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Electronics Industry News

1 April 2016

Apple introduce new robotic system to dismantle obsolete iPhones.

Apple Inc on Monday unveiled a robotic system called Liam to take apart junked iPhones and recover valuable materials that can be recycled, such as silver and tungsten.

The move is an attempt to address criticism that Apple’s products, while sleek and seamless in design, are so tightly constructed that their components can be difficult to diassemble, refurbish and reuse.

Liam, which has been under development for nearly three years, will initially focus on the iPhone 6. Apple plans to modify and expand the system to handle different devices and recover more resources, the company said.

The system started to operate at full capacity last month and can take apart one iPhone 6 every 11 seconds to recover aluminum, copper, tin, tungsten, cobalt, gold and silver parts, according to Apple.

At that rate and working uninterrupted, Liam likely can handle no more than a few million phones per year, a small fraction of the more than 231 million phones Apple sold in 2015.

Lisa Jackson, Apple’s vice president of environment, policy and social initiatives, said in an interview that the robotic system is meant to push the technology sector toward more recycling, both by manufacturers and consumers.

“We need more R&D if we are going to realize the idea of a circular economy in electronics,” she said, referring to a goal to reuse more materials through as many cycles as possible.

Jackson, who was U.S. Environmental Protection Agency administrator from 2009 to 2013, spoke to Reuters before she unveiled Liam at Apple’s spring product launch on Monday.

The recycling system consists of 29 robotic modules on a single site near Apple’s headquarters in Cupertino, California. It will focus initially on iPhone 6 phones sold in the United States, where Apple gets about 40 percent of its revenue.

A second Liam is being installed in Europe, Apple said.

The company also works with third-party recycling firms to handle its e-waste, but Jackson said there is room for improvement.

Some environmental activists have criticized Apple for not making its products more green. In the ultra-thin MacBook Air, for instance, the chips, hard drive, battery and processors cannot easily be upgraded. The units use bespoke screws or glue to hold them together.

Computers made by other companies tend to be more modular and easier to break apart.

Jackson said Apple’s design approach will not change, but the company is working on better ways to disassemble its devices and recover reusable materials. These can now be sold to other industries.

As research continues on larger-scale recycling, Jackson said Apple hopes to reuse more materials in future products.

The unveiling of the Liam system on Monday was welcomed by some industry experts.

“Buy a cheap smartphone, PC, or tablet, and watch it fill a landfill. Buy an Apple product and support sustainability,” technology analyst Ben Bajarin wrote on Twitter (@BenBajarin). “Interesting narrative.”

The world is awash in discarded electronic equipment, with the United States and China accounting for nearly a third of it.

Less than a sixth of global e-waste is properly recycled or made available for reuse, according to an April 2015 United Nations University report.

Apple does not disclose how many of its devices are turned in for recycling every year. Under its existing program, the company offers customers store credit for recycling certain devices and will recycle old products for free.

(Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and Tiffany Wu, Reuters)


Gartner Says Global Smartphone Sales to Only Grow 7 Per Cent in 2016

Smartphone Sales in China and North America Will Be Flat in 2016

PC Shipments to Bottom Out in 2016, Return to Growth Expected in 2017

Gartner, Inc. said global smartphone sales will for the first time exhibit single-digit growth in 2016. Global smartphone sales are estimated to reach 1.5 billion units in 2016, a 7 per cent growth from 2015. The total mobile phone market is forecast to reach 1.9 billion units in 2016.

Worldwide combined shipments for devices (PCs, tablets, ultramobiles and mobile phones) are expected to reach 2.4 billion units in 2016, a 0.6 per cent increase from 2015 (see Table 1). End-user spending in constant US dollars is estimated to decline by 1.6 per cent year on year.

 

Table 1

Worldwide Devices Shipments by Device Type, 2015-2018 (Millions of Units)

Device Type

2015

2016

2017

2018

Traditional PCs (Desk-Based and Notebook)

244

228

223

216

Ultramobiles (Premium)

45

57

73

90

PC Market

289

284

296

306

Ultramobiles (Basic and Utility)

195

188

188

194

Computing Devices Market

484

473

485

500

Mobile Phones

1,917

1,943

1,983

2,022

Total Devices Market

2,401

2,416

2,468

2,521

 

Note: The Ultramobile (Premium) category includes devices such as Microsoft’s Windows 10 Intel x86 products and Apple’s MacBook Air.

The Ultramobile (Basic and Utility Tablets) category includes devices such as, iPad, iPad mini, Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5, Nexus 7 and Acer Iconia Tab 8.

Source: Gartner (March 2016)

“The double-digit growth era for the global smartphone market has come to an end,” said Ranjit Atwal, research director at Gartner. “Historically, worsening economic conditions had negligible impact on smartphone sales and spend, but this is no longer the case. China and North America smartphone sales are on pace to be flat in 2016, exhibiting a 0.7 per cent and 0.4 per cent growth respectively.”

 

Emerging Markets Continue to Grow, but at a Slower Rate

While smartphone sales will continue to grow in emerging markets, the growth will slow down. Gartner predicts that, through 2019, 150 million users will delay upgrades to smartphones in emerging Asia/Pacific, until the functionality and price combination of a low-cost smartphone becomes more desirable.

“Prices did not decline enough to drive upgrades from low-end feature phones to low-end smartphones,” saidAnnette Zimmermann, research director at Gartner. “Vendors were not able to reduce the price of a ‘good enough to use’ smartphone lower than $50.”

Countries such as India will help generate new mobile phone user growth. Sales of smartphones in India are on pace to reach 29 per cent in 2016 and will continue to exhibit double-digit growth in the next two years.

 

Mature Markets to Increase Mobile Phone Lifetimes

In the mature markets of North America, Western Europe, Japan and mature Asia/Pacific, Gartner analysts expect to see an extension of phone lifetimes among users.

“As carriers’ deals become more complex, users are likely to hold onto phones, especially as the technology updates become incremental rather than exponential,” said Ms Zimmermann. “In addition, the volumes of users upgrading from basic phones to premium phones will slow, with more basic phones being replaced with the same type of phone.”

 

PC Shipments to Bottom Out in 2016

The global PC shipment market is expected to total 284 million units in 2016, a decline of 1.5 per cent year on year. Traditional PCs are on pace to decline 6.7 per cent in 2016. “In 2016, the PC market will reach its last year of decline before returning to growth in 2017,” said Mr Atwal. “The biggest challenge, and potential benefit for the PC market, is the integration of Windows 10 with Intel’s Skylake architecture. It has the potential for new form factors with more attractive features.”

In addition, the frustration with the capabilities in tablets will drive some consumers and businesses to review new form factors. “However, to draw their interest the PC manufacturers need to ensure that they meet demand with the right products at the right price,” added Mr Atwal.

 

Demand for ultramobiles (basic and utility tablets) will continue to weaken, with a decline of 3.4 per cent in 2016. Users are not only extending lifetimes, but also some will fail to replace these devices at all through 2016.

 

More detailed analysis is available in the report, “Forecast: PCs, Ultramobiles and Mobile Phones, Worldwide, 2013-2020, 1Q16 Update.” Analysis on the impact of the devices forecast on overall IT spending will also be shared in the complimentary Gartner webinar, “IT Spending Forecast, 1Q16 Update: Where Is All the Money Going?” taking place on Tuesday 12th April at 16:00 UK time.

Contacts

 

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