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January 22, 2009

Only getting what you need

GLOBAL – We wrote the other day about a new variant of the N79 that’s shipping without a charger. The pilot scheme exploring the possibility of offering devices without chargers is kicking off across a number of online stores across Europe. The first device is the new black variant of the N79, which now comes with the option to have one without a charger. For each device sold without a charger, £4 is being donated to WWF.

Customers in the UK, Spain, Italy and France will have the option to choose the chargerless N79 when they buy from the Nokia online stores in those countries.

The ambition here is to try and reduce the environmental footprint of devices. There are plenty of chargers in circulation around the world (but if you’re anything like me, you still can’t find one when you need it most!) and with the charger assuming substantial relative bulk in a sales package (the product box) the opportunity to remove it, and the associated bulk is certainly worth exploring.

Not only is there a benefit from reducing the number of chargers in circulation, or at the very least, not adding to them unnecessarily, there’s also the chance to reduce the volume and content of the packaging. This has a double plus – smaller boxes mean less space needed to transport them. It also means less paper and packaging required to produce the box. If the customer who’s making the purchase is already equipped with a charger, then it’s a win all round.

We broached the subject of selling devices without chargers after speaking to Kirsi Sormunen – who heads up environmental affairs at Nokia – when we were at Nokia World. Looking beyond chargers, Somumen mentioned she was exploring the possibility of selling phones without any packaging whatsoever – a concept that surprised me at first, but later, through the comments on the story, started to make sense, particularly when bought, and connected over the counter.

Most devices these days ship ready to use, with a fully charged batteries. Do we really need to carry a box off with us, alongside our shiny new device? Removing the chargers, even through this initial pilot, is potentially the beginning of a change in how phones are shipped and sold. I think it happens to be an interesting one, and I’m excited to see both the reaction and the results.