Gallery: IS IT GREEN?: The Apple iPad


Unless you’ve been living in a cave the past few weeks, you probably know about Apple‘s new iPad, which was just unveiled moments ago. We’re excited for the iPad’s release, but we still have to ask: how green is it?

The tablet will, of course, save some trees from being chopped down — that’s the benefit of any e-reader that replaces print media. But at the same time, the Center for Sustainable Communications in Stockholm, Sweden, recently conducted a study showing that reading a newspaper on a computer for 30 minutes can have the same carbon dioxide emissions as a printed newspaper. And as anyone who follows Greenpeace’s Guide to Electronics knows, electronics don’t always get recycled properly.

But what about the iPad? The iPod touch-like device can be used to watch movies and TV shows and has full access to the iTunes store (and a built-in iPod). That means many of the more energy-intensive things we rely on laptops to do can be accessed on the smaller iPad, which weighs just 1.5 pounds, has a 9.7 inch display, and is .5 inches thin. And the impressive 10 hour battery life means that the device doesn’t need to be hooked up to an outlet for nearly as long as a standard laptop. The iPad’s 30-day standby battery life means that it rarely needs to be plugged in at night, too. And according to Steve Jobs, the iPad is arsenic-free, BFR-free, mercury-free, PVC-free, and is highly recyclable.

Still, few people are likely to replace their iPods or laptops with the iPad. So we have to wonder — is this really anything more than an unnecessary luxury item?

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  6. Nightyume March 28, 2010 at 12:32 am

    I don’t know if it will be that green. It seems to be to be much like the iPhone where it is designed to be updated in a very short while. The other tablets coming out (supposedly this year) use cpu’s from the generation after the ipad. And without multi-tasking and flash it really is more of a luxury item, not an item to replace a netbook/notebook. But it also depends on what you do. A lot of the standard programs won’t be available for the majority of tablets, at least in the beginning. So if there is a program you need like Photoshop or full fledged Word/Excel/Open Office then you’ll still need another device. HTML5 might make the flash issue a moot point but it would depend how quickly it is implemented since by the time it is universally adopted the next gen iPad might be out. You also have to remember that one thing which could be a green or harmful thing is the battery. To replace it you’ll have to send the iPad to Apple and then they’ll send you a new iPad. This could be good since it could guarantee a proper handling of the old batteries and if the “new” iPad is refurbished it would be furtherly green. Now it would be a question of seeing how they deal with the dead battery iPads and the old batteries. The tablet which most interests me is the Notion Ink Adam, in part due to the Pixel Qi screen which would be a great energy saver (as I tend to read a lot). But I’ll be waiting for the products to come out along with their reviews. I am a careful shopper and like my products to last for years and I buy things not because they’re flashy but because I will actually use the majority of their feature (I had my last phone for nearly 4 years, my pc for 6, and any tablet that I buy I hope would last me for at least 3).

  7. Mack McCoy February 4, 2010 at 1:59 am

    svenhenrik, my opinion is actually derived from my admittedly limited knowledge. I may be entirely incorrect. Please feel free to “school me” if my reasoning is flawed.

    From your comment, I believe we agree on how multitasking affects system resources. That is to say, multitasking requires more resources than single-tasking, which requires more work, and thus consumes battery more rapidly, as in your 3D game example. So, on this point we agree: resource-intensive multitasking is worse for battery life when it isn’t carefully implemented & managed.

    The context missing from my earlier post & the key issue is “carefully implemented & managed.” wrote about this on January 28, 2010 : “…IF it is written PROPERLY a background app does little or no harm to battery life.” (Emphasis mine)

    As you point out, Apple allows “core apps” like iPod, iTunes, Mail, & Safari to multitask. What they continue to refuse is 3rd party apps, like Pandora. Instead, the only option for 3rd party apps is to save their state when interrupted or terminated. A large part of people’s frustration would go away if more 3rd party developers designed their apps to handle interruptions & terminations properly. Tweetie 2 & the latest version of Facebook are great examples of proper state management. iPhone Developer Labs wrote about this in August 2009:

    The real issue is that many (most?) 3rd party developers do not properly design & implement their apps for battery life & state management. If that ever changes, Apple might revisit 3rd party multitasking. Alternatively, Apple could develop a certification program to rigorously test apps. Those that pass would be certified and allowed to multitask. Unfortunately, such a program isn’t cheap and developers would probably bear the cost. Think of an app version of CableLabs DOCSIS certification.

