Time for Apple to fulfill social responsibility

Updated 2017-02-17 08:53:47 China Daily

Thanks to consumers' high hopes that Apple will launch yet another revolutionary product on the 10th anniversary of iPhone, the company's market value has again shot up, to about 0 billion this week, underlining the optimism in the stock market of the United States and the widespread appreciation of the game-changing gadgets created by the world's most valuable company.

With the Dow Jones Industrial Average recently crossing the historic 20,000 point level, it is no surprise that some giant companies like Apple have seen their shares touch new highs. Irrespective of how suspicious the drivers behind the ongoing surge of US shares are, given the increasing uncertainty over global economic growth, the rising tide has helped, if not all, the most valuable boats to sail to safer waters.

Things were quite different just a year ago. Few people applauded Apple for making the largest quarterly earnings by any company at the end of 2015. Some even voiced concerns over iPhone's "dubious" future in China as the competition in the smartphone market intensified in the world's second-largest economy. But that Apple's shares have hit an all-time closing high now indicates that investors, at least for now, should not worry about consumers not loving iPhones as much as they used to do.

Instead, for those who really care about the long-term investment value of Apple, they should stop staring at their iPhones for a minute and ask themselves: "How much love will be too much?"

A China Daily cartoon early this week vividly captured this phenomenon aptly, through an exaggerated depiction of "what men love" as a 20:80 split of time between wifi (apparently for smartphones) and wife on Valentine's Day as against the reverse ratio on all other days. The cartoon might appear hyperbolic, but the increasing number of "phubbers" in China as well as most other countries can no longer be ignored. With more and more people spending an increasingly large amount of time "fiddling" their smartphones, the potential social and health consequences of the obsession are rising across the world.

One cannot simply accuse smartphone makers for these undesirable consequences, for the users have to ultimately decide how much time a day they should spend on their smartphones.

But one cannot be justified either in saying that smartphone makers can do nothing to help prevent or reduce users' obsession with the product just because the manufacturers do not need to factor in on their balance sheet the negative consequences of smartphone overuse on consumers. The fundamental reason that makes iPhones one of the most successful consumer products in history-it is on track to cross 0 billion in sales in the decade since it hit the market-is the great convenience it brings to consumers by being the single most important personal tool for social communications, entertainment and several other functions.

That Apple is considered the world's most valuable company is a recognition of the company being a pioneer when it comes to smartphones. Yet as the speculative frenzy rises in anticipation of the product Apple will launch on the 10th anniversary of the iPhone later this year, a smartphone with some new fancy functions or technology cannot be considered revolutionary. Perhaps by only introducing a new product that is innovatively designed to make users aware of the "hidden" consequences of the "overuse" of iPhones can Apple fulfill its corporate social responsibility.

For Apple as well as Chinese smartphone makers, the competition to fulfill their social responsibility of providing an innovative technological solution to the growing overuse of their gadgets is likely to pave the way for their long-term success.

The author Zhu Qiwen is a senior writer with China Daily.

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