Internal Apple communications show debate, uncertainty about 'right to repair'

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in General Discussion
Internal emails provided to the House Judiciary Committee as part of its antitrust probe indicate that there is some debate and uncertainty surrounding Apple's position on the "right to repair."

Credit: Apple
Credit: Apple


Apple has historically opposed "right to repair" legislation, which would force manufacturers to provide repair manuals and parts to the public, across the globe. The company cites concerns about consumer safety and device security.

As part of its compliance with a U.S. House antitrust investigation, Apple handed over a slew of internal emails and discussions. Although Apple CEO Tim Cook wasn't questioned about repairs, those emails do show some internal division on the subject over in Cupertino.

In March 2019, Apple published two extensive repair manuals for the 21.5-inch iMac 4K and the 27-inch iMac 5K. Repair vendor iFixit writer Whitson Gordon noticed the manuals at the time, and reached out to Apple to clarify if their publication meant anything.

Although Apple didn't respond to Gordon's request for comment, the inquiry apparently sparked a debate within Apple, as noted by internal memos and communications unearthed by the U.S. House Judiciary Committee and spotted by repair site iFixit.

"What's our repair strategy?" reads one Apple PR memo. "Right now, it's pretty clear things are happening in a vacuum and there is not an overall strategy. Plus, with one hand we are making these changes and the other is actively fighting Right to Repair legislation moving in 20 states without real coordination for how updated policies could be used to leverage our position."

Those two repair manuals, were were uncharacteristically in-depth and extensive, were reportedly published so that Apple could earn points on an EPEAT green certification. The company's Environmental Technology team even wanted to release other manuals, including one for the iPhone, down the road.

As of a result of Gordon's inquiry, Apple PR mulled taking those manuals down, internal communications show. One PR spokesperson said "we think it's important to have a decision about what our strategy is and executive against that direction."

That internal right to repair memo concludes by asking a question: "How should our public position on Right to Repair change to take into account the updates we are making - should we connect the dots or try to keep everything separate?"

Other internal discussions were sparked a month after that when The New York Times began investigating Apple's stance on "right to repair."

"The larger issue is that our strategy around all of this is unclear. Right now we're talking out of both sides of our mouth and no one is clear on where we're headed," wrote Apple's vice president of communications.

Apple's VP of marketing, Kaiann Drance, eventually spoke with the Times' Binyamin Appelbaum. Apple PR eventually wrote that Drance "did a great job and emphasized the need for a thoughtful approach to repair policy because of how important it is to balance customer safety with access to more convenient repairs."

The Times eventually published an editorial that concluded that "there ought to be a law" against companies forcing consumers to repair devices only at their own facilities.

Apple's position on the matter may be undecided because of the company's other public stances, including its focus on sustainability. In Apple's latest Environmental Progress Report, for example, the company writes about the importance of repair, reuse and serviceability.

In recent years, the company has taken steps toward making repairs easier to obtain for consumers. In 2019, Apple launched a new repair program for independent shops, and has offered subsidies and other resources for Authorized Service Providers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 16
    rain22rain22 Posts: 132member
    Apple’s stance on ‘Right to Repair’ is indisputably corrupt. I’m not surprised there is a revolt in the company. Even the hardcore cult cheerleading fanboi’s here should condemn Apple for this. 
    The story of Linus Tech with their iMac Pro should be a wake up call to everyone. 
    Apple has no right even being in the business when a stuck key from dust is an insanely wasteful $900 repair. 
    There is never a need to engineer products that can’t be repaired - outside of insatiable greed for profits. 
    lkruppmariowincomuthuk_vanalingamchemengin1
  • Reply 2 of 16
    macxpressmacxpress Posts: 5,222member
    rain22 said:
    Apple’s stance on ‘Right to Repair’ is indisputably corrupt. I’m not surprised there is a revolt in the company. Even the hardcore cult cheerleading fanboi’s here should condemn Apple for this. 
    The story of Linus Tech with their iMac Pro should be a wake up call to everyone. 
    Apple has no right even being in the business when a stuck key from dust is an insanely wasteful $900 repair. 
    There is never a need to engineer products that can’t be repaired - outside of insatiable greed for profits. 

    Seriously? You want to use Linus as an example? LOL!!!!
    jdb8167cornchipgregoriusm
  • Reply 3 of 16
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 9,732member
    rain22 said:
    Apple’s stance on ‘Right to Repair’ is indisputably corrupt. I’m not surprised there is a revolt in the company. Even the hardcore cult cheerleading fanboi’s here should condemn Apple for this. 
    The story of Linus Tech with their iMac Pro should be a wake up call to everyone. 
    Apple has no right even being in the business when a stuck key from dust is an insanely wasteful $900 repair. 
    There is never a need to engineer products that can’t be repaired - outside of insatiable greed for profits. 
    Your claim is VERY disputable, to the point of being ridiculous. We already have incidents of bad actors installing compromised parts in order to hack hardware. And you want any old swinging dick to be able to hang out his/her “repair shop” shingle and get parts and manuals from Apple? Are you crazy? Ever watch those investigative reports where the journalist takes their car to various auto repair shops to find out how many times they get ripped off. And you want that for your Apple devices?
    aderutter
  • Reply 4 of 16
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 6,346administrator
    rain22 said:
    Apple’s stance on ‘Right to Repair’ is indisputably corrupt. I’m not surprised there is a revolt in the company. Even the hardcore cult cheerleading fanboi’s here should condemn Apple for this. 
    The story of Linus Tech with their iMac Pro should be a wake up call to everyone. 
    Apple has no right even being in the business when a stuck key from dust is an insanely wasteful $900 repair. 
    There is never a need to engineer products that can’t be repaired - outside of insatiable greed for profits. 
    LTT completely destroyed their iMac Pro, while disassembling. The bill of repair cost MORE than a new computer cost. Kudos for LTT not trying to get it fixed under warranty, but this is a really, really bad example to use to prop up your argument that didn't hold any water before you used it.

    Spend some time in a high-volume service bay, and get back to me afterwards. There is no way that you feel the same way afterwards. I've been there, and heard all the lies.
    edited July 2020 jdb8167dewmecornchipfastasleep
  • Reply 5 of 16
    kimberlykimberly Posts: 384member
    Mike Wuerthele would you mind expanding on the following please? "Spend some time in a high-volume service bay, and get back to me afterwards. There is no way that you feel the same way afterwards. I've been there, and heard all the lies." I'm assuming by "lies" you mean it is a bit like a car dealer quoting on a service including parts that are not defective.
  • Reply 6 of 16
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 6,346administrator
    kimberly said:
    Mike Wuerthele would you mind expanding on the following please? "Spend some time in a high-volume service bay, and get back to me afterwards. There is no way that you feel the same way afterwards. I've been there, and heard all the lies." I'm assuming by "lies" you mean it is a bit like a car dealer quoting on a service including parts that are not defective.
    No. By lies, I mean "I have no idea how that beer got in there." or "It just stopped working, I have no idea why" when it was obviously dropped.

    Or my personal favorite: "No, I'm not a smoker, why does that matter" when the interior surfaces are covered in an eighth of an inch of tobacco smoke deposition.

    I have a few more. Good ones include "No, that's the RAM that Apple used and I got with the computer" and "Why would you think I tried to repair this myself? Oh, the torn cable or pulled out surface mount? No idea how that happened!"
    edited July 2020 jdb8167aderuttercornchipmuthuk_vanalingamfastasleep
  • Reply 7 of 16
    ...having finally succumbed to a mac pro tower that I can change a drive in minutes, I have to ask how much of Apple's hardware repairability (seemingly diminished since 2011) is anything other than a proprietary monetary policy...? I have also changed an iPhone 4s battery in minutes, entirely successfully.  One can always choose an Apple authorized dealer if one wants, and for many is that the best choice for reliability, safety, time, cost and efficacy? I usually have taken my cars to the OEM dealer for service for the same reason...
    mariowincomuthuk_vanalingamTenPoundTabbyelijahg
  • Reply 8 of 16
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 6,346administrator
    ...having finally succumbed to a mac pro tower that I can change a drive in minutes, I have to ask how much of Apple's hardware repairability (seemingly diminished since 2011) is anything other than a proprietary monetary policy...? I have also changed an iPhone 4s battery in minutes, entirely successfully.  One can always choose an Apple authorized dealer if one wants, and for many is that the best choice for reliability, safety, time, cost and efficacy? I usually have taken my cars to the OEM dealer for service for the same reason...
    While the absolute number of service failures has gone up as Apple's fortunes have changed over the last decade (for obvious reasons), the per capita failure rate is half of what it was in 2010, when everything was removable, slotted, and the like.

    Soldering stuff down has cut down on repairs needed per capita, by a lot. And, that 10 years encompasses GPU issues, and keyboard problems.
    mariowincoaderuttercornchipmuthuk_vanalingamfastasleepgregoriusmDetnator
  • Reply 9 of 16
    geekmeegeekmee Posts: 507member
    What happened to ‘free market’ determination... 
    If this is how Apple wants to handle the repair of their products, 
    The wider audience of customers will decide by not purchasing Apple products,
    As opposed to the smaller audience of ‘geeks’ who want to tinker and repair.
    The geeks have the option to choose Samsung to get their repair on.

    (And this makes even more sense going forward with Apple Silicone chips.)
    edited July 2020
  • Reply 10 of 16
    lkrupp said:
    rain22 said:
    Apple’s stance on ‘Right to Repair’ is indisputably corrupt. I’m not surprised there is a revolt in the company. Even the hardcore cult cheerleading fanboi’s here should condemn Apple for this. 
    The story of Linus Tech with their iMac Pro should be a wake up call to everyone. 
    Apple has no right even being in the business when a stuck key from dust is an insanely wasteful $900 repair. 
    There is never a need to engineer products that can’t be repaired - outside of insatiable greed for profits. 
    Your claim is VERY disputable, to the point of being ridiculous. We already have incidents of bad actors installing compromised parts in order to hack hardware. And you want any old swinging dick to be able to hang out his/her “repair shop” shingle and get parts and manuals from Apple? Are you crazy? Ever watch those investigative reports where the journalist takes their car to various auto repair shops to find out how many times they get ripped off. And you want that for your Apple devices?
    We already have people being able to hang out their shingles and sell whatever parts and do whatever repairs they want.  There's not a single mall in America that doesn't have a 50 million kiosks of "iPhone repairmen" sometimes using suspect parts and techniques.  Not supporting RtR won't change that at all.  It'll just be status quo.  Apple isn't responsible for their repairs now, and wouldn't be responsible for their repairs under RtR.  The shadetree repairmen aren't going anywhere, with or without RtR.  At lease with access to parts and manuals the chances are better to get a good repair.

    Under RtR, Apple would be no more liable for the iPhone/iPad/iMac repaired by the independent than Audi would be if I went to Al's Discount Auto repair and got a faulty alternator installed.


    muthuk_vanalingamelijahg
  • Reply 11 of 16
    macxpressmacxpress Posts: 5,222member
    lkrupp said:
    rain22 said:
    Apple’s stance on ‘Right to Repair’ is indisputably corrupt. I’m not surprised there is a revolt in the company. Even the hardcore cult cheerleading fanboi’s here should condemn Apple for this. 
    The story of Linus Tech with their iMac Pro should be a wake up call to everyone. 
    Apple has no right even being in the business when a stuck key from dust is an insanely wasteful $900 repair. 
    There is never a need to engineer products that can’t be repaired - outside of insatiable greed for profits. 
    Your claim is VERY disputable, to the point of being ridiculous. We already have incidents of bad actors installing compromised parts in order to hack hardware. And you want any old swinging dick to be able to hang out his/her “repair shop” shingle and get parts and manuals from Apple? Are you crazy? Ever watch those investigative reports where the journalist takes their car to various auto repair shops to find out how many times they get ripped off. And you want that for your Apple devices?
    We already have people being able to hang out their shingles and sell whatever parts and do whatever repairs they want.  There's not a single mall in America that doesn't have a 50 million kiosks of "iPhone repairmen" sometimes using suspect parts and techniques.  Not supporting RtR won't change that at all.  It'll just be status quo.  Apple isn't responsible for their repairs now, and wouldn't be responsible for their repairs under RtR.  The shadetree repairmen aren't going anywhere, with or without RtR.  At lease with access to parts and manuals the chances are better to get a good repair.

    Under RtR, Apple would be no more liable for the iPhone/iPad/iMac repaired by the independent than Audi would be if I went to Al's Discount Auto repair and got a faulty alternator installed.



    This also has an effect on Apple's reputation as well though. If someone buys a used Apple product and it had shitty work done by a non-apple tech, possibly also using non-genuine Apple parts then this shines a bad light toward Apple for that person.
  • Reply 12 of 16
    mknelsonmknelson Posts: 864member
    kimberly said:
    Mike Wuerthele would you mind expanding on the following please? "Spend some time in a high-volume service bay, and get back to me afterwards. There is no way that you feel the same way afterwards. I've been there, and heard all the lies." I'm assuming by "lies" you mean it is a bit like a car dealer quoting on a service including parts that are not defective.
    No. By lies, I mean "I have no idea how that beer got in there." or "It just stopped working, I have no idea why" when it was obviously dropped.

    Or my personal favorite: "No, I'm not a smoker, why does that matter" when the interior surfaces are covered in an eighth of an inch of tobacco smoke deposition.

    I have a few more. Good ones include "No, that's the RAM that Apple used and I got with the computer" and "Why would you think I tried to repair this myself? Oh, the torn cable or pulled out surface mount? No idea how that happened!"
    This! Absolutely!

    You dented my computer! Pull up surveillance footage and show him where he dropped it on his way out the door…

    On the other hand, we had a "It just stopped working, I have no idea why" and she wasn't surprised it was full of milk. Her son was acting very strangely when she came down that morning…
    FileMakerFeller
  • Reply 13 of 16
    dewmedewme Posts: 4,018member
    This is an area that Apple needs to get out ahead of. Those who are calling it “right to repair” are engaging in a classic case of poisoning the well, but Apple isn’t doing much to set the record straight.  Yeah, of course everyone supports “right to repair” but Apple wants to ensure that its customers are satisfied with the quality of repair they receive. Apple is entirely within its right to expect that all repairs that are performed under warranty/Apple Care by third party repair centers are up to the same standards as its own in-house repair centers. Apple should make genuine Apple replacement parts available to all repair agents, but Apple should not be responsible for honoring any warranty claims against Apple products that have been repaired using third party components unless said components have been certified by Apple to meet Apple’s quality and security  standards. Apple should also not be expected to compromise its security or IP in the course of third party repairs.

    Frankly, I don’t understand why this is even a public issue. If Apple allocated even a fraction of the attention it gives to third party service providers on the (pre sales) supplier side to the product lifecycle to third party service providers on the post sales support side of the lifecycle this issue would be nonexistent. Most widget companies are sadly deficient in their customer support over the total product lifecycle, i.e.,  cradle to grave, and while Apple is somewhat better they can do much better.
    TenPoundTabbyelijahg
  • Reply 14 of 16
    macxpress said:
    lkrupp said:
    rain22 said:
    Apple’s stance on ‘Right to Repair’ is indisputably corrupt. I’m not surprised there is a revolt in the company. Even the hardcore cult cheerleading fanboi’s here should condemn Apple for this. 
    The story of Linus Tech with their iMac Pro should be a wake up call to everyone. 
    Apple has no right even being in the business when a stuck key from dust is an insanely wasteful $900 repair. 
    There is never a need to engineer products that can’t be repaired - outside of insatiable greed for profits. 
    Your claim is VERY disputable, to the point of being ridiculous. We already have incidents of bad actors installing compromised parts in order to hack hardware. And you want any old swinging dick to be able to hang out his/her “repair shop” shingle and get parts and manuals from Apple? Are you crazy? Ever watch those investigative reports where the journalist takes their car to various auto repair shops to find out how many times they get ripped off. And you want that for your Apple devices?
    We already have people being able to hang out their shingles and sell whatever parts and do whatever repairs they want.  There's not a single mall in America that doesn't have a 50 million kiosks of "iPhone repairmen" sometimes using suspect parts and techniques.  Not supporting RtR won't change that at all.  It'll just be status quo.  Apple isn't responsible for their repairs now, and wouldn't be responsible for their repairs under RtR.  The shadetree repairmen aren't going anywhere, with or without RtR.  At lease with access to parts and manuals the chances are better to get a good repair.

    Under RtR, Apple would be no more liable for the iPhone/iPad/iMac repaired by the independent than Audi would be if I went to Al's Discount Auto repair and got a faulty alternator installed.



    This also has an effect on Apple's reputation as well though. If someone buys a used Apple product and it had shitty work done by a non-apple tech, possibly also using non-genuine Apple parts then this shines a bad light toward Apple for that person.
    Who cares?  Certainly not Apple.  That argument is one of the weakest that get's put forth when this topic is discussed. People have been getting devices repaired in unauthorized shops around the world probably for as long as Apple has been making and selling products.  Some of those repairs were probably as crappy as crappy can get.  Apple's reputation hasn't suffered one iota.  Anyone buying used products knows there's a chance something wrong with the product.  That's the case whether it's a used car your neighbor buys from a guy who claims it was "garage kept and barely driven" or an iPhone that the owner claims is in "prisitine" condition and "never been dropped".  


    chemengin1elijahg
  • Reply 15 of 16
    Calling it "right to repair" is just more tech mythmaking -- just like the right to choose, when what is really meant by both phrases is something much darker. In any case, what made Apple great was that they chose to make their products easy to use, easy to access, and easy to upgrade. Moving away from that because now they think so much less of their buyer, is a tragedy. However they shouldn't be forced to be what they chose to be -- that is another tragedy whose costs will be born by the innocent. 
    dewme
  • Reply 16 of 16
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 6,346administrator
    Calling it "right to repair" is just more tech mythmaking -- just like the right to choose, when what is really meant by both phrases is something much darker. In any case, what made Apple great was that they chose to make their products easy to use, easy to access, and easy to upgrade. Moving away from that because now they think so much less of their buyer, is a tragedy. However they shouldn't be forced to be what they chose to be -- that is another tragedy whose costs will be born by the innocent. 
    "Easy to Upgrade" was only really a thing between 1991 and 2010, and even then, for only a small or minute portion of the entire product line, depending on year. Jobs' and Apple's original vision for the Mac was appliance computing. Sit it down, and forget about it.

    While I agree that the AI user base is more likely to do RAM upgrades, drive replacements and the like, the reality of the situation is that the vast majority of computer users never did this, even in the G4, G5, and original Mac Pro tower heydays.

    Balancing repairability and environmental impact is tricky. Apple has chosen what it has in regards to soldered-down components and the like for its own reasons, and as I've discussed above, this has cut way down on failure rates in the last decade. They say that this is more sustainable. Other folks disagree, and both can be right, given their own criteria. This isn't a zero-sum game.

    Companies like Rossman's do good work. But, they also seem to think, or put forth, that Apple will take these motherboards that are replaced and toss them in a woodchipper, when that's not the case. As I've discussed before, Apple takes the core part back from the repair shop, repairs it on the circuit level, and returns it to the repair supply chain.
    edited July 2020 cornchipdewmeDetnator
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