Redesigning the iPhone Unboxing Experience: Final Thoughts

Team members: Zihan Chen, Micah Lynn, André Orta, Ellen Rose

The Concept

Based on the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal #12—to ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns—our group designed a three-part experience which aims to make iPhone consumers aware of Apple’s preexisting recycling program and facilitate their participation in it. The three parts are: an iPhone box that converts into a prepaid shipping box (to easily send to a recycling facility), a personified digital start-up interface, and a personified digital end-of-life recycling-incentivizing interface (we nicknamed it ‘the death sequence’).

The idea was not just to inform consumers of recycling options, but to spark a response and a connection to the service to the degree that they would someday actually take action to recycle their iPhone. The personified start-up and ‘death sequence’ interfaces allow the phone itself to tell the story of where it came from and where it is going–reinforcing the idea that the consumer is a steward of these precious materials and that he or she is capable of keeping the phone out of an e-waste landfill in the future.


Our group conducted dozens of intercept interviews, approaching people on the streets near our SVA graduate building and asking for their feedback on our prototypes. The people we interviewed fit into four categories: people who had already recycled a phone; people who hadn’t recycled a phone but would; people who did not want to recycle their old phones; and and people who were not aware that they could recycle their phones. As well as a few Apple store employees and several design professionals (thank you for your time, all!)

In general, people were animated by our proposal: eager to offer their opinion and suggest edits. Our team redesigned the concept many times, and each iteration was heavily influenced by the insights from our interviewees.

While mostly everyone who we interviewed were interested in participating in the service that we proposed, I think our biggest success has been the particular interest of the SVA security guard who we interviewed. He asked us the following day if we would help him to recycle his old phone–which we certainly will.

What’s Next?

The box and the experience need to be further explored and tested before they approach implementation. Initially, we imagined that Apple Inc. executives in the Sustainability/Apple Renew division would be a target for our value proposition. However, rather than imagining that Apple Inc. itself would take interest in this design, our concept could take a more subversive, universal form, becoming an app that the iPhone user chooses to download.

Furthermore, one of our interviewees suggested we build in a pricing model that includes the option for a recycling pick-up service; the consumer wouldn’t bother returning or shipping the phone, but rather, for a small fee, could rely on a third-party pick up service to take and process his or her phone for recycling.

Startup Interface

The start-up interface



Recycling 'Death' Sequence

The end-of-life recycling-incentivizing sequence

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