• Thu. Jun 20th, 2024

Apple has taken its love of recycling just a little too far


Mar 28, 2022
Hardware Software 4Hardware Software 4

Recycling is good. Just ask Apple.

After the company was repeatedly sued by Greenpeace for poor environmental performance, the company began a process to detail all the ways it was green, including that now-familiar slide that appears with the introduction of every Apple product, detailing how it’s made from recycled materials, contains no toxic by-products, and more. You know it.

But in recent years, Apple has also become an expert in a different kind of recycling. The company has found strategic advantages by designing an increasing amount of its hardware in-house — and to get the most out of it, it uses that hardware over and over in different products.

The most obvious example, at least this month, is the Apple Studio Display. It has the same Center Stage camera system found in every current iPad model, the same A13 processor as countless iPhones and iPads, and even has a behind-the-scenes version of iOS. It’s not just the screen’s aluminum that is 100 percent recycled, most of the technology is too!

Recipe for a product

If you were Apple and you were building a 5K standalone display from scratch, would you make a product like the Studio Display? Almost certainly not! Embedding a complete smartphone system-on-a-chip (with 64GB onboard storage, no less) is overkill, as is running a full mobile operating system.

But modern Apple doesn’t rebuild its products from scratch. Instead, it uses the technology it has to build what it takes. While Apple’s ingredients are often invented to build iPhones and iPads, they are used in other contexts as well.

Think back to the late-model Intel Macs, many of which include the T2 coprocessor. That T2 was actually an Apple silicon processor, based on the A series. Apple wasn’t ready to switch the entire Mac to its own chips, but it could save a lot by including its own processor, repurposing a ton of iOS software and sensors (Touch ID!) and iPhone hardware. techniques to use to make Macs work better.

iMac 2013

Later versions of the Intel iMac used a T2 coprocessor, which was based on Apple’s A-series processor.


Apple has been recycling its technology for a while — the iPhone-iPad exchange is an obvious case — but the era of Apple silicon has taken it to a whole new level. The M1 is the universal flour of chips, having appeared in four Macs and three iPads so far. The M1 Max has now appeared in the Mac Studio, following its appearance in the MacBook Pro.

However, Apple’s focus on recycling should not be interpreted as a cheap business. Designing custom hardware is expensive, especially when your competition is putting together largely widely available components to make their devices. Apple has profit margins to make, and it’s a lot easier to do that if you build a little custom hardware knowing you can fit it into half a dozen products. Apple also has a limited number of engineers, and every time they spend building a one-off piece of technology is a time they don’t spend on anything else. It’s efficient and smart.

Except when it isn’t.

Thinking green

When the Studio Display arrived last week, most reviewers panned the Center Stage camera from the screen. (For the record, I didn’t — in my office lighting environment, it seemed to do a perfectly decent job. And Macworld’s Roman Loyola had a similar experience.) Apple has said some of the camera’s image quality issues will be resolved. addressed in a software update, but I don’t think it will change many minds. The root of this problem is Apple’s recycling.

As someone who has been using an iPad Pro with Center Stage to make weekly Zoom and FaceTime calls for nearly a year, I’ve grown accustomed to the Center Stage camera and its quirks. What I saw on the Studio Display was, for better or worse, a Center Stage experience – it looked good and it followed me around as I moved. It didn’t feel particularly worse than the 1080p camera on my iMac Pro.

But it’s all about context. Many reviewers (many of whom spent little time using Center Stage) compared the Studio Display’s camera to an external 4K webcam or to a still image captured by a smartphone camera. These aren’t comparisons that the Center Stage camera is going to win.

While I’m a fan of Center Stage – and I hope Apple can improve the camera’s performance with a software update – I admit that this was a case where Apple assumed that the Center Stage system in both the Studio Display and fit into an iPad . And, frankly, many reviewers’ expectations were for a much better camera than Apple’s.

iPad Pro central

Center Stage was introduced with the iPad Pro, but it seems Apple hasn’t really considered using it on a Mac screen.


This is where Apple’s tendency to reuse its own technology can be a risk. Perhaps Apple was so proud of what the Center Stage camera could do that it never questioned whether it was good enough for a desktop display. It’s hard to turn your back on such flashy technology – and again, I love it! – and just send a boring, boring 4K webcam. Which part will Apple be more excited about, the Center Stage fusion of 12MP wide-angle camera and smart software built by Apple, or a turnkey 4K webcam part? The answer is obvious. And, arguably at the very least, a mistake.

Or to take it a step further, over the weekend I had dinner with a friend who told me he’d canceled his Studio Display order, not because of the reports of camera quality issues, but because of the revelation that the Studio Display essentially a version of iOS. He was more than reluctant to buy what is essentially a simple product – a display – which is in fact very complex and requires its own software updates and needs to be rebooted every now and then

There’s no doubt that the Studio Display is a smart product, thanks to the addition of so much Apple-built technology. The real question is, has all that recycled technology made it half too smart?

This post Apple has taken its love of recycling just a little too far

was original published at “https://www.macworld.com/article/625398/recycled-tech-ipad-studio-display-processor.html”

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