Apple reveals secretive Austin lab where iPhones are recycled

Hidden not far from downtown Austin, Texas, a research lab is working to change the way we recycle electronics. And it's being run by Apple.

There are no signs. The parking lot is almost empty. There's an unremarkable door at the bottom of a set of generic cement stairs. It looks like the back entrance to a rundown mall.

But inside is a 9,000-square-foot warehouse where, just a stone's throw from the front door, you'll find one of the most interesting robots in the world.

Austin and Apple Inc. seem to go hand-in-hand these days.

After announcing a $1 billion campus in North Austin at the end of 2018, the tech giant is back with a new 9,000-square-foot Material Recovery Lab in Austin.

It’s part of a broad effort by the company to do deeper research on recycling and find new ways to manage the stream of materials being discarded as folks throw away old phones and buy new ones.

At the lab in Austin, Apple’s engineering teams will develop robotics and machine learning to innovate on how the company disassembles, sorts and shreds recyclable materials from devices, including iPhones.

As part of the announcement, Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) said it is quadrupling the number of places in the U.S. where people can send iPhones to be disassembled by a phone disassembling robot named Daisy. You can have your old iPhone recycled by dropping it off at Best Buy stores or Apple stores. You can also set it up online.

Apple’s robot can take apart about 200 phones in an hour and send batteries, cobalt and other components out for reuse and recycling. Apple has already received about a million devices to be disassembled.

Advanced recycling must become an important part of the electronics supply chain, and Apple is pioneering a new path to help push our industry forward.

News of the Austin recycling lab follows Apple’s news conference in which it unveiled plans for a $1 billion corporate campus in North Austin that could handle about 5,000 new employees when it opens and eventually accommodate up to 15,000. The company already had 6,200 Austin employees at the time they announced that.


AT&T announces 5G rollout in Austin

Austin may be taking a tentative step toward 5G connectivity.

AT&T Inc. announced the launch of limited 5G mobile service in Austin — along with Los Angeles, Nashville, Orlando, San Diego, San Francisco and San Jose, California. But Austinites shouldn't rejoice just yet: the company isn't sharing details on pricing, accessibility or the extent of the rollout.

It remains unclear what Austin residents can expect after AT&T's announcement. A company spokesman declined to say which parts of Austin will have access.

AT&T rolled out limited 5G in December to parts of 12 cities, including Dallas, Waco, San Antonio and Houston. The company announced in late March it had surpassed mobile 5G speeds of 1 gigabit per second in multiple cities using a commercial device, the Netgear Nighthawk 5G Mobile Hotspot. With that speed, the telecommunications company touted, a two-hour HD movie could be downloaded in 20 seconds.

But that device isn't widely commercially available. It's also important to note that current smartphones won't be able to access the speedier network, although AT&T is expected to carry the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G smartphone when it debuts later this year.

While AT&T isn't shedding much light on its Austin rollout, the potential impacts of 5G networks are hard to overstate. The next generation of high-speed wireless service could pave the way for safer self-driving vehicles, establish a new era in virtual and augmented reality technologies, transform the manufacturing industry with smart factories, enable doctors to perform more technical remote procedures and revolutionize the customer service and retail industries.