Apple I-Pod...a third look & the future potential

Actually, I’m just posting here so I can say I was among the first 5 posts! j/k

I was thinking of something the other day relating to the infamous I-Pod battery, and I wanted to bounce it off the wall on a Core board just to see what others have to say.

Apple has set a precedent of sorts with their first generation I-Pod. That is, when it dies, send it back to the manufacturer. Right now this is just to install a fresh battery, but I think that we could take the process another step forward. I’m not sure how many people actually have sent their I-Pod back for a battery change…but what if Apple is just teaching users to send their product back, so eventually they will do this to get a new product at a reduced rate, and the users would be returning their old unit for recycling?

Let me expound. In order to reach the goal of sustainable design in the future we will have to have a method of re-grouping product to be recycled. Since every product is different and there are so many different choices for materials and methods of manufacturing, we will probably need to do this on a company-by-company basis. A good way of ensuring that the most amount of product gets returned is to build in an amount of obsolescence and offer a new one at a reduced rate. The old product could then be disassembled and its constituent pieces recycled or reused. The new product sent back out to the consumer could be uploaded with their files if it is electronic, and it would probably offer more power and the latest software updates.

The only problem to the process I’ve described is how to get consumers to buy into it. Perhaps Apple is either testing the waters or trying to teach consumers to change their relation to their products. In that case…the infamous battery is bloody brilliant.

I have just looked over your post and am not fully virsed in the specifics of the Ipod battery… I have an Ipod but have not had to replace the battery. I am not sure that Apple recycles any computer parts, but I am going to look in to this. As far as your use of the word sustainable goes, why do you interprate this as recycling? The way I look at it is that sustainableity means to keep in existence. With that thinking it would be to apples advantage to make the product last forever. I am going to look in to this further though.

I don’t know if Apple does recycle the batteries from Ipods. However, since Ni-Cd recycling has existed for a long time (indeed, Ni-Cds specifically say that they are not to be tossed in the trash) that Apple probably does recycle them.

My point was that the most cost-intensive part of making electronics sustainable will be creating the infrastructure to support closing the life-cycle loop. Today, a product ends its life going to a land-fill. To become sustainable though, products will need to go to dedicated facilities to be disassembled for recycling or disposal. I was curious if Apples send-back-for-battery program was perhaps the first step towards that future of manufacturers reclaiming products for recycling.

Sustainability doesn’t mean products that never cease functioning, rather it means taking into account their failure at the design stage and planning for that. If a product is 100% recylable, we are not wasting any materials, just energy. We can make the energy sustainable by utilizing renewables such as wind, solar and water.

Hey, RFT, I appreciate your enthusiasm for sustainability. I was wondering though, how did you choose your name? I know people in Tampa who are really into promoting free radio. Any connection?


My handle is Mr-914. I choose it out of convenience. Back in '97 when I first had AOL, I was trying to come up with a really cool handle, but hit a writer’s block. Back in high school I was working on restoring a Porsche 914 with my dad, so I stuck 914 to mister (shortened to Mr-) and voila.

As for RFT, I lived in Clearwater until 1999 when I moved to Arizona for university. Now I’ve moved to Montréal, but I still love WMNF. For those that don’t know, WMNF is a community radio station in Tampa. Their office is a small crappy building with “Radio Free Tampa” on the side…or at least it was the last time I came to visit friends in 2000. Personally, I was never more involved in WMNF or any other radio station than as a mere listener.

I working on a restoration project of a 914. Funny coincidence. It’s from '67. It’s cute but it has that super cheesy back glass that says “porshe.” Anyway…back to recycling!

Not that fast…send me pics and details! mr914(at symbol)

I thought you’d be into it. I’ll see what I can muster up photo wise, but it’s stored about 200 mls from here.

Once again you get the “exactly as 914 said” award. I’ve got an old(?) G4 sitting in the back with a lot of stuff fried in it. It’s been there close to a year now, but I refuse to throw it in the trash. Wish I could just mail it back to apple for a rebate, I’m sure they can do stuff with the parts and still make money from it. Or even if apple added a little more of PC’s upgradeability (selling parts online like motherboards, battery, power source, etc), that would do wonders. Imagine if you could customize your mac, or have a different case like PC users can. I think it would be more in line with apples people-friendly philosophy.

The idea isn’t to merely pander to consumer wants, but to close the product life cycle gap. I think that Apple will probably have different cases eventually, just like a phone has face plates. I think it would be dumb if they didn’t get aboard that customization band wagon. However, Apple and others need to start reclaiming their old products for recycling. Alot of a computer is recyclable, but currently it is toxic or expensive to do it. (for those not in the know, computers often end up in the developing world where people salvage the copper and poison themselves for literally pennies)

If you check another post here I mention the WEEE initiative in Europe. Perhaps Apple is trying to get ready for it with smaller programs like the hard to replace iPod battery…but we have to wait for a visit from Steve Jobs or Jonathan Ives to confirm that plan…

for electronic/interactive/smart/intelligent products, if we just designed a “shell” whose form could span the ages - the perfect form. then there would be no problem with sending it back to be upgraded with tech changes. design to last, and this can happen.

isnt it funny how often we design oursleves out of a job?

here’s an idea…

instead of speculating, why don’t you ask someone who works at apple about the future ipod strategy. you might get a real answer…

unless you already work for apple.

I can dream all day about what i’ll do when i win the lottery and grow six inches.


I know someone who didn’t buy an iPod due to it’s built-in battery.

I personally like it and find it to be a natural evolution for rechargeable devices with cradles/docks. Very utopian.

I think the battery defect issue caught the designers off-guard.

I agree w/regards to the sustainable theory… This fits nicely into what I was suggesting in my design-slam concept (which I have had NO time to work on unfortunately.)

(i read that)