Ahead of tomorrow's Earth Day 2017, Apple is trying to provide its fans with lots of green reasons to love the company. Its new Environmental Responsibility Report, for instance, highlights sustainability goals that include a plan to eventually only make all of its products from renewable or recycled materials.
At the same time, however, many iPhone lovers are worrying that Apple's next device update will give them fewer, rather than more, reasons to love the company. While various rumors have been circulating for months about this year's new iPhone models, another leak this week renewed concerns that Apple might be relocating its Touch ID fingerprint scanner to the back of its new device.
A tweet on Wednesday by Australia-based tech leaker Sonny Dickson showed a schematic image of a rear phone case with an Apple logo above an opening that many believe is for a fingerprint sensor. The document appeared to come from Foxconn, the manufacturing firm contracted to produce iPhones and other Apple products. In his tweet, Dickson noted, "iPhone 8 looks to be taking a new direction."
'Deal Breaker' or 'No Big Deal'?
Expectations are high for this year's new iPhone models, as 2017 marks 10 years since the first iPhone was unveiled by late CEO Steve Jobs. Many Apple fans are anticipating some bold updates, especially since the last few iPhones have arrived with mostly smaller, incremental design changes.
Leaks and rumors so far have suggested that at least one new iPhone model will feature an almost bezel-free curved-glass front. That would require Apple to find a new way to incorporate its Touch ID fingerprint scanner, which is currently a physical button at the bottom of the screen.
Two other recent smartphone models, the Samsung Galaxy S8, which hits the market today, and the Google Pixel, released in October, already feature back-of-phone fingerprint scanners. Some otherwise rave reviews have dinged the Galaxy for the scanner location, but there are also plenty of Galaxy and Pixel users who say the scanner position is no big deal.
On Reddit, for example, reactions to Dickson's tweet this week about the rear iPhone Touch ID ran the gamut from "a 100% deal breaker" to "thought I'd hate the sensor on the back, but it turns out that it's perfect," written by the owner of a Pixel XL.
Whatever design Apple settles on this year, iPhone fans might have to wait a bit longer than usual to get their hands on the new models: a combination of design and supply challenges currently indicates the company might delay its usual September release until later in the fall.
Solar Power, Yaks and Artificial Sweat
With Earth Day, as well as numerous March for Science rallies, set for tomorrow, Apple today announced a number of initiatives it's pursuing to shrink its environmental footprint and improve company sustainability. It also released its latest Environmental Responsibility Report, which sums up actions taken over the past year.
As of 2016, Apple has brought its use of renewable energy to 96 percent across all of its global facilities, Apple said in the introduction to the report. Additionally, Apple said all of its data centers are 100 percent renewable, as are its facilities in 24 countries.
In coming months and years, Apple plans to "pioneer a closed-loop supply chain" that takes all its required raw materials for manufacturing either from recycled or renewable sources, according to the report. Liam, the name for Apple's robotic disassembly and recycling system, will help with that, the company said.
"For example, we've melted down iPhone 6 aluminum enclosures recovered from Liam to make Mac mini computers for use in our factories, and we're transitioning to 100 percent recycled tin solder on the main logic board of iPhone 6s," the Apple report stated. "We're also continuing our quest to make our products and processes even safer by pioneering ways to reduce and remove toxins."
In a series of YouTube videos released for Earth Day, Apple also described how it raises solar panels off the ground in China to enable yaks to graze naturally while also generating energy for its offices, data centers and stores. Another video reveals that Apple scientists help produce about 30 gallons of artificial human sweat each year so the company can test the skin safety of its wearable devices under heavy use.
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