The various parts in your iPhone have traveled a great distance to reach your pocket — combined, they’ve gone almost as far as to the moon and back.
That fancy Touch ID button on the front of your iPhone 6s, for example, inhabits a 12,000-mile footprint alone, what with the artificial sapphire crystal (originating in Changsha, China) that’s bonded to a metal ring (transported 550 miles from Jiangsu province) and then shipped to a semiconductor plant in Kaohsiung, Taiwan (another 1,000 miles).
The miles continue to rack up via parts sourced in Europe and shipped to Japan, then finally brought back to Foxconn in China. And that’s just a single, small, unsexy part of the iPhone.
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Edward Humes’ Door to Door: The Magnificent, Maddening, Mysterious World of Transportation is excerpted in Wired to show just how far our electronics travel to get into our lives. It’s all the more interesting because this mileage gets covered to increase efficiency and lower the cost of our consumer gadgets, from our smartphones and televisions to our laptops and smart refrigerators.
Humes likens the process to that of a chef preparing a meal.
“The phone’s innards are put together much as a cook assembles ingredients for a dish that becomes, in turn, a component of another chef’s course,” writes Humes, “which is then incorporated by someone else into a larger meal. Ingredients move back and forth from high-tech equivalents of refrigerator, cutting board, stove, and plate.”
And then there is all the rare earth materials that go into manufacturing iPhone components. The Touch ID story above doesn’t include the transportation of raw materials, or their packaging, or the movement of water, energy or even workers at each factory along the way.
“In the end,” writes Humes, “the iPhone has a transportation footprint at least as great as a 240,000-mile trip to the moon, and most or all of the way back.”
That’s a heady distance your iPhone has traveled to hang out in your pocket all day.