  8. svenhenrik February 1, 2010 at 9:26 pm

    I’m constantly surprised that so many seem to buy Steve’s “multitasking drains the battery”-line. It’s just not true.

    Quite the opposite.

    Unless the applications are very badly written, or the OS implementation of multitasking is crap, it takes more effort to constantly shutdown and re-initialize applications than to simply switch between them.

    Of course having a full blown 3D game in the background will kill the battery, but just as it can be closed when switching applications, it can be paused. A music player *will* be constantly running, of course, but that’s already an issue with the current implementation since the music player in the iPhone OS is allowed to run in the background. Editing a spreadsheet and a text document and reading an ebook while running an IM client in the background will have a very small effect on battery, and probably less than constantly starting and stopping the same applications.

    What multitasking does however, is enabling the user to degrade the smooth iPad/iPhone/Touch experience. An application can no longer be guaranteed exclusive access to the system, or assume that memory will always be available. With the current model the user never has to worry about these things.

  9. mskogly January 30, 2010 at 9:55 am

    My MacBook recently died (a few months after the apple care waranty ran out, surprise!) and I am considering getting an iPad to “replace” it. It looks like the perfect couch-machine. It can’t replace the macbook completely though, since it can’t run things like photoshop etc, so I’m not sure what I will do.

    I’m a believer in slow shopping, so while I figure out what to do I’ve got my hands on four (!) broken Thinkpad T41p laptops that where getting scrapped by my employer, and I’ve managed to switch out parts between them ending up with two working, absolutely free and extremely environmentally friendly laptops, that I now run Ubuntu on, and they seem to do it for me for now.

  10. Mack McCoy January 28, 2010 at 8:14 pm

    Solinx, I believe we agree to disagree. In my opinion, multitasking is an over-hyped feature for mobile devices. It hasn’t been a noticeable issue on my iPhone. So long as apps on the iPad “remember” where they were when I switch from one to the other–as many do on iPhone–I really don’t need multitasking. All it does is needlessly drain the battery.

    davidwayneosedach, Apple, like most CE manufacturers, doesn’t have a great green track-record. I believe they are slowly trying to change and products like the iPad are an example of that effort. Aluminum & glass are far superior choices for device construction given their recyclability & reusability versus various plastics. Having said that, all CE manufacturers have a LONG way to go before they can honestly be called green. :)

  11. davidwayneosedach January 28, 2010 at 6:31 pm

    It’s sexy and it’s smart. But I doubt if its very green. Imagine what it takes to manufacture just one?

  12. Solinx January 28, 2010 at 6:22 pm

    The iPad certainly isn’t what it could have been.

    MackMcCoy, before you get one, you should take a close look at what it cannot do. With a notebook or even a netbook, you want to be able to multi-task. This is one basic thing the iPad simply isn’t capable of. If you want to work on an spreadsheet and a regular document at the same time, you simply can’t. You’ll need to boot up your notebook.

    The iPad is aimed at a market between e-reader and netbook users. However, while it offers benefits in combining features, it also comes with significant failings for either use. I wonder whether it would have gotten more than a glance if it hadn’t been an Apple product. The advantages it offers are easy to copy and just as easy to improve on.

    @Musical Money Magnet:
    Thanks for the heads up, that looks rather interesting. I’ll certainly go check it out when I got more time.

  13. Musical Money Magnet January 28, 2010 at 8:32 am

    It seems wonderful – and I admit that I have been hanging on the edge of my seat in anticipation of it’s announcement – but for designers, creative professionals, field scientists and others who need to work with a precise stylus pen and demanding professional applications, the best tablet Mac, in my opinion, is the ModBook, made by Axiotron. If you haven’t already heard of it, please have a look at . I think it is excellent.

  14. juroch January 27, 2010 at 8:12 pm

    Any device that has pre-planned obsolescence can not be green.

  15. MackMcCoy January 27, 2010 at 3:07 pm

    I actually disagree. I can readily see the iPad being an acceptable substitute for a netbook or even a laptop, especially for road warriors. I never bought a netbook and I’ll probably need a new laptop this summer. The iPad might be my next mobile PC.

  16. greenrainbow January 27, 2010 at 3:06 pm

    I bet it’s really green! I have a MacBook Pro, and it has so many great energy saving features! I can’t WAIT to get my hands on one of these.

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