Apple's iPhone parts pairing is making the company billions

Posted:
in iPhone edited November 2023

The New York Times says that iPhone include code to identify when repair components are bought from Apple -- and to intentionally fail if alternatives are used.

An Apple repair toolkit
An Apple repair toolkit



Apple famously used to object to all "right to repair" moves to make it allow iPhone owners to go to independent repairers, to the extent that it allegedly got legislation watered down. It then launched its own repair service, and also backed California's right to repair bill.

However, the New York Times claims that for all its apparent change of heart regarding repairs, Apple has taken steps to made sure only its own parts can be used. As well as thereby profiting from selling parts, the publication says this drives people to AppleCare+, which now earns Apple an estimated $9 billion annually.

"Unlike cars, which can be repaired with generic parts by auto shops and do-it-yourself mechanics," says the publication, "new iPhones are coded to recognize the serial numbers for original components and may malfunction if the parts are changed."

"This year, seven iPhone parts can trigger issues during repairs, up from three in 2017, when the company introduced a facial recognition system to unlock the device," continues the newspaper, "according to iFixit, a company that analyzes iPhone components and sells parts for do-it-yourself repairs."

The seven parts referred to are:


  • Face ID or Touch ID sensor

  • Display

  • Battery

  • Front-facing camera

  • Taptic Engine

  • Rear camera

  • LiDAR sensor



Of these, the publication quotes iFixit as saying that five of the seven do not work even when a part is "swapped with the same working part from an identical, new iPhone." Those five are the Face ID or Touch ID sensor, display, battery, front camera, and the LiDAR sensor.

Of the rest, the taptic engine is inconsistent, "sometimes stops working as expected when swapped, sometimes fine." The display, battery, and rear camera also make the iPhone issue "persistent alerts after swap."

The New York Times says that this is a software issue that is known as "parts pairing," and that in recent years, "only approved parts and sanctioned repairs have avoided the problems."

This wouldn't seem to explain how original Apple parts swapped from one iPhone to another are failing, but the account does not go into that detail.

This year's iPhone 15 range repairability compared to previous years (source: NYT)
This year's iPhone 15 range repairability compared to previous years (source: NYT)



The New York Times has, though, said that such parts pairing has been used by Hewlett Packard in its ink cartridges, Tesla in its cars, and John Deere in farm equipment.

It does not say that Apple has acknowledged or admitted the practice. But it does say that "Apple and other companies have defended the practice by saying it protects customers' safety and the company's brand."

An Apple spokesperson referred the publication to its new self-repair program. "We have been innovating to offer our customers the best choice and options when their product needs service," said the spokesperson.

Oregon's state senator Janeen Sollman is reportedly one of a group of lawmakers looking to make it illegal for Apple to have any restrictions on repairs. Sollman was invited to Apple Park and told how the company sees repairs as an important security and safety topic.

She says that she was not persuaded. "I said, 'you're making it more accessible, but it's not a true right to repair if you have ultimate control," Sollman said.

Apple launched its Self Service Repair program for iPhones in 2022, and expanded it to Mac shortly afterwards in 2023. Users of the program have to buy iPhone components from Apple, and also buy or rent the tools with which to make the repair.


Read on AppleInsider

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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 29
    MacProMacPro Posts: 19,778member
    I think this is a good thing.  It's not just about Apple making billions; it's also about a repair not being a scam.  It protects our investments in premium quality products. Obviously, the cost of the parts has to be fair so as not to make a repair prohibitive, but remember; Apple has been supplying parts to qualified Apple repair services centers since the 1970s with the Apple ][; it's not as if they just stumbled on this process.  My company repaired countless Apple products through the 70s, 80s, and 90s.   Apple provided a fast turnaround of parts, and reasonable prices, enabling a profit for the work and very happy customers.
    lmasantirob53williamlondoncommand_fFileMakerFellerchasmtyler82mattinozForumPostjony0
  • Reply 2 of 29
    avon b7avon b7 Posts: 7,831member
    IMO, it is wrong and the practice needs to be banned along with the practice of offering users flat-rate quotes on repairs prior to the device being opened.

    If they want to, cough, innovate, cough, then it's time to find ways to open up the official parts and compatible parts markets for downstream competition.

    Out of warranty repair 'authorisation/validation' should always be in the hands of the end user. 

