of course once you drop off your USB charger, you’ll want a new one, which Apple is happy to provide “at a special price — $10 USD or approximate equivalent in local currency.”
The release doesn’t mention the electrocutions specifically, nor will the program be limited to China. The company addressed those incidents by posting a guide to identifying authentic Apple-brand adapters. The prongs on the Chinese adapters don't have holes and are symmetrical. It's really a pretty attractive plug.
Anyone who wants to buy low and sell high on USB adapters, after the program ends on October 18, will be out of luck though—would-be exchangers have to bring in both an old wall wart, and their device, so its serial number can be recorded.
Apple is really double-covering their asses one this one: making the right move from a PR perspective, in the name of “consumer safety” and while encouraging ever more shopping at the Apple store—the real Apple store. Of course, what are they supposed to do? The Bejing man whose faulty charger put him into the hospital wasn't using an Apple charger, and Apple is a business after all.
But just as Ford discovered with the Pinto, a dubious safety record—or even just the public perception of one—leaves the door open for the competition, and Android is lurking on the porch. Computerworld points out that the Apple's sales in China dropped 43 percent from the last quarter to the one previous. The company relies on the world's most populous country as both a source of cheap labor and also, increasingly, a source of consumers.