all art burns / 全美燃


words (and the occasional image) about design

design and sustainability: recycle vs. repair

A couple of weeks ago, the battery in my 5G iPod, an older 60G, died for the second time. The last time it died, I paid something like $75 to have it replaced and waited a week because I wanted to keep my custom-etched cover. I paid something like $400 for it new, so paying $75 to replace a battery seemed pretty reasonable, if I’d wanted I could probably have done it more cheaply myself.

This time when I visited the Apple store, there was no mention of repair — the only option presented to me was that if I recycle it, I could get %10 off of a new iPod. So, what’s changed? Why is Apple more interested in selling me a new iPod that only holds marginally more media instead of charging me a fair chunk of change to replace the battery in the old one. The rumor is they don’t make profit on the iPod and that it’s subsidized by iTunes sales. Is the hope that in selling me a larger iPod, they increase the amount of sales, and does adding half-again as much space really make that much profit?

So here’s the design issue — why isn’t the iPod designed to be easily repaired by someone at the Genius bar? It’s trivial to swap out the battery in my state of the art Android G1 and it’s been trivial to swap out the battery in almost every mobile phone or mobile HT I’ve owned. I’m trying to remember the last bit of consumer electronics I owned that didn’t allow me to swap out the battery and I’m drawing a blank.

So what’s up, Apple? As a socially responsible company, why aren’t you designing products that can be maintained by the customer instead of designing products that have to be replaced?

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