Medium, Insaf Ali, 9/2/21
What does Apple do with old iPhones?
Apple has heavily promoted its trade-in program in recent years, encouraging users to give up their old iPhone in exchange for a discount on a new model. Over a third of Apple Store customers now utilize this program, but it left many people wondering why Apple even wants our old iPhones.
It’s no coincidence that Apple began offering discounts with trade-ins in 2013 when they experienced their first quarterly profit decline in a decade. And started aggressively promoting the trade-in program in 2017, when they released the $1,000 iPhone X.
It solved two problems the company faced: Slowing iPhone sales due to market saturation, and users waiting longer to upgrade due to the iPhone’s price rising year after year. Trade-ins bring down the device’s price and allow more users to upgrade sooner.
But what does Apple do with all those old iPhones?
Well, if it’s in good working condition, they refurbish the device and resell it in emerging markets like India, Latin America, and Africa. That way, Apple can directly compete in the used smartphone market while also selling a device twice that only had to be manufactured once.
But if the phone is in too poor a condition to sell, Apple recycles it. They actually created a robot called Daisy specifically for this purpose.
It’s able to disassemble 200 iPhones an hour while recovering recyclable materials that would otherwise be left in landfills. This approach was required in order to achieve Apple’s goal of a closed-loop supply chain.
Where all new products would be manufactured without “pulling new materials from the Earth.” Apple has yet to achieve the goal, but they are taking steps like using 100% recycled rare earth materials in the iPhone 12.
So the iPhone trade-in program benefits the customer by making their new device more affordable, benefits Apple by boosting sales of new iPhones plus sales of older refurbished models, and benefits the environment. By allowing devices to be used up to their full potential before being recycled.