French iPhones will no longer be sold with free EarPods after a health law was overturned in favor of an environmental one.

This will mark the end of the special iPhone packaging used only in France …

Background

As of the iPhone 12, Apple made the decision to stop providing a free pair of wired EarPods in every iPhone box. The company said this was for environmental reasons, though some suggested was more motivated by the cost savings.

However, French law required all smartphones to be supplied with free earphones. The reason for this is health concerns around RF radiation close to the brain.

It’s considered potentially harmful for the brain to absorb radio-frequency energy, and phones emit more of this when they are being used for phone calls. There is considerable debate about the impact of this, but most countries err on the side of caution by setting a legal limit on the radio-frequency power output.

iPhones use the proximity sensor to detect when the phone is being held against the head and reduce RF power to comply with the legal limits.

However, France goes further, arguing that users should be encouraged to use headphones to keep the phone away from the side of their head. For this reason, it requires smartphones to be sold with headphones – or, in legalese, “an accessory making it possible to limit the exposure of the head to radioelectric emissions during communications.”

Apple came up with a clever box-within-a-box packaging solution for this.

French iPhones lose EarPods after change in the law

However, the legal requirement was overridden at the end of last year by a new law aimed at reducing environmental waste. Consomac reports that Apple has notified resellers, though not yet updated its own website.

A new law aimed at reducing the environmental footprint of digital eliminates this obligation and Apple will therefore stop providing the iPhone in the double box which allowed it to add the headphones to the classic packaging.

Apple has not yet communicated on the subject on its website but the official resellers have been informed. Fnac has thus begun to warn its customers in its stores, and we can thus learn that the headphones will be removed “from the week of January 24, 2022.”

It will take a while for existing stock to sell through, so if want a free pair of EarPods with your new iPhone in France, you have a little time left to buy one.

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Ben Lovejoy

Ben Lovejoy is a British technology writer and EU Editor for 9to5Mac. He’s known for his op-eds and diary pieces, exploring his experience of Apple products over time, for a more rounded review. He also writes fiction, with two technothriller novels, a couple of SF shorts and a rom-com!

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