At Apple, there are big crowds, big launches, constant buzz, a unique position in an ultra-competitive universe peppered with unbridled innovation and fiscal quarters that wear down superlatives. And then there is a more discreet long-distance race, an ecological ultra-trail, somewhat demanding, but just as essential.
Apple: Cape Verde
For ten years, Apple has been working on its green revolution. Reduce packaging to consume less paper, find a way to eliminate this little bit of plastic here, switch all your electricity supply to renewable sources there, or even set, by 2030, the very ambitious goal of being carbon neutral for all your operations – even for your products, from their manufacture to the end of their useful life.
A colossal work, divided into thousands of issues and projects, financed in particular by the green bonds issued since 2016 for a total amount of 4.7 billion dollars. An ambition at the height of Apple, which obviously involves converting its suppliers to renewable energy.
An objective that also implies a new way of designing products, and even the materials, such as aluminium, used in products. Certainly, in this case, Apple did not invent the new process, but it is at the origin of its rise to power, it has allowed, through its investment, through its search for a solution, the emergence of this new approach.
A course, finally, that manifests itself in real efforts –but still insufficient in the face of urgency and ecological issues– in the recycling of products. We remember Liam, released in 2016, then replaced in 2018 by Daisy. These robot disassembly chains are capable of disassembling millions of iPhones a year to recover their various components, including used materials such as rare earths.
Because Apple’s objective is to stop undermining resources, to produce only by recycling its own devices and those manufactured by the competition that its customers or partners will provide. Again, the effort required and the steps to achieve this goal are both exciting and dizzying.
Sustainability by design
For us users, there are also much more tangible efforts. Just as Apple has democratized the name privacy designwhich suggests that respecting your privacy is an intention taken into account from the design of products and services, we could say that Apple products respond to another name (unofficial this one, and its own): durability by design.
Possible thanks to the integration between software and hardware and the tight control that is established over these two fundamental parts of the products, this durability is, without a doubt, an increasingly central and differentiating argument of Apple devices.
It is based, on the one hand, on premium manufacturing quality and the test of time. And also, on the other hand, in a tracking software that currently has no equivalent on the market.
The iPhone 6S, released in 2015 and out of production since 2018, is still regularly updated, not just for security reasons, as it supports the latest major version of Apple’s mobile operating system, iOS 15.
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Therefore, Apple has built an environment that tends towards the virtuous, based on many long-term efforts for which it is a model for the industry or, in any case, at the forefront. But is it enough?
A cascade of questions arises more and more sharply. While we should save resources, reduce our energy needs, limit our environmental impact, shouldn’t we consider another step?
Given the particular position it occupies (unparalleled integration, end-to-end premium positioning, building a marketing image with no real equivalent, etc.), Apple should consider ending this race to the front buoyed by the annual launch of new products. .
A few years ago, Apple launched an iPhone in S format every two years, a kind of evolution and improvement of the model launched the previous year. Whether it overemphasized the iterative, expendable side of new devices, or no longer corresponded to a broader strategy, this designation disappeared with iPhone 11.
However, the reality remains the same. Apple – and its competitors too – distill hardware and functional updates, keeping a margin of progress, but too often leaving the impression that we could have waited another year to be entitled to more new features at once.
Especially since the question of power is already settled, since the essentials and the superfluous are largely provided by the A1x and M1x chips. As long as new uses do not arise (mixed reality, in particular), the efforts to be made are on the side of autonomy and neural networks to provide more flexibility to the uses of the software.
The arrival of Apple Silicon chips in Macs perfectly materializes this new balance point reached. We can clearly see that the 13-inch MacBook Air, MacBook Pro or even Mac mini equipped with the M1 chip, released in November 2020, have not reached their limits, both in use and in comparison to the competition. So why not ensure that this innovation, in addition to offering more performance and autonomy, opens the door to a greener future?
Apple Silicon chips, in Macs, but also in iPhones, make it possible to imagine, without compromising the satisfaction of users’ daily needs, a world in which update cycles are longer.
This slower time would also allow innovation levels to be more stable and mature, perhaps a good way to escape the feeling of frustrating iterations.
It is true that this would require a review of the investment and R&D models, it would also weigh down decisions that will be maintained for a longer time. Although Apple has shown, by selling MacBooks for years with too few connections or a Touch Bar that isn’t sufficiently unified in its uses, that flaws can survive from model to model without compromising range.
This decision to include the launches of new products in longer periods –and it is possible to imagine staggered launches to avoid empty years– seems all the less aberrational in that it is already applied to certain ranges of products, accessories or low added value.
We think, for example, of AirPods, which do not get updated every year and are sometimes too scarce: third-generation AirPods, anyone? – or the iPhone SE, which in six years of existence has only seen three iterations (2016, 2020 and 2022).
These two examples are not innocent. They demonstrate an essential prerequisite for successfully extending the commercial life of a product. iPhone SE 2022 and AirPods 3 show what not to do. Both suffer from the same concern, a balance problem, and err on the side of too high price positioning for too little innovation. It’s especially unfortunate for the iPhone SE, which could be a fringe experiment in this direction.
Because the “green” future of premiums can only go through a new timing of launches and a longer commercial life if the products are richer in innovations, that their added value is strong, when they are launched and last.
It is obvious that Apple could have a lot to lose in the short term – we can already imagine the reaction of the stock markets, which are not inclined to consider the long term and the future of our planet – but nothing that cannot be prepared, frustrated
“Green goals” can be an essential marketing argument. Your green ambitions are a ‘product’, which you know and can sell, where you can create added value, and the more Apple’s product and service portfolio diversifies, the easier it will be.
The long-term challenge is well worth it. Once again, it is a question here of opening the way, of showing the way to the industry, of setting up a model, of being the first.
R, like Apple. A for Gaia
Apple occupies a unique position that offers certain freedoms and imposes, in the eyes of civil society, many duties. This giant cannot neglect this path. His omnipresence makes him the perfect candidate for this break with a model that has shown its limits, except from the economic point of view, of course.
Apple’s new green credo, “Leave the planet in a better state than we found it” it must make him take into account the reality of a worn-out world and model. Apple must show its competitors and its users that another path is possible. The relative failure of Fairphone, which only knew how to outline this path, does not invalidate its relevance. It must demonstrate that an innovative and “intelligently reducible” sustainable industry is possible.
Apple must make a decision, to be the true champion of Gaia. Then it will be in a position to offer its users a real alternative, which will differentiate it from the competition, beyond, of course, the offer of memojis that will be offered to us to react to the announcement of the end of the world. ..