Apple's Self Repair Program was never going to be what repair advocates wanted

Posted:
in General Discussion edited May 7
Apple's Self Service Repair program isn't a perfect solution that addresses all of the concerns from the Right to Repair movement. It was never meant to be.

Credit: Apple
Credit: Apple


The iPhone maker launched the Self Service Repair portal in April, allowing customers to order parts, tools, and other resources to repair their own devices.

This move marked a turning point for Apple -- a company that has long shied away from making it easy for users to repair their own devices. While some repair advocates have praised Apple's move, others have criticized it as being too difficult and expensive.

Whether those criticisms are valid or not, it's important to keep in mind that the Self Service Repair program is a concession, not a heel turn. Here's why.

The Self Service Repair program

Apple first announced the Self Service Repair program in November 2021, surprising regular consumers, repair advocates, and the broader tech industry alike. The program actually launched on April 27, 2022.

Through the new repair portal, users can order parts for a number of iPhone models to carry out standard repairs like battery swaps, speaker replacements, and display fixes. The portal also offers tool kits that are available to purchase or rent for a specific period of time.

Along with the tools and parts, Apple also made available a plethora of different repair manuals and technical documentation for use at home.

However, many organizations that advocate for the Right to Repair had mixed feelings about the program.

The repair experts at iFixit, for example, praised the program because "anything that enables more people to do repairs is great news." However, it criticized the fact that Apple is still pairing parts, which it said enables only "very limited" repairs.

A look at an Apple repair toolkit.
A look at an Apple repair toolkit.


The U.S. Public Research Interest Group, which has criticized Apple in the past for its repair policies, was even less forgiving.

U.S. PIRG director Nathan Proctor said the program is a sign that Right to Repair is "breaking through," but noted that Apple is still making customers jump through "too many hoops" to repair their devices.

"We should have more options. Not just one set of parts. Not just a few manufacturers," he said. "No product should be tossed in the scrap heap, wasting money and adding to our toxic electronic waste problem, because the manufacturer doesn't properly support repair

Apple's history with right to repair

Despite the criticisms, it's hard to deny that Apple's Right to Repair program is a reversal of its previous policies on the subject. Apple has long fought against Right to Repair anywhere that it popped up.

Apple has effectively lobbied against Right to Repair legislation in a slew of different states. Back in 2019, for example, California tabled a Right to Repair bill after immense pressure from Apple and other companies.

The company makes a few different arguments in its fight against Right to Repair. For one, it believes that there's a safety issue. Consumers could very well hurt themselves when repairing their own devices. Apple claims that many repairs are "too complex" for untrained customers.

Apple has long fought Right to Repair legislation.
Apple has long fought Right to Repair legislation.


In other cases, Apple has taken a security argument. According to Apple, opening up its devices to repair could threaten the iPhone's strong emphasis on security. Back in 2017, when lobbying against a Right to Repair bill in Nebraska, Apple said the state could become a "Mecca for bad actors" if the bill passed.

Apple has taken steps to loosen its grip on device repairs in recent years, however. It has launched independent repair provider programs that expand access to device repairs. However, there have been complaints that the program's terms are still too restrictive.

Given Apple's history, the launch of the Self Service Repair program -- imperfect as it may be -- seems uncharacteristic for Apple. However, there's a reason for that.

Storm clouds ahead

In the future, Apple will most likely be forced by some piece of legislation to provide repair resources, tools, and parts to consumers. The company has effectively battled Right to Repair legislation, but given the popular and governmental support for the movement, it will probably lose the war.

Apple is facing Right to Repair pressure in multiple markets.
Apple is facing Right to Repair pressure in multiple markets.


Back in February 2022, U.S. lawmakers introduced Right to Repair legislation that would enshrine in law the ability for consumers to fix their own products. Apple has fought Right to Repair legislation at the state level, but a federal battle may be more precarious for the company.

There's regulatory pressure, too. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission, for example, has pledged to take a formal stand against unlawful repair restrictions. Even without legislation, there's a chance Apple could be hit by a regulatory action from the FTC.

Those pressures are just the ones in the U.S. The European Union, in addition to charing ahead with antitrust legislation, is also backing new rules around Right to Repair. In 2022, the EU voted to support the rights of consumers to repair their own products.

All of this is to say that Apple's Self Service Repair program isn't a result of a reversal in its beliefs surrounding repairs. Instead, the program is undoubtedly a preemptive initiative to get ahead of Right to Repair legislation.

That's why the program isn't perfect. Apple isn't suddenly supporting the widest definitions of Right to Repair. It still wants to maintain control over its product repairs, it's just avoiding regulatory action down the road. Hence, the doubling-down on parts pairing and other restrictive policies.

This is made more complicated by the fact that Right to Repair still doesn't have a clear and effective definition. While the program could meet the requirements of some legislative actions, it might not meet the requirements of others. By implementing the program the way it did, Apple was probably hedging its bets based on current information.

A positive first step

This isn't about binary approval or disapproval of what Apple has done, or the same for any faction of the Right to Repair movement. For the first time, Apple is giving relatively skilled folks that want it a crack at renting tools to do a repair, and get the repair done at home.

Whether or not you the reader approve or disapprove of it, or we do, this is what Apple has done. As with anything else, opinions vary.

But, even if Apple's intentions don't align with the Right to Repair movement, it's still a positive step. The Self Service Repair program is currently available for iPhone fixes. In the future, it'll launch for Macs and will expand to the European market.

At this point, it would be hard for Right to Repair advocates to argue that the Self Service Repair program isn't a move in the right direction, no matter what Apple's intentions are -- and only they know for sure what they have planned, or what their stopping points are.

Even though what's been seen so far is more restrictive than the loudest advocates would like, the availability of parts and resources does make it easier for people to fix Apple products. Those tools, parts, and resources aren't just available to consumers either. Small repair shops can now get access to easy-to-follow guides and the same tools used by Apple technicians without agreeing to the onerous terms of the Independent Repair Provider Program.

And given the fact that electronic waste is a significant -- and growing -- problem, any effort to make products more repairable is a positive step.

Despite its flaws, it's hard to argue that this isn't a positive step.
Despite its flaws, it's hard to argue that this isn't a positive step.


Looking beyond Right to Repair arguments, it's also important to note the balance Apple has struck here. While Apple devices are not casually repairable, Apple does design products for durability.

Things like glue and tight design tolerances make devices more durable, but less repairable. While on the average, regular AppleInsider readers are more technically proficient than the average iPhone owner, keeping the average unskilled consumer out of a device protects it from probing fingers that don't know what to do, or think the iPhone is built on the same scale as that Blue and White G3 that they opened two decades ago.

Design is a balance. To placate arguments that are vague, undefined, and, in some cases, unrealistic, Apple is never going to make an iPhone with a casually removable battery like a 2006 Nokia.

To many Right to Repair advocates, the Self Service Repair program isn't perfect. They're right. It was never meant to be a perfect solution to Right to Repair arguments.

Apple's Self Service Repair program was intended to get ahead of legislation and regulation. But, it's still a positive step forward that happens to be a good balance between the durability of Apple's design and the repairability of its products.

Whether the company makes that many more steps in the right direction and what direction actually is, are the real questions.

Read on AppleInsider
«1

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 36
    rob53rob53 Posts: 3,057member
    I find it interesting that people and governments continue to demand that Apple build their products a certain way. What gives anyone the right to tell Apple how to create and manufacture their products? There’s certain standards that are required for every product but not the level demanded of Apple. Many products are glued together with no option for repair yet nobody is going after these products. Many products are design for single use. Why aren’t these required to be repairable? Look at cars. Get in an accident and most are considered totaled or beyond repair but unless they’re flattened they could be repaired. Where are the tools, parts and manuals to rebuild the front end of a new car? Oh wait, it’s not economically feasible to repair them. Computers are getting so small that repairing them to their original state just doesn’t make economic cents (pun intended).
    baconstangradarthekatAlex1Ngeekmee
  • Reply 2 of 36
    XedXed Posts: 1,513member
    Be careful what you ask for. Apple will play ball and beat you at your own game. If I am going to repair my own devices going forward do I want to spend more money on cheap tools and 3rd-party components or buy OEM parts with a quality tool rental? I've used iFixit for a very long time but II think I'll go with the latter from here on out.
    rob53Alex1N
  • Reply 3 of 36
    mfrydmfryd Posts: 168member
    What happens when my 5 year old iPhone, Mac or iPad is declared "obsolete" by Apple.  At that point they will no longer sell parts, issue software upgrades, or offer support for the device.

    As it stands, the iPhone will refuse to fully work with replacement parts unless Apple blesses the replacement.  That won't happen once Apple drops support.

    At some point, Apple will stop issuing software updates to fix crucial security issues.  That wouldn't be an issue except that Apple prevents me from installing a third party OS (for example Linux or Android).   

    I would be much happier if Apple opened up repairs and software once they stopped supporting a device.

    Remember, Apple Silicon Macs, iPhones, and iPads are all tied to the owner's Apple ID.  At the very least, they should allow the registered Apple ID to approve pairing of replacement parts.   I'm OK with it giving a warning if someone swaps the fingerprint sensor, or makes hardware/software alternations without my approval.  However, as the registered Apple ID for the device, I should be able to approve those changes.
  • Reply 4 of 36
    robin huberrobin huber Posts: 3,689member
    I want to be able to perform open heart surgery on my own heart. 
    dewmewilliamlondonbaconstangradarthekatJaiOh81Alex1NiOS_Guy80
  • Reply 5 of 36
    jeff fieldsjeff fields Posts: 150member
    mfryd said:
    What happens when my 5 year old iPhone, Mac or iPad is declared "obsolete" by Apple.  At that point they will no longer sell parts, issue software upgrades, or offer support for the device.

    As it stands, the iPhone will refuse to fully work with replacement parts unless Apple blesses the replacement.  That won't happen once Apple drops support.

    At some point, Apple will stop issuing software updates to fix crucial security issues.  That wouldn't be an issue except that Apple prevents me from installing a third party OS (for example Linux or Android).   

    I would be much happier if Apple opened up repairs and software once they stopped supporting a device.

    Remember, Apple Silicon Macs, iPhones, and iPads are all tied to the owner's Apple ID.  At the very least, they should allow the registered Apple ID to approve pairing of replacement parts.   I'm OK with it giving a warning if someone swaps the fingerprint sensor, or makes hardware/software alternations without my approval.  However, as the registered Apple ID for the device, I should be able to approve those changes.

    Could we at least argue in good faith, please? Apple's not going to do that. The iPhone 6S is still supported with the latest iOS. Apple routinely supports iOS devices for more than twice as long as competitors. And you're going to get freaking Linux or Android on an iOS device, so stop whining. Neither is it Apple job to magically give you that. You think ANDROID is going to give you security updates 5-10 years down the road for hardware that isn't even Android hardware? Stop hallucinating. They can't even manage 3 years consistently on their own native devices.

    thtbaconstangradarthekatstompyAlex1N
  • Reply 6 of 36
    rob53rob53 Posts: 3,057member
    Let’s talk about cars. Newer cars are loaded with specialized hardware. When things fail it’s not always possible to get 3rd party replacements so you have to go to the dealer. I doubt car manufacturers will be required to supply all repair manuals and specialized tools to everyone along with original parts that don’t cost as much as the entire car. It will never happen. We’ll have to continue to use 3rd party garbage and hope things work. 
    Alex1NiOS_Guy80
  • Reply 7 of 36
    Personally I think the program is pretty cool.
    baconstangy2an
  • Reply 8 of 36
    crowleycrowley Posts: 10,453member
    rob53 said:
    I find it interesting that people and governments continue to demand that Apple build their products a certain way. What gives anyone the right to tell Apple how to create and manufacture their products? There’s certain standards that are required for every product but not the level demanded of Apple. Many products are glued together with no option for repair yet nobody is going after these products. Many products are design for single use. Why aren’t these required to be repairable? Look at cars. Get in an accident and most are considered totaled or beyond repair but unless they’re flattened they could be repaired. Where are the tools, parts and manuals to rebuild the front end of a new car? Oh wait, it’s not economically feasible to repair them. Computers are getting so small that repairing them to their original state just doesn’t make economic cents (pun intended).
    What Michael Bay universe are you living in where most cars that get into accidents are considered “totaled”?

    Car repairs happen all the time.
    sandor
  • Reply 9 of 36
    What all of these advocates for, "right to repair," leave out is just how damn difficult it is to repair a modern Apple device especially an iPhone. I worked for Apple in an Apple retail store and I HATED repairing iPhones, especially ones with cracked screens. Everything is tiny and fragile. Even for experienced and trained technicians repairing an iPhone is not fun. The danger of destroying a cable or connector if you use the wrong amount of force or apply force in the wrong direction is ever present. It is delicate work. Despite training, it was common for new Apple technicians to break the first iPhone or two they worked on.A

    And I haven't had to repair an iPhone much past the iPhone 6.

    If I had the choice of saving $200 repairing an iPhone or paying Apple $200 to fix an iPhone, I would gladly hand my credit card over to Apple for a trained, experienced technician with ALL of the proper equipment to do the job right.
    danoxthtbaconstangStrangeDaysAlex1Nloquitur
  • Reply 10 of 36
    danoxdanox Posts: 1,329member
    crowley said:
    rob53 said:
    I find it interesting that people and governments continue to demand that Apple build their products a certain way. What gives anyone the right to tell Apple how to create and manufacture their products? There’s certain standards that are required for every product but not the level demanded of Apple. Many products are glued together with no option for repair yet nobody is going after these products. Many products are design for single use. Why aren’t these required to be repairable? Look at cars. Get in an accident and most are considered totaled or beyond repair but unless they’re flattened they could be repaired. Where are the tools, parts and manuals to rebuild the front end of a new car? Oh wait, it’s not economically feasible to repair them. Computers are getting so small that repairing them to their original state just doesn’t make economic cents (pun intended).
    What Michael Bay universe are you living in where most cars that get into accidents are considered “totaled”?

    Car repairs happen all the time.

    The EV future is even more removed from the you fix it era.
    baconstang
  • Reply 11 of 36
    rob53 said:
    Let’s talk about cars. Newer cars are loaded with specialized hardware. When things fail it’s not always possible to get 3rd party replacements so you have to go to the dealer. I doubt car manufacturers will be required to supply all repair manuals and specialized tools to everyone along with original parts that don’t cost as much as the entire car. It will never happen. We’ll have to continue to use 3rd party garbage and hope things work. 
    Well I know with Honda you could buy the official repair manual used by the dealers directly from the publisher Helms for at least the past 30 years. You can also purchase some special tools. I think to get the Technical Service Bulletins you have to be a dealer but they are available elsewhere,
    grandact73
  • Reply 12 of 36
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 12,252member
    “No product should be tossed in the scrap heap, wasting money and adding to our toxic electronic waste problem, because the manufacturer doesn't properly support repair”

    …false premise. Besides having always been repairable, no need to toss broken iPhones into landfill. Simply bring to a store (or mail in for free) where Apple will recycle responsibly. Been doing it with devices for years.
    thtradarthekatAlex1Nforegoneconclusion
  • Reply 13 of 36
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 12,252member
    What all of these advocates for, "right to repair," leave out is just how damn difficult it is to repair a modern Apple device especially an iPhone. I worked for Apple in an Apple retail store and I HATED repairing iPhones, especially ones with cracked screens. Everything is tiny and fragile. Even for experienced and trained technicians repairing an iPhone is not fun. The danger of destroying a cable or connector if you use the wrong amount of force or apply force in the wrong direction is ever present. It is delicate work. Despite training, it was common for new Apple technicians to break the first iPhone or