Product Design

Three Ways We Hoped the iPad Would Be Better (But Wasn’t)

We’re spending our Friday afternoon huddled in the office, trying to figure out the best way to get into the new iPad. So this seemed like an opportune time to discuss what we hoped we’d see in the iPad from a responsible, repairable product design perspective. We’ve given the new iPad one of the lowest repairability scores we’ve ever given a major product: 2 out of 10. (The 4th Generation iPod Shuffle also received a 2/10 score because you basically have to break it to open it). We’ve also retroactively downgraded our original iPad 2 score from 4 out of 10 to 2. These devices are very difficult to get into, and they’re selling like hotcakes—slick hotcakes encased in breakable glass.

The iPad product design requires heat to open it

Here are three ways we hoped the new iPad would be more repairable (but wasn’t):

  1. Getting in: We hoped that Apple might return to the easy-to-open tabs of the original iPad. Being able to get into a device is obviously the first step in any repair. Instead, the thin front panel is held on by a strong adhesive. We’ve gotten better at getting into iPads since last year (we broke the screen on the first iPad 2 we tore down), but the iPad puts walls of glass and aluminum between the user and the device’s insides. Apple says the iPad is “made of aluminum and other materials highly desired by recyclers”—but that means nothing if recyclers can’t get into the device at all. Mr. Cook, tear down this wall!
  2. Getting past the front panel: The front panel in both the iPad 2 and the new iPad is impossible to remove without also removing the LCD screen—which is adhered to the front panel with foam sticky tape. The connector holding the front panel in place is beneath the LCD, meaning you have to disassemble the device all the way to the logic board and battery just to replace broken glass on the front.
  3. Replacing the battery: As in the iPad 2, the new iPad’s (significantly larger) battery is glued down securely to the rear case. Gluing down batteries is particularly dangerous because of the risks of breaking a battery—if punctured, the lithium ion battery can explode. Even Apple doesn’t bother trying to replace the battery. When you arrange for an Apple Care “battery replacement,” they actually replace your entire iPad for a service fee. The iPad battery is supposed to maintain 80% of its battery life after 1000 cycles, but users began reporting diminished battery life within a few months of purchasing the original iPad.

As our video guide guru MJ points out in her video below, not only can we hold Apple to a higher standard than other manufacturers, we must. If Apple ships one million iPads today, at 1.44 pounds each, that means 650 metric tons of unrepairable toxic iPad going out just today. And Apple’s the most valuable company in the world. Their stock hit $600/share yesterday. They’re recognized as leaders in the design and business worlds.

If Apple is going to be at the head of the pack, we must ask them to lead responsibly. And in electronics, leading responsibly means that your devices must be sustainably made and designed to last. Designed for use. Designed for repair. Designed for a more sustainable future.

The new iPad isn’t.

Video below: