Recycling is fine. And if not, ask Apple.
After Greenpeace repeatedly called out the company’s poor performance on environmental issues, the company began a process to detail all the ways it was being green, including that slide that appears in every Apple product presentation showing details that it has been manufactured with recycled materials, does not contain toxic by-products, etc. You already know what we’re talking about.
But, in recent years, Apple has also become an expert in other types of recycling. The company has seen the strategic advantages of designing more and more hardware internally, and then, to get the most out of it, use that hardware over and over again in different products.
The most obvious example, at least this month, is the Studio Display. It has the same Focused Framing camera system found in all current iPad models, the same A13 processor as many iPhones and iPads, and it even runs a version of iOS on the inside.
Not only is the aluminum in the display 100% recycled, but so is most of its technology!
Recipe for a product
If you were Apple and you were building a 5K display from scratch, would you make a product like the Studio Display? Almost certainly not! Throwing in a smartphone SoC (with 64GB of onboard storage, no less) is overkill, as is running a full mobile OS.
But the modern Apple doesn’t build its products from scratch. Instead, you use the technology at hand to build what you need. Although Apple ingredients are often invented to build iPhones and iPads, they are used in other contexts as well.
Think of the latest Mac models from Intel, many of which featured the T2 coprocessor. That T2 was actually an Apple Silicon, based on the A series.
Apple wasn’t ready to move to Macs with its own chips yet, but it could cut a lot of costs including its own processor, reusing a lot of software and iOS sensors (Touch ID!) and using techniques of hardware of the iPhone to make Macs work better.
Apple has been recycling its technology for some time (the iPhone and the iPad are a clear example), but the era of Apple Silicon has taken it to the extreme. The M1 is the most versatile chip, having appeared in four Macs and three iPads so far. The M1 Max has now appeared in Mac Studio, following its appearance in the MacBook Pro.
However, Apple’s commitment to recycling should not be interpreted as the company being stingy. design hardware Custom is expensive, especially when the competition is putting together widely available components to make their devices.
Apple has to hit certain profit margins, and it’s much easier to do that when you build hardware made to measure knowing that you will be able to fit it into half a dozen products.
In addition, Apple has a limited number of engineers, and every moment they spend building a unique piece of technology is time they spend doing nothing else. It is efficient and smart.
Except when it’s not.
Being too green
When the Studio Display was released a few days ago, most reviewers criticized the screen centered framing camera.
(For the record, I didn’t; with my office lighting, it seemed to do a perfectly decent job. And Macworld’s Roman Loyola had a similar experience.)
Apple has said that some of the camera image quality issues will be fixed with an update to softwareBut I don’t think that changes much. The root of this problem is Apple recycling.
Having used an iPad Pro with Center Frame to make Zoom and FaceTime calls on a weekly basis for almost a year, I’ve grown accustomed to this camera and its quirks.
What I saw on the Studio Display was, for better or worse, a true Focused Framing experience: it looked good and followed me when I moved. I didn’t find it particularly worse than the 1080p camera on my iMac Pro.
But everything has to be put in context. Many reviewers (many of whom have spent a short time using Center Framing) have compared the Studio Display’s camera to an external 4K webcam, or to a still image taken by the camera of a smartphone. They are not comparisons in which this camera will win.
While I’m a fan of Center Framing (and hope Apple can improve camera performance with an update to software) I recognize that this was one of the cases where Apple took for granted that its Center Framing system was going to fit in the Studio Display just as well as it would on an iPad.
And, without a doubt, the expectations that many critics had placed on the camera were higher than what Apple finally provided.
This is where Apple’s tendency to reuse its own technology can be a drag. Perhaps Apple was so proud of what the Center Framing camera could do that it never questioned whether it was good enough to put on a desktop screen.
It’s hard to turn your back on such advanced technology (and again, I love it) and just throw in a plain, boring 4K webcam. Which component is Apple going to be most excited about: the fusion of the 12 MP widescreen camera and the software smartphone created by them, or an off-the-shelf 4K webcam? The answer is obvious. And, at least, it could be said that it is a mistake.
We go one step further. This weekend, I had dinner with a friend who told me that he had canceled his order of the Studio Display, not because of reports of camera quality issues, but because the Studio Display essentially runs a version of iOS.
I was more than reluctant to buy what is essentially a simple product (a display) that is actually very complex, requiring its own updates to software and that, from time to time, it needs to be restarted.
There is no doubt that the Studio Display is a smart product, thanks to the incorporation of so much technology created by Apple. The real question is: has all that recycled technology made it too smart a product?
Original article published on Macworld.com.