Apple free your old devices from technical bondage

Old and forgotten iPads have loads of potential, if it wasn't for Apple.

by Pete
Published: Updated: 3 minutes read

Planet Earth is grappling with a mounting e-waste predicament, with an astounding estimated global accumulation of 53.6 million tons, including an undisclosed 44.3 million tons. A staggering issue indeed. The conundrum is particularly noticeable in the realm of “consumable” devices like tablets, such as those from Apple and Samsung, which often lose support within a mere 3 to 5 years, or even less, contingent on the model.

Consider the brevity of this period, especially in light of the significant price range for iPads, spanning from AUD$549 to AUD$4099, contingent on factors like generation, size, storage, and connectivity options. That’s quite an investment for a device that remains technically functional when it’s time for a software-induced obsolescence.

Yes, these devices may still operate, and some applications might continue to function, until Apple introduces alterations to the OS that render older software versions obsolete, eventually leading to a digital graveyard of developer tombstones.

Linux would give old Tablets a new lease on life

Apple deserves credit for their recycling efforts and environmentally responsible disposal of aging devices. Moreover, they offer a buyback scheme that allows users to recoup some cash by reentering the Apple ecosystem—provided they act swiftly, as not all devices are eligible for trade-in. Yet, many individuals, like myself, acquire new devices while their old ones are still in working condition, only to see them sidelined once they outgrow software updates. So where do these retired iPads or iPhones end up? In the trash? Hidden away in a forgotten drawer?

Much like PCs, Linux shines on older hardware. Therefore, an adapted Linux OS for an aging iPad would make sense if Apple were more accommodating. An older tablet could find renewed purpose with GNOME3, which caters well to touch-based devices and exhibits similarities to IPADOS. Furthermore, for devices earmarked for projects involving free and open-source software (FOSS), there seem to be no downsides.

Apple won’t, but we can ask

Now, we must be realistic about the intricacies of Apple’s proprietary hardware and software, guarding a trove of closely held secrets. It’s a well-orchestrated system designed to motivate millions of users to invest in new devices continually. While Apple’s recycling initiatives are commendable, there is room for improvement in their trade-in program. Apple’s devices have life left in them long after users deem them obsolete.

Wouldn’t it be extraordinary if, after a specific timeframe, Apple embraced an open-source approach for their aging hardware? This visionary step could empower FOSS to flourish and grant numerous devices a prolonged existence, averting the impending doom of landfills or relegation to the depths of forgotten drawers.

The nature of curiosity

Human curiosity is akin to an unsolved puzzle, eternally beckoning to be cracked. Closed-source systems inevitably kindle the desire to lift the veil, to explore, understand, and surmount the enigma. The challenge, the pursuit of the impossible, is the essence of the human spirit. Here, in this juncture, the free and open-source software (FOSS) community extends the gauntlet to Apple. It will happen; why not embrace it?