CNET's iPhone series and why we decided to write it


Junior Member
commentary Jay Greene traveled to China to trace how an iPhone is made and ultimately recycled. We hope he got you thinking about how all consumer electronics are made.

Think for a second about the people you don't think about.

They go to work in giant factories in China by the hundreds of thousands to make consumer electronics such as your iPhone. They work long hours for wages we'd consider unconscionable, but for many of them may well be aspirational. They've left their homes to travel around China as digital age migrant workers, helping Foxconn and other contract manufacturers fulfill orders during their busiest seasons. They live in tight quarters in huge dormitories. And at the end of the month, they hope to have enough money to send home to their families.

Sometimes, after paying for food and dormitory rent, that doesn't happen. So they work overtime to get ahead. And they're often reluctant to make waves. For all they may not like about what they're doing, there are plenty of other people who would happily take that work, and other countries -- where workers would be paid even less -- that would welcome those factories with open arms.
Here's another thought: Should we be worried about the environmental damage caused by the chase for the raw materials that go into these electronics, or what happens when we toss those gadgets away for something better?

That's for you to decide.

This week, we published a series of articles about the production of the iPhone. We followed the path of an iPhone's life and death because it's iconic. Yes, a similar story could be told of many consumer electronics devices. But Apple is the unquestioned heavyweight of today's consumer high-tech industry. It's also among the most aggressive companies when it comes to controlling its supply chain and it is making efforts to improve working conditions at the facilities of its contract manufacturers. Indeed, with Apple, we may have given you the best-case scenario for contract manufacturing in China.