18+ Apple product secrets we didn’t know before

Apple’s 2018 Environmental Responsibility Report reveals dozens of fascinating details about its products.

Apple’s 2018 Environmental Responsibility Report reveals dozens of fascinating details about the company's products, including deep insights into the care and attention it puts into their design.

‘Climate change is undeniable’

Apple’s report includes a sizeable collection of interesting data concerning the company’s efforts to reduce the impact of its business.

Apple is a huge business and it understands that even small reductions in its environmental footprint can have huge consequences, even as it moves toward closed-loop manufacturing processes.

For example, Apple claims its Green Bond investments are having positive impacts. Among other impacts, 2016 and 2017 investments together now provide 696,400MWh of energy from renewable sources, save more than 90 million gallons of water and allow over 52,000 metric tons of waste to be diverted from landfill.

“Climate change is undeniable. Earth’s resources won’t last forever,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said last year. Apple lobbied the White House to remain in the Paris climate agreement last year, and in April 2018 urged the EPA not to repeal the Clean Power Plan.

So, what's new?

The report, and accompanying papers, are well worth a look as they are packed with data that may help readers understand the size and consequence of product manufacturing at this scale. They also reveal a treasure trove of interesting Apple product-related data. I’ve looked through the whole thing and here’s a few gems that caught my eye.

I didn't know, for instance, that Apple has an internal Hardware Reuse Program. This collects end-of-life units, figures out how useful they may still be, restores them and then makes these products available for internal company use.

On energy and emissions

Apple has already managed to get 100% of its business running on renewable energy. The focus isn’t just on energy sources, but also on energy consequences. For example:

  • All of Apple’s global network of data centers handling every iMessage, FaceTime call, Siri question, shared Photo or streamed song now run on renewable energy.
  • Apple has reduced the emissions associated with every gram of aluminium used to manufacture iPhones by 83%.
  • Since 2008, Apple has cut the average energy consumed by its products by 68%.
  • The current iMac consumes up to 96% less energy in sleep mode than the first generation (and the iMac Pro consumes 40% less power during sleep and off mode).
  • MacBook Pro consumes 61% less energy than the original MacBook Pro with Retina display.
  • HomePod consumes less power than an average LED lightbulb when playing music.
  • Your iPhone X costs 75 cents a year to charge.

The following Apple suppliers are on target to producing Apple products with 100% clean energy by the end of 2018: Arkema, Biel Crystal Manufactory Ltd., Luxshare-ICT, Mega Precision, Quadrant, Quanta, battery maker Sunwoda Electronics. Many more expect to achieve this in 2019.

Toward sustainable packaging

Apple knows that when you sell millions of new devices yearly, even something as simple as the box products ship in has consequences in terms of deforestation and more. It’s working on it:

  • Made of 86% recycled content, U.S. retail packaging of the iMac Pro contains 78% less plastic than the similarly sized 27-in. iMac with Retina 5K display.
  • The 13-in. MacBook Pro with Touch Bar packaging weighs 19% less than the previous generation.
  • Apple cut the amount of plastic used in its iPhone 7 packaging by 84% in comparison to iPhone 6S.

Closed-loop manufacturing

Apple hopes one day to be able to continue to make products using entirely recycled materials. The idea here is that it wants to become far more frugal when it comes to taking precious resources. There’s a way to go, but the report reveals some insights into what it is doing already:

  • The iMac Pro’s speaker, keyboard and trackpad enclosures are made with 60% recycled plastic.
  • The iMac Pro fan assembly is made with 26% bio-based plastic.
  • You won’t see any difference at this end, but Apple has reduced the amount of aluminium it uses to create the 12.9-inch iPad Pro enclosure by 73%.
  • Apple has cut what it calls “primary aluminium consumption” across its products by 23% since 2015 – even though it is selling more products than ever.
  • There are 1,900kg of aluminium, 710kg of copper, 770kg of Cobalt and just under a kilo of gold inside every 100,000 iPhones. That’s why Apple is introducing its new Daisy robot (capable of extracting all these precious components from up to 200 iPhones an hour) across the U.S., Europe and other markets.

Two fun Apple Watch facts

Apple tests its products for reliability. One of the Apple Watch tests sees a weighted pendulum that simulates a swinging arm hitting the device against a hard object. Other Apple Watch tests include placing different components in jars of artificial sweat to make sure the nickel doesn’t leak.

There’s much more to learn in these reports. (Had you noticed the move to use recycled paper padding inside Apple’s product boxes?) I urge you to take a look – and please drop me a line if you find anything I should have included here that I’ve missed.

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Copyright © 2018 IDG Communications, Inc.

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