Forget a smaller iPhone or iPad Pro, the real winner of yesterday’s Apple keynote was something that most people will never get to hold in their hands – let alone see. Revealed on stage by Lisa Jackson, Apple’s SVP of Environment, Policy and Social Initiatives, Liam is an industrial robot designed for no other purpose than to tear apart discarded iPhones.

Apple is no stranger to all things reusing, reducing and recycling when it comes to their global footprint (including the design and impact of their new campus), but the Liam takes recycling to a whole other level: it’s a critical look at the future of designing for disassembly.

Says Apple:

“True innovation means considering what happens to a product at every stage of its life cycle. Liam disassembles your iPhone when it’s no longer functioning, so the materials inside can live on.”

…and we couldn’t agree more.

YouTube video

Programmed to detect each of the various parts that make up the assembly of an iPhone, Liam intelligently disassembles each iPhone and discards parts into their proper material processing channels for recycling at the rate of 2.5 phones per minute (or 1.2 million per year). Particularly, Apple is most proud of Liam’s ability to rescue cobalt and lithium from the battery, gold and copper from the camera, silver and platinum from the logic board, and last but not least, the aluminum casing.

“(Good) design makes an important contribution to the preservation of the environment. It conserves resources and minimizes physical and visual pollution throughout the lifecycle of the product.”

– Dieter Rams

Needless to say, Apple just made designing for disassembly just as sexy as tight tolerances and cutting-edge manufacturing processes.


Simon is a Brooklyn-based industrial designer and Managing Editor of EVD Media. When he finds the time to design, his focus is on helping startups develop branding and design solutions to realize their product design vision. In addition to his work at Nike and various other clients, he is the main reason anything gets done at EvD Media. He once wrestled an Alaskan alligator buzzard to the ground with his bare hands… to rescue Josh.