    For starters, a known good part from an identical phone should be able to be user authorised.

    Any warranty repair should not require return of the failed part to Apple either. That decision should also be with the user. 
    muthuk_vanalingamctt_zh
  • Reply 3 of 29
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 24,357member
    MacPro said:
    I think this is a good thing.  It's not just about Apple making billions; it's also about a repair not being a scam.  It protects our investments in premium quality products. Obviously, the cost of the parts has to be fair so as not to make a repair prohibitive, but remember; Apple has been supplying parts to qualified Apple repair services centers since the 1970s with the Apple ][; it's not as if they just stumbled on this process.  My company repaired countless Apple products through the 70s, 80s, and 90s.   Apple provided a fast turnaround of parts, and reasonable prices, enabling a profit for the work and very happy customers.
    This will be another EU project, crafting a bill to ban the practice. I'd expect that to happen before 2024 ends. 
    ctt_zh
  • Reply 4 of 29
    I have no problem with this. I want my Apple product to work exactly as it was designed, and a sub-par part could compromise a lot. For example, what if a camera or Touch ID sensor pays a part in causing the security protections to fail? Data could be lost/stolen and who get the blame? Me as a consumer because I cheaped out? The scond-rate part manufacturer? Or Apple? (hint... one of those three has a lot more money than the other two, and the lawyers know it.) 
    edited November 2023 rob53williamlondonFileMakerFellerForumPostjony0
  • Reply 5 of 29
    XedXed Posts: 2,678member
    I have no problem with this. I want my Apple product to work exactly as it was designed, and a sub-par part could compromise a lot. For example, what if a camera or Touch ID sensor pays a part in causing the security protections to fail? Data could be lost/stolen and who get the blame? Me as a consumer because I cheaped out? The scond-rate part manufacturer? Or Apple? (hint... one of those three has a lot more money than the other two, and the lawyers know it.) 
    I'm a little torn on this matter. Recently I had a cracked display on an iPhone. I was given the option for a "real" display or a bad Chinese knockoff that will look OK but is really only good for a trade-in or less than ethical resale to another user, I do like knowing that authenticate components are being used.
    edited November 2023 williamlondoncommand_fchasmForumPostjony0
  • Reply 6 of 29
    williamhwilliamh Posts: 1,036member
    The headline claims that parts-paring is earning Apple billions but the article states that the company earns the billions through sales of AppleCare+.  People buy AppleCare as a form of insurance and this is NOT due to parts pairing.  AppleCare has been a major item for much longer than parts pairing has been an issue with iPhones.
    williamlondonthtFileMakerFellertmaychasmForumPostjony0
  • Reply 7 of 29
    rob53rob53 Posts: 3,263member
    For all you EU commenters, why don’t you simply buy a mobile device made in a EU country? Or wait, there aren’t any that compare to iPhones and Google phones. We can’t help you fix your country or the cartel (EU) so I suggest you accept what Apple is doing to protect your investment.  
    tmayjony0
  • Reply 8 of 29
    avon b7avon b7 Posts: 7,831member
    gatorguy said:
    MacPro said:
    I think this is a good thing.  It's not just about Apple making billions; it's also about a repair not being a scam.  It protects our investments in premium quality products. Obviously, the cost of the parts has to be fair so as not to make a repair prohibitive, but remember; Apple has been supplying parts to qualified Apple repair services centers since the 1970s with the Apple ][; it's not as if they just stumbled on this process.  My company repaired countless Apple products through the 70s, 80s, and 90s.   Apple provided a fast turnaround of parts, and reasonable prices, enabling a profit for the work and very happy customers.
    This will be another EU project, crafting a bill to ban the practice. I'd expect that to happen before 2024 ends. 
    There are a few projects already well underway and cover varying aspects that range from device support, warranties, spare parts availability and even quality (the textile industry has been targeted first for that).

    The directives are designed to work alongside each other so things like the batteries directive hit on both right to repair and environmental aspects.

    I would expect Apple and everyone else who plays the serialisation card to get looked at. 
    ctt_zhmuthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 9 of 29
    avon b7avon b7 Posts: 7,831member
    rob53 said:
    For all you EU commenters, why don’t you simply buy a mobile device made in a EU country? Or wait, there aren’t any that compare to iPhones and Google phones. We can’t help you fix your country or the cartel (EU) so I suggest you accept what Apple is doing to protect your investment.  
    Why would that be? 

    Be careful with what you wish for because just such a move might appear at some point. 

    Why do you think the EU processor initiative came into being? 
    ctt_zh
  • Reply 10 of 29
    Many of the iPhone's sub-systems like the displays and cameras are highly complex devices that would be very difficult for a third party to duplicate while preserving the quality Apple's customers expect. Some may also contain calibration data that resides in the phone memory and hence that's why you can't swap modules from phone to phone and expect them to work properly. 

    Knock-off batteries and power adapters can also pose a safety hazard to users and I would highly recommend only purchasing the Apple versions of these even if they cost a few bucks more. 
    graphicsguyjony0
  • Reply 11 of 29
    rob53 said:
    For all you EU commenters, why don’t you simply buy a mobile device made in a EU country? Or wait, there aren’t any that compare to iPhones and Google phones. We can’t help you fix your country or the cartel (EU) so I suggest you accept what Apple is doing to protect your investment.  
    As opposed to those made in China?
    williamlondonctt_zhgatorguy
  • Reply 12 of 29
    I wouldn't mind Apple detecting third party parts and presenting a warning to the user when booting up the device, but outright refusing to work just because a part doesn't come from Apple's controlled supply chain is egregiously restrictive.
    ctt_zhmuthuk_vanalingamjony0
  • Reply 13 of 29
    sbdudesbdude Posts: 275member
    This boils down to the fact that people are stupid, and will never blame the repair guy if their phone comes back different than they expected. They will blame Apple. Why wouldn't you want a genuine apple part (which comes from a number of different manufacturers, mind you) to ensure the customer experience? This just cuts out the middle man.

    Also, thanks for deleting my first post.
    danoxjony0
  • Reply 14 of 29
    sbdudesbdude Posts: 275member
    avon b7 said:
    rob53 said:
    For all you EU commenters, why don’t you simply buy a mobile device made in a EU country? Or wait, there aren’t any that compare to iPhones and Google phones. We can’t help you fix your country or the cartel (EU) so I suggest you accept what Apple is doing to protect your investment.  
    Why would that be? 

    Be careful with what you wish for because just such a move might appear at some point. 

    Why do you think the EU processor initiative came into being? 

    And how's that initiative coming along?
    danoxwilliamlondon
  • Reply 15 of 29
    danoxdanox Posts: 3,061member
    Draco said:
    Many of the iPhone's sub-systems like the displays and cameras are highly complex devices that would be very difficult for a third party to duplicate while preserving the quality Apple's customers expect. Some may also contain calibration data that resides in the phone memory and hence that's why you can't swap modules from phone to phone and expect them to work properly. 

    Knock-off batteries and power adapters can also pose a safety hazard to users and I would highly recommend only purchasing the Apple versions of these even if they cost a few bucks more. 
    Electric bikes, would be an example of that, how any of those things can be legal with the three body battery problem.
  • Reply 16 of 29
    badmonkbadmonk Posts: 1,317member
    I have news for the NY Times and all the right to repair advocates in this forum but new model cars often require specialized diagnostic software and expertise available only to dealers so cars are not a great example as quoted in their article.

    But you know in these times when everyone is starring at their phones, no one can think of anything but Apple and iPhones and App stores.

    I have used iPhones only since 2007 and have never had a device fail on me (with the exception of a single battery expansion which was repaired).

    The bottom line is that if not abused they are incredibly durable due to their build quality.  My friends that use other devices have produced much more e-waste.

    In all cases I have handed my used iPhones down to family members or resold them on eBay after two to three years of use.
    thtjony0
  • Reply 17 of 29
    chasmchasm Posts: 3,382member
    There is definitely a security issue for some of these parts, and safety issues for some of the others (like the battery). If you’ve never seen a smartphone swell and explode because some dingus replaced it with a knockoff and a cheap charger, you may never have known what true panic in an enclosed workroom is like.

    But beyond a certain age, customers may have little option other than take their chances with third-party repairs, since Apple doesn’t let the Authorised Service Providers stock parts for any item declared “obsolete,” aka about seven years old.

    I have no doubt that some, maybe even most, third-party parts are just fine and do not pose either a safety or security threat. But you can never be sure, especially when it comes to cheap repairs.

    If you haven’t already, take a look at the (at least) two articles AppleInsider has done about counterfeit Apple product knockoffs, using CT scans to prove that they are very poorly engineered and use cheaper parts that are designed not to last much longer than it takes to get your money. You should assume that cheap third-party replacement parts are built to the same standards.

    It seems to me that the current laws and Apple’s policies already cover this issue adequately. Beyond your warranty, either the standard or AC+, you either use an AASP or Apple is 100 percent not responsible for what happens.

    I would hope that any rational adult still holding on to their decade-old iPhone 5s understands this, but given the shocking decline in critical thinking skills among a number of western democracies, it probably comes as a rude awakening to many.

    They’ll just have to take comfort in the fact that this same situation is WAY worse on the Android side of the fence.
    edited November 2023 jony0
  • Reply 18 of 29
    Xed said:
    I have no problem with this. I want my Apple product to work exactly as it was designed, and a sub-par part could compromise a lot. For example, what if a camera or Touch ID sensor pays a part in causing the security protections to fail? Data could be lost/stolen and who get the blame? Me as a consumer because I cheaped out? The scond-rate part manufacturer? Or Apple? (hint... one of those three has a lot more money than the other two, and the lawyers know it.) 
    I'm a little torn on this matter. Recently I had a cracked display on an iPhone. I was given the option for a "real" display or a bad Chinese knockoff that will look OK but is really only good for a trade-in or less than ethical resale to another user, I do like knowing that authenticate components are being used.

    The choice isn't between a real part and a bad Chinese knock-off: the choice is between a new Apple supplied part and a perfectly functional part culled from an iPhone which was otherwise dead.

    But Apple says you can't have that perfectly good part and stops you using it through parts-locking. That's not protecting you, it's because Apple doesn't make any money from it. And so that perfectly functioning screen goes into the endless mountain of e-waste, the one which Apple claims to care so much about in its fancy videos.
    muthuk_vanalingamwilliamlondon
  • Reply 19 of 29
    XedXed Posts: 2,678member
    Xed said:
    I have no problem with this. I want my Apple product to work exactly as it was designed, and a sub-par part could compromise a lot. For example, what if a camera or Touch ID sensor pays a part in causing the security protections to fail? Data could be lost/stolen and who get the blame? Me as a consumer because I cheaped out? The scond-rate part manufacturer? Or Apple? (hint... one of those three has a lot more money than the other two, and the lawyers know it.) 
    I'm a little torn on this matter. Recently I had a cracked display on an iPhone. I was given the option for a "real" display or a bad Chinese knockoff that will look OK but is really only good for a trade-in or less than ethical resale to another user, I do like knowing that authenticate components are being used.

    The choice isn't between a real part and a bad Chinese knock-off: the choice is between a new Apple supplied part and a perfectly functional part culled from an iPhone which was otherwise dead.

    But Apple says you can't have that perfectly good part and stops you using it through parts-locking. That's not protecting you, it's because Apple doesn't make any money from it. And so that perfectly functioning screen goes into the endless mountain of e-waste, the one which Apple claims to care so much about in its fancy videos.
    No, the other option wasn't a genuine part from another iPhone. The repair center was very clear that the touch interface and other aspects were sub par but good enough if you're just trying to get rid of the device.
    williamlondonjony0
  • Reply 20 of 29
    badmonk said:
    I have news for the NY Times and all the right to repair advocates in this forum but new model cars often require specialized diagnostic software and expertise available only to dealers so cars are not a great example as quoted in their article.

    But you know in these times when everyone is starring at their phones, no one can think of anything but Apple and iPhones and App stores.

    I have used iPhones only since 2007 and have never had a device fail on me (with the exception of a single battery expansion which was repaired).

    The bottom line is that if not abused they are incredibly durable due to their build quality.  My friends that use other devices have produced much more e-waste.

    In all cases I have handed my used iPhones down to family members or resold them on eBay after two to three years of use.

    Cars need that specialist diagnostic software and expertise not because it's actually mechanically required, but because manufacturers deliberately build in VIN-locking and will go after anyone who tries to circumvent it with a DMCA 1201 suit.
    williamlondonjony0
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