With less than a day to go until Apple unveils this year’s line-up of new iPhones with USB-C and Apple Watches with a faster S9 chip, evidence is growing to suggest that the company will also use the Wonderlust event to announce a radical change in its use of materials.
Around a month ago it was first rumored that Apple would not release a leather case for the iPhone 15, for reasons that were not clear but were widely assumed to be based on environmental considerations. The leather industry’s impact on the environment is complex, but methane emissions from livestock, deforestation for cattle feed production, and the release of harmful chemicals from many of the most common tanning processes are all concerns.
This was big news in itself since Apple has been making leather iPhone cases since 2013 and presumably earns a lot of money from its high-priced accessories, but newer reports suggest that the company plans to ditch leather in other areas of its business. Earlier this month reports suggested that Apple Watch bands would follow a similar path and that Apple had started clearing inventory of Hermes leather accessories.
Today, the journalist Parker Ortolani spotted that Hermes had “completely removed the Apple Watch from its website. Bands are gone too. None of them show up in search either.” (We can confirm that this link doesn’t work anymore.) Unless this is merely the prelude to the unveiling of new products–which wouldn’t normally be done in such a clumsy way–then it looks like the relationship between the companies is over, at least as far as the Apple Watch is concerned.
Further, going back to the iPhone, Bloomberg leaker-analyst Mark Gurman claimed Sunday that, according to his retail sources, stock is low or non-existent for leather cases, so inventory seems to have been cleared here too.
Latest tidbits from retail:
– Low/no stock of Watch Ultras, watch bands, leather cases, MagSafe wallets, iPhone 12, 13 minis, Pro phones
– Merchandise reset on evening of Sept. 12 with manager call set for after event. Uncharacteristic for event days
– Plan to push USB-C bricks
— Mark Gurman (@markgurman) September 10, 2023
So leather is on the way out. But that’s far from the only environmentally unfriendly material that Apple uses, and the company’s silicone rubber and fluoroelastomer accessories, which are not made with recycled materials and are in turn difficult to recycle, will also be replaced by “more eco-friendly next-generation materials,” MacRumors reports. This will affect accessories for the iPhone, the Apple Watch, and even the AirTag, which Hermes’ website suggested might survive the leather cull.
However, while Apple is expected to announce an abrupt end to leather accessories at the Wonderlust event, silicone rubber and fluoroelastomer may be phased out more slowly. Apple makes numerous products with silicone and replacing them all would be a major undertaking. Therefore, Macrumors reports it will be “a more gradual transition whereby existing models are not refreshed with new color options.”