Out of the growing list of technologies available globally, Apple’s iPad stands as one of the most highly sought after. It’s little wonder why this gadget is in top demand. Weighing about 0.65 kilograms, the iPad doubles as a computer for typing and surfing the web using Wi-Fi connections and as a device for reading books, taking photos, and interacting on social media.
In the second quarter of 2020 alone, during the global pandemic, Apple sold almost 14.3 million iPads. With each passing iPad generation—the 9th, the current one—older iPads go extinct. Apple stops upgrading them to the latest iOS, and app developers drop support. How long can these remaining iPads last? Let’s have a look at the life cycle of an iPad.
Life Cycle of An iPad
Due to the constant upgrades and consumer demands, the Apple iPad is largely a “cradle-to-grave” product. With new releases coming out, previous editions of the iPad have lost much popularity. The old iPads find themselves one way or the other to the landfill. Placing them in landfills runs the risk of toxic materials spilling and potentially causing harm to Earth and mucking up the environment for living beings.
Although Apple is expanding the use of recycled materials across its products, this cradle-to-grave usage still exists. However, Apple has begun to strive towards “cradle-to-cradle” products, collecting old products and sending them to India for disassembling or to recover materials that can be recycled and reused in the production of another device boosting the circular economy.
How Is an iPad Made?
To understand the life and death of an iPad, we need to know how an iPad comes into existence. The manufacturing process of an iPad is one of the fastest and most sophisticated manufacturing systems on Earth. Not limited to one country, the entire manufacturing process is facilitated by inputs and materials from all parts of the world.
The Building Blocks
The building block of an iPad includes a back case, screen, frame, LCD screen, and battery, among other parts. The back casings are made by Alcoa, one of the world’s largest aluminum producers, the material they are made of. It has a low density and optimally resists damage, making it the perfect material for the slim and delicate Apple iPad. A cooling agent known as cryolite is added during aluminum processing to reduce the extreme temperature.
The front of the iPad, conversely, is made from glass. It is unclear whether the glass is aluminosilicate glass by the Corning company or just regular glass. In any case, and according to Apple, the glass is PVC and arsenic-free. A rare-earth metal known as cerium oxide is used to polish the surface of the glass screens. In addition, glass is also one of the materials that Apple recycles; it is melted and molded into another form to be reused in other products.
Another part of the iPad is the frame that holds the tablet together. The frame is made of polycarbonate plastic. Although it is plastic, and you can melt it, it tends to end up in a landfill. The LCD screen is invariably the most expensive part of the iPad. Made from crystals, it sits between two polarizers, and the LCD relies on liquid crystalline substances in the presence or absence of an electric field.
There’s also the battery that powers the iPad. Made with rare materials like lanthanum, the Apple iPad’s battery is one of the most efficient parts of the device. It can recharge and recycle repeatedly and is powered by lithium combined with a metallic oxide catalyst, a dry solid polymer electrolyte, and a metallic current collector.
Speaking about recycling again, and since batteries are one of the main concerns of customers, we suggest you check this article about batteries of refurbished products to answer all your questions.
The Silicon Chip
Last but by no means least are the iPad’s three silicon chips. Silicon is mined, and the chips are mass manufactured in rooms where most of the work is done by robots. The silicon chip goes through the heating and cooling systems before printing. They are not exactly recyclable, but, in some cases, they are collected from old dissembled iPads and recycled into solar panels by other companies. After introducing the M1 chip, Apple has introduced this powerful processor in both the 12.9 and the smaller 11-inch iPad Pro and in the new iPad Air M1 announced in 2022.
Certain materials in the iPad are difficult to extract in order to recycle them efficiently. Currently, the assembling of Apple iPads happens in China by a company known as Foxconn. Often with a combination of robotic hands and workforce, the manufacturing process takes a lot of power, and it accounts for 58% of the greenhouse gas emission in the iPad’s lifecycle.
After the manufacturing process, an iPad’s life cycle is an average of 3-5 years. But, other than disassembling the device, another way that non-manufacturer sources can recycle an iPad is by refurbishing.
What Is a Refurbished iPad?
A refurbished device has been previously used and returned to the manufacturer or retailer because the device is now too old, the owner wants an upgrade, or they just changed their mind about it. These are all the ways in which an iPad may enter the refurbished pipeline.
Whichever the case may be, the device is recovered by the manufacturer or a trusted seller. It is tested, repaired, and cleaned before being sold again. After these processes are complete, the device should function like a brand new one and include a warranty.
However, it’s worth noting that a refurbished iPad must not be mistaken for a used iPad. These are two different things. A used iPad may or may not be tested, cleaned, or repaired before being sold again, and some don’t include a warranty.
Tips on Buying Refurbished Apple Devices
An iPad can be refurbished by Apple through its Apple Certified Refurbished program or by a third-party seller. You can distinguish them by the packaging; they come with Apple packaging and accessories and are in good or excellent cosmetic condition. In comparison, refurbished items from third-party merchants will likely come in unbranded packaging. They may contain a charger, but they may not include other accessories like headphones.
There are a lot of seller-refurbished iPads in retail stores. Sometimes, the retail stores confuse used iPads and refurbished iPads in their descriptions. Any reputable vendor will indicate clearly whether it’s a seller-refurbished iPad or an Apple-refurbished iPad.
Understanding the iPad life cycle is necessary if you want to be an intelligent buyer and make reasonable purchase decisions. On RefurbMe, we compare deals from our list of refurbishers, which always include a warranty and rigorous testing and cleaning processes. We offer you a platform to go ahead and decide for yourself what deal suits you best.
See all refurbished iPads compatible with the latest iOS 15 in real time here:
Whatever your choice, the life and death of your refurbished iPad will be similar to a new one. Don’t hesitate to also learn the 5 best places to buy a refurbished iPad.
Lastly, you can read this article about the average replacement cycle and lifespan of a smartphone if you want to know more about this topic.
Happy buying, and thank you for trusting us!
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some of the most frequently asked questions regarding an iPad’s lifecycle:
How many years does Apple support an iPad?
Apple’s average support time for the iPad is 4-5 years before it no longer receives updates, but third-party app support can last for an additional 2 or 3 years.
Is it possible to know an iPad’s total power-on lifetime?
It’s almost impossible to know an iPad’s total power-on lifetime, but you can check the battery charge cycle count with a third-party app to determine how much a device has been used in the past. One charge cycle count means a complete charge and discharge of the battery. The more cycles registered, the more the device has been used.
How often should I replace an iPad?
All Apple devices, such as an iPad, have high durability. When you should replace your iPad mainly depends on your usage. If your iPad is no longer compatible with the latest iOS, you can think about getting a new one if your favorite apps don’t work anymore. If your iPad does not have the performance you need for your everyday usage, that’s another good reason to get a new one. If you want to help reduce electronic waste while getting significant discounts, consider buying a refurbished iPad.