Apple has removed leather from its phone cases and watches in a bid to ‘protect the planet’.
But the ‘vegan’ replacement material could end up an environmental disaster.
A rush of returns from customers who complain that the £59 iPhone cases are prone to scratches and stains has led to fears many could end up in landfill.
Cases get so dirty and marked when touched, there are reports staff in Apple stores are having to replace display models every day.
Such is the scale of complaints and questions from customers that company bosses have had to send store staff a memo on how to deal with them.
Case returns from customers has led to fears that many will end up in landfill
When The Mail on Sunday visited an Apple store on Friday, the cases on display were all marked. ‘I am not going to lie. They do get easily scratched,’ a sales assistant said.
Apple says the ‘FineWoven’ material, a ‘micro twill’ which has a ‘suede-like’ feel, is made from 68 per cent recycled materials, thought to include plastic.
Expert reviewers who regularly judge Apple products have universally criticised the cases with the new material. Chance Miller, editor in chief of 9to5Mac, a website dedicated to Apple products, wrote: ‘I’m all for not using animals to make phone cases. But FineWoven is not the answer.
‘What’s the environmental impact of these cases having to be replaced? Or the environmental impact of every Apple store having to swap the display units daily?’
Federico Viticci, who runs the MacStories site, posted: ‘I honestly think this is the worst accessory Apple’s ever produced and I may just throw this out now. (Great for the environment!)’
Launching the material earlier this month when it unveiled the iPhone 15, Apple said: ‘The new FineWoven material has significantly lower emissions compared to the more carbon-intensive leather.’
Around 220million iPhones are sold each year. Apple sells around half that number of its own cases, split across three models – silicon, plastic and the flagship leather version, now replaced by FineWoven.
In the memo sent to stores, bosses said if asked about durability staff should explain cases ‘may look different and show wear over time as the fibres get compressed with normal use’, but that ‘some scratches may diminish over time’.