The dust has settled on Apple’s Wonderlust event, and the first reactions on the company’s new products are starting to roll in. One product in particular has taken something of a critical mauling over the past couple weeks, and it's not any of the iPhone 15 models released at the event.
Instead, the FineWoven case, introduced as an environmental alternative to leather, is a $59 iPhone 15 Pro accessory Apple bills as “durable micro-twill” that has a “soft, suede-like feel”.
Reviewers haven’t seen it that way. Federico Viticci, editor-in-chief at Macstories.net, called it “the worst accessory Apple’s ever produced.” After placing his iPhone down on a restaurant table, he found it had picked up an unsightly stain that led him to post on Mastodon that “I’ve had $10 cases from Amazon feel more premium than this”. Ouch.
If you’ve somehow missed the reasoning behind Apple’s shift away from leather, it’s to do with the company’s sustainability goals. Apple says its FineWoven material is made from 68% post-consumer recycled content and claims via its Environmental Progress Report that it follows “standards established by the international community” to “confirm that a material has been recycled or comes from a renewable source — one that can continually produce without depleting the earth’s resources.”
And, to be clear, Apple should be applauded for its environmental practices. I am of the firm belief tech companies can and should do more to promote and act on sustainability. Apple’s shipment of its first totally carbon neutral product in the aluminum Apple Watch Series 9 with new sport loop strap is a huge achievement made all the more impressive by the fact the carbon neutrality holds through the lifetime use of the product by the customer.
But here’s the rub; charging $59 for an accessory brings with it a certain expectation that needs to be met. Bill Gates calls the inflated pricing needed for responsibly-sourced products and services a Green Premium, which I am prepared to accept. But I think Apple would have been wiser to drop the price to around the $39 mark to gain a little ground with customers making the switch.
It seems to me the FineWoven case won't hold up as as well as a leather alternative. But given a leather iPhone case could set you back anywhere between $59 to $129, a lower price for the FineWove alternative would have helped smooth over some of the defects in what is, technically, a first-gen product.
Thoughts after using the FineWoven case
I’ve been using a Taupe FineWoven case on an iPhone 15 Pro for a week or so, provided to me by Apple. And already, there are scratches, marks and scuffs on the case from just the general day-to-day use of pulling it in and out of my pocket and laying it on a desk.
It comes down to personal preference but I generally think possessions look a little better with a few scars to show a life well lived. But picking up marks, stains and indentations in just a week is a bit of a stretch. I don’t know how the FineWoven case will hold up to several years’ worth of daily usage but I’m not hugely optimistic. What happens if it takes a tumble from a pocket and the case lands hard on rough, jagged gravel?
But look, it’s really not all bad. While there are drawbacks, I’ve also noticed some good things after using the FineWoven case for a week. The fit to the iPhone 15 Pro is, as you would expect, perfectly contoured and the anodized metal side buttons give you great tactile feedback as you hit the Action button. I also happen to like the color options Apple has produced — even if others aren’t enamoured with them. In addition, there doesn’t appear to be any ill-effects from getting the case wet, at least not in my experience.
Bottom line is while the FineWoven case is a step in the right direction from an ecological standpoint, its premium pricing and long-term durability are questions without answers. There’s a reason the FineWoven case isn’t on our list of best iPhone 15 Pro cases.
As ever, there’s a healthy amount of subjective preference involved, so let me know your thoughts on Apple’s FineWoven in the comments.