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How Apple recycles its iPhones ? Ep. 1/2: Apple Trade In

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This two-part report retraces the journey of an old iPhone, from its delivery by the customer to the Apple Store to its exit from the factory after passing through Daisy, Apple's disassembly robot. Episode 1: focus on Apple Trade In, the latest trade-in program for old Apple devices.

Meet at the Apple Store on the Champs Elysées. In an environment combining history and modernity, a team of Apple advisors welcomes us to take us through the journey of a customer wishing to return an old iPhone.

Apple Trade In allows anyone to deposit an iPhone, Mac, iPad or Apple Watchagainst a new product, a voucher or cash. This trade-in program for old devices was designed to encourage people to stop leaving them lying around in a drawer. According to figures from Ademe, in 2021 there were between 54 and 110 million phones in this case, two thirds of which were still in working order.

This virtuous approach by Apple is part of its Apple 2030 program aimed at becoming 100% carbon neutral by 2030. To achieve this ambitious objective, Apple has already taken several measures such as the integration of recycled materials into its new models (for example, the latest MacBook Air M3 is made of 50% recycled materials).

But the brand also counts on the ecological sensitivity of its customers to accomplish its mission.

How Apple Trade In works?

How Apple recycles its iPhones ? Ep. 1/2: Apple Trade In

© Unsplash/Jimmy Jin

There are two methods to take advantage of the Apple Trade In program: have your old device evaluated directly on the official Apple website or go to an Apple Store. In both cases, the customer journey is essentially the same. Since we have experienced this, let's take the example of the Apple Store.

Once supported by an advisor, the customer can have one or more devices taken back. The advisor asks to display a QR Code which will allow him to assess the condition of the device. By default, the information communicated is basic: first name, device model, Apple Care (or not), last backup and storage. Prior to the assessment, the client may choose to further limit the information provided. In all cases, Apple never has access to other data on the device.

After this stage, an AI evaluates the value of the device based on a series of pre-established criteria. The advisor can also carry out a more personalized diagnosis (for example if the screen glass is cracked). It then takes a photo of the front and back of the device. An evaluation is then communicated. Total operation time: between 2 and 5 minutes.

What are the advantages of Apple Trade In ?

How Apple recycles its iPhones ? Ep. 1/2: Apple Trade In

© Unsplash/Julian O’hayon

Contrary to what one might think, Apple Trade In is not reserved for Apple devices. Apple also evaluates devices from other brands without purchase conditions. If the customer accepts the trade-in offer, several possibilities are available to him:

  • convert this sum into voucher valid for a new product but also to access Apple services (Apple Music or Apple TV+ subscription via example).
  • purchase a new product with, in most cases, a trade-in bonus
  • recover the amount in cash by transfer

For customers using the website, an initial online diagnosis is possible. Verification by Apple teams takes 7 to 15 days from dispatch. If the customer cancels, the product is returned free of charge. A significant advantage, most reconditioners charge these returns to customers in the event of refusal of a counter-offer.

What about devices repaired by third parties? Apple also takes them back, without conditions.

What happens to the old iPhone?

How Apple recycles its iPhones ? Ep. 1/2: Apple Trade In

© Romain Vitt for Presse-citron

If the customer journey is over, that of the device handed over to Apple still has a long road ahead of it. Here again, Apple has planned several scenarios depending on the condition in which the device was returned to it. Take the case of the iPhone, a product over-represented in the Apple Trade In program.

If it is in good condition, Apple reconditions it(he changes the defective parts) and puts it back on sale on his site in the “reconditioned” section. Absent for some time, the iPhone made its comeback at the start of 2024. Enough to afford an iPhone with a two-year warranty (compared to 6 months with most refurbishers) and the assurance of reconditioning meeting the company's quality standards.

If the returned iPhone is at the end of its life, Apple sends it to its recycling program. Daisy, a disassembly robot recovers its parts either to reuse them in new products or in reconditioned devices (depending on the condition of the parts).

Next ? You will find out in the next episode devoted to behind the scenes of how Daisy works.

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Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116