Is Apple leading the charge in sustainable tech? “Longevity, by Design” explained

Apple has published a document titled “Longevity, by Design” that outlines the company’s principles in product design aimed at creating durable and repairable hardware. The document highlights Apple’s commitment to providing the “best experience” for customers by designing products for longevity, a process that involves balancing durability, design, and repairability while maintaining safety, security, and privacy.

According to Apple, this approach has made it an industry leader in terms of the longevity of its products, as evidenced by the high value of secondhand iPhones compared to Android devices. Apple claims that hundreds of millions of iPhones have been in use for more than five years and that out-of-warranty repair rates have decreased significantly in recent years.

 Apple repair modules

The document highlights Apple’s rigorous reliability testing throughout the product development life cycle, which helps ensure the durability of its devices. Apple also emphasizes the importance of operating system support for product longevity, providing up to six years of updates for its devices. The company acknowledges past criticisms regarding the repairability of its hardware and describes efforts to improve in this area, such as offering self-service repair kits. Apple outlines four key principles it follows to address the tension between repairability and other factors: environmental impact, access to repair services, safety, security and privacy, and transparency in repair.

Apple’s approach to repairability includes designing products to minimize the need for repairs while also making provisions for necessary repairs. For instance, advanced adhesives used to secure batteries can be released in a specific direction to facilitate battery replacement. The company has doubled the size of its service and repair network in the last five years and supports third-party repair services and tools. Despite these efforts, Apple continues to face criticism for practices like parts pairing, which some argue restricts the use of third-party parts. Apple defends parts pairing as a measure to ensure device security and performance, particularly for biometric components.

Self Service Repair

Apple argues that prioritizing product longevity over repairability can lead to meaningful reductions in environmental impact. For example, it explains that making certain components like the iPhone charging port individually replaceable would increase carbon emissions due to the additional parts required, which is not justified given the low replacement rate for such components. The company maintains that its design approach, which emphasizes durability and reliability, ultimately yields lower carbon emissions over the product’s lifetime.

The white paper also addresses concerns about planned obsolescence, noting that many iPhones remain in use for more than five years. Apple highlights its history of providing multi-year operating system updates, a practice it pioneered to extend the lifespan of its products. The company continues to expand its user repair service, including making diagnostics tools available in 32 European countries. However, it remains cautious about third-party parts, emphasizing the potential risks and variability in quality.

Read the full paper here.

About the Author

Asma is an editor at iThinkDifferent with a strong focus on social media, Apple news, streaming services, guides, mobile gaming, app reviews, and more. When not blogging, Asma loves to play with her cat, draw, and binge on Netflix shows.