From the very beginning of the tablet age, Apple’s iPads have ruled the roost. Particularly in the UK where they account for over half of all tablets. Apple’s competitors have invested billions developing and marketing their own tablet devices and apps in an effort to challenge its dominance. But none of these have seriously threatened the iPad in the UK
Worldwide, the story is different. Samsung, Huawei, Lenovo and Amazon all boast healthy shares of the global tablet market. Apple still controls the lion’s share with 35% of the market. Which, in terms of ethics, isn’t such a bad thing, seeing as the iPad scores comparatively well in this guide.
Some competitors have simply given up. Tech giant Google is a prime example. Google began producing own-brand tablets in 2012 with the Nexus 7. At the time it was released it was smaller but significantly cheaper than the iPad. However, despite promising signs initially, glitches and poor functionality led to a consumer backlash. Google’s subsequent tablet models, the Nexus 9 and the Pixel C have never been able to win back consumer trust.
Google’s foray into own-brand tablets appears to be coming to an end. Its latest Android operating system ‘Android P’ will not be released for its tablets. This means that these devices will gradually slow down and reduce in functionality. For this reason, Google devices have not been included in this product guide.
It is also worth noting that both LG and Sony have not released their latest models in the UK, possibly because of Apple’s continued dominance.
All tablets contain the 3TGs (tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold), minerals that are largely found in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and surrounding countries. Profits from the sale of these minerals are the most significant financier of the armed conflicts that have plagued the country since the 1990s. This has made control of the mines that produce them an important military objective in itself.
According to research by the International Peace Information Service, 56% of mines have an armed presence from either the army or independent armed groups. This puts companies in a position of responsibility to ensure that their money is not finding its way into this conflict. On this front, there have been some signs of positive change.
In March 2017, MEPs voted in favour of forcing EU companies to take responsibility for the origin of the minerals they import. “Companies will be required to check their supply chain in order to respect human rights and prevent them from contributing to conflicts from 1st January 2021.” Importers will be required to publicly disclose their due diligence practices and policies on an annual basis.
This piece of legislation was inspired by the Dodd-Frank Act which has been in place in the US since 2010. Promisingly, a recent report on company compliance the Dodd-Frank Act found that over half of US companies reported whether their minerals came from the DRC or adjoining countries in 2017, up from under a third in 2014.
Moreover, in 2017, Apple pledged that it would treat cobalt as a conflict mineral. Cobalt is also mined in the DRC region and has often been linked to child labour and other human rights abuses. Apple’s action on cobalt mining has been welcomed by Amnesty International.
These positive changes are reflected in our table, with more companies receiving our best rating for conflict minerals; and both Samsung and Asus improving their score from a worst last time around to a best this time.
Student forced labour
Headlines about workers’ rights abuses in tech factories are depressingly frequent. So much so that it is easy to forget the individuals trapped in these abusive systems.
A recent investigative report by Hong Kong-based Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehaviour (SACOM) gave voice to Chinese students who’d been forced into workplace ‘internships’ on the production lines of major tech company suppliers.