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Apple Vision Pro: planned obsolescence and E-waste

Author: Ninjin Battsengel, staff writer

E-waste, hazardous waste of electronic appliances, entering landfills has increased exponentially as tech giants continue to practise planned obsolescence and manufacture more complicated gadgets with slim chances of being repaired.

Apple has launched their new Vision Pro and tech repair experts are forecasting that, due to its complexity,  “within the next decade, there will be thousands of unrepairable Apple Vision Pros adding to the global Waste from Electrical and Electronic Equipment, WEEE, crisis.” But this forecast is not just based on fast-paced trends. Apple has quite a reputation in the tech world for being unnecessarily hard to repair, on purpose.

In 2017, Greenpeace East Asia partnered with iFixit to assess over 40 smartphones, tablets and laptops to give them a ‘repairability score’.  Apple’s non-replaceable batteries, non-standard tools, and inaccessibility to spare parts, consistently had their products rank below a 4 on scale of 1-10.

Apple Vision Pro

Gary Cook, IT Sector Analyst at Greenpeace USA, reported “products from Apple, Samsung, and Microsoft are increasingly being designed in ways that make it difficult for users to fix, shortening the lifespan of these devices and adding to growing stockpiles of e-waste,” and Apple’s latest venture into headsets are no exception. 

Hand in hand with the Vision Pro is the ‘Metaverse’, described by Mark Zuckerberg himself as “an embodied internet that you’re inside of rather than just looking at.”

Metaverse/augmented type gadgets’ requirements for more hardware, low latency and high compute power provoke concerns about the natural resources needed to fill those requirements. Lancaster University researchers estimated in a 2020 study, that if 30% of gamers move to cloud gaming platforms by 2030, there will be a 30% increase in carbon emissions,

The incessant machine of capitalism feeds on competitive markets, and the Vision Pro has opened a Pandora's box. According to the Korean Economic Daily, Samsung’s XR headset is set to launch “within the year,” and Sony’s own headset, made with Siemens, is due “in the second half of the year.” If you, like myself, thought Apple’s e-waste was out of hand at 33,000 metric tons, Samsung’s contribution of 1,400,000 metric tons in waste will feel jarringly dystopian.

Apple Vision Pro

Augmented reality, open AI, sentient humanoid bots, these technological miracles require materials that require extracting, shipment, assembly which all leave a mark on the environment in the process.

However, it is not all so bleak. Apple Vision Pros are making headlines this March as a team at the Cromwell Hospital in London used one whilst repairing a patient’s spine; the nurse working alongside the surgeon wore the headset to help prepare, keep track of and choose the right tools for the procedure.

An unexpected narrative has begun around Vision Pros’ potential to inspire climate change reform. During its demo stages, participants encountered amazing virtual environments; a virtual butterfly landing delicately on their finger, a lifelike dinosaur trying to bite them. The argument being how the headset’s ability to immerse users into dwindling habitats and interact with endangered animals will invoke a deeper connection with nature. 

Furthermore, optimists argue that harnessing this technology could lead to positive change on the impressionable youth. With children acting as advocates for good recycling habits why not use this opportunity to boost society’s renewable habits? “Gamification and augmented reality can help kids become more involved while simultaneously teaching them about recycling.”

However, with Disney Plus confirming that it will be available on the Vision Pro[12], will the next generation simply grow even more distant?

Although it is too early to observe the possible psychological and mental tolls an ‘augmented reality’ headset could cause for our environment’s future, great things could undeniably come of them if in the right hands. 


Ninjin Battsengel is a staff writer at The Conference Corner and a first year BA student at Cardiff University originally from Mongolia.




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