How Apple’s fighting HIV and AIDS with its (Product)RED iPhone 8
Every product here is independently selected by Mashable journalists. If you buy something featured, we may earn an affiliate commission which helps support our work.
Apple’s new red-colored iPhone 8 and 8 Plus are more than just a bright new shade to match your outfit. The new iPhones are part of (Product)RED, and a portion of every sale goes directly to the non-profit, The Global Fund, to help fight HIV and AIDS.
Since it partnered up with (RED) in 2006, Apple has contributed over $160 million to the Global Fund — $30 million of which was added last year after launching the (Product)Red iPhone 7 and 7 Plus — making the tech giant the largest contributor to the Global Fund.
$160 million is a drop in the bucket compared to Apple’s near $1 trillion valuation, but it’s more than the total amount the governments of Greece, Hungary, Iceland, New Zealand, and Switzerland have given combined, (RED)’s CEO Deborah Dugan tells me.
Most importantly, the money the Fund’s receiving has actually made a difference, not only in help kick HIV and AIDS’s ass, but for raising awareness on the issue.
So, so red and pretty
I’m not going to lie, the red iPhone 8 and 8 Plus are gorgeous. I really wish Apple made a (Product)RED version of the iPhone X, but maybe that’s something they’re saving for later.
The new red color is a rich crimson that sits underneath its glass backside. It’s bright like a Ferrari when the sun hits it at certain angles and at other times it looks darker. The color’s absolutely lovely and I prefer it over the duller red Apple used on the iPhone 7.
And unlike the red iPhone 7, the front is black instead of white. Together, the color combo just looks sexier.
Aside from the new colorway, the insides are identical to their non-red counterparts. Same display sizes, same wireless charging, same cameras — same everything. Best of all, they cost the same as the regular iPhone 8’s: starting at $699 for 64GB.
More than just a color
Stunning as the new devices are in person, the iPhones are part of Apple’s goal to make the world a better place (corny as that sounds).
One hundred percent of a portion from every Apple (Product)RED product sale goes directly to the Global Fund. Dugan says (RED) doesn’t touch any of it. “It goes straight from consumer purchase.”
“Statistically there’s been a big swing from people who used to write a check or volunteer a little bit. Now purchasing a product for good is the No. 1 way to contribute. You’re making a conscious consumer choice that you want to do some good and Apple makes it so, so easy and desirable. It’s a win-win.”
Apple doesn’t break down how much of each (Product)Red sale is given to the Global Fund. Greg Joswiak, Apple’s vice president of product marketing, told me it varies for each of the 20+ products the company offers in (Product)RED variants.
“The [AIDS] epidemic has been around for 35 years and 35 million people have died and 39 million still have the disease,” Dugan says. “We’ve been able to put 21 million on life-saving medication [thanks to the $500 million the Global Fund has received from all of its donors].”
Similarly, (RED)’s charitable efforts have helped significantly reduce the number of mothers who transfer HIV to their babies. Dugan says the world’s gone from 1,500 mothers passing HIV down to their babies a day in 2002 to 400 a day now. “It’s 2018, and 400 a day should not be. But the rapid decline shows that what the world is doing is working and so we just need to put more heat on the issue.”
“[Apple’s $160 million contribution]’s really moving the needle. It’s a great model that’s quite transparent. Everyone sees where the money goes. They see the effect. Those that get grants — they don’t have the right return on investments — actually save lives, but they just don’t get [grants] next year. So it’s kind of a squeaky clean system you can watch. Boom, you buy that, and this happens.”
Going beyond red iPhones
Of course, while collecting larger buckets of money to help The Global Fund is making what appears to be a notable impact, Dugan admits that it’s challenging to raise awareness on HIV/AIDs, especially when there are so many good causes vying for young peoples’ attention.
“Most people aren’t about one cause anymore. They want to do the right thing for the environment, they want to do the right thing for their aunt who has breast cancer, they want to work at companies that have purpose in many ways. So it might not be top of mind, but thank goodness Apple helps us keep it top of mind.”
And keep it at the top of everyone’s mind, Apple does. For the last several years, Apple has made a concerted efforts to show AIDS is an important issue everyone should pay attention to. Whether it’s by turning Apple Store logos red or working with app developers to offer (RED) content (a portion of sale proceeds also go to the Global Fund just like with Apple’s red-colored products), Apple’s doing its part to help drive the conversation.
(Product)RED products are helping reduce the stigma that’s associated with HIV/AIDS by sparking conversation on the touchy subject.
“What’s awesome is you can go into the store and they can tell you the story [of (Product)RED]. They can tell you why this is important,” Joswiak says. “They’re not pushing it on you. But they can tell you you’re not just buying a beautiful product and design, but the purpose is beautiful as well. And we’re proud of that. That’s one of the things besides the contribution we do bring awareness to support the topic.”
I found Apple’s knee-deep interest working with app developers to create (RED) content particularly fascinating.
“This year, we’re gonna turn the top 15 games red. But it’s not going to just be like ‘Oh, you download it and a dollar goes [to the Global Fund],'” Dugan says. “No, with the developers, Apple’s gonna work for eight months so that when Kim Kardashian steps on a red carpet, boom, money goes to the Global Fund. Or in Despicable Me, there are minions who jump in to save somebody with a little red cross, and boom, money goes into the Fund. It’s so clever and creative and that is the beauty of (RED)… to have these small little touch points to give you the tools to make a difference.”
Furthermore, Apple and (RED) tell me its (Product)RED products are helping reduce the stigma that’s associated with HIV/AIDS by sparking conversation on the touchy subject.
“There’s 1.2 million people in the U.S. with HIV and the stigma is so strong worldwide,” Dugan says. “We have heard time and time again that somebody who has the Apple Watch Band or the (RED) iPhone, when other people then see it and start talking to them, they know they can come out and then say they have HIV.”
“With our Apple customers, we’ve contributed over $160 million dollars to the Global Fund to fight the spread of HIV/AIDs and what’s amazing is it’s just growing,” Joswiak says. “It’s not dwindling.”
So what’s next from Apple’s collection to go (RED)? Joswiak wouldn’t say. He did reveal Apple’s looking for things from its lineup that are “popular and look good in red” — mostly products that “can be very visible” to help further the conversation around the cause. That’s why they have (RED) iPhones and iPods, and Beats Bluetooth speakers, and headphones, and cases.
When asked if that means a (RED) HomePod’s in the works, Joswiak laughed and replied with “great feedback.”