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Apple’s iPhone SE is made with new low-carbon aluminum

The budget phone will help Apple lessen its impact on the planet.

Apple iPhone SE (2022)
Cherlynn Low/Engadget
Jon Fingas
Jon Fingas|@jonfingas|March 24, 2022 10:29 AM

Apple likes to flaunt its ability to save metal, and now it's reducing the environmental impact of the metal itself. The company says the latest iPhone SE is the first product made from "commercial-purity" low-carbon aluminum at industrial scale. Montreal, Canada-based Elysis has produced a batch for Apple using a carbon-free, hydropower-based smelting process that outputs oxygen rather than greenhouse gases.

The two companies didn't say just how many iPhone SE units would use this aluminum. The design most conspicuously relies on aluminum for the frame, but the back is dominated by glass that helps with wireless charging and data reception.

The development is a long time in coming. Apple helped development through an investment team-up that included Alcoa, Rio Tinto, the Canadian government and the Quebec provincial government. The tech firm also bought the first batch of aluminum from that union to produce the 16-inch MacBook Pro from 2019. Aluminum-linked carbon emissions at Apple have dropped almost 70 percent since 2015, according to the company.

Apple boasted that it has routinely poured money into projects like this through three "Green Bonds" totalling $4.7 billion. The investments, which started in 2016, have focused on both reducing emissions and providing clean power. The money for Elysis' low-carbon aluminum comes from a 2019 bond backing 50 projects, including ones that "mitigate or offset" 2.9 million metric tons of CO2 and establish close to 700MW of renewable energy.

The efforts help burnish Apple's image as much as they might lessen the contribution to climate change — like Samsung and other rivals, the company wants to assuage buyers worried that their new phone might do unnecessary harm. Greater use of this eco-friendly aluminum will help Apple reach its goal of selling carbon-neutral products by 2030, though. And given Apple's sheer market clout, carbon reductions like this could have a tangible effect.