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Few products create the kind of excitement and anticipation of the iPhone. So when Apple recently announced the 14th generation of this product (along with new versions of its iconic Airpods Pro and Apple Watch wearable accessories), many enthusiasts and tech-focused media outlets were giddy with anticipation. One particularly excited tech columnist described it as “the world’s most iconic product.” This excitement is why some have termed this time of year to be “Techtober” — when the iPhone and other tech products are released in time for the holiday spending rush.
Apple, the world’s first $3 trillion company, is a global behemoth. Still, the adoration Americans have for the iPhone remains something of an outlier. Globally, Apple has about 18 percent of the smartphone market share, trailing Samsung and facing stiff competition from companies like Xiaomi. In the United States, however, Apple has more than 50 percent of the market share, despite iPhones starting at a higher price point than its competition.
Most notable is Apple’s domination of younger demographics. Among U.S. teenagers, according to a 2021 report, 88 percent use an iPhone and 90 percent plan to buy one as their next phone. This was up from 17 percent ownership a decade earlier. For American teenagers, the iPhone is to mobile phones what Google is to search engines or Kleenex is to tissue paper. It has become so trendy that, according to a Wall Street Journal report, non-iPhone users are being bullied and isolated in U.S. schools for having the dreaded “green bubbles” that denote an Android user on group messages. (Android is an open-source operating system, developed by Google and used by most of the world’s smartphone manufacturers.)
This kind of domination of the market share — as well as of the culture more broadly — gives companies tremendous leverage to engage in conduct that, while profitable, can be destructive. Apple has contributed to declines in consumer rights and repairability of products, electronic waste (e-waste) and environmental degradation (an especially acute problem when it comes to Airpod headsets), privacy concerns, the use of forced labor across the world, and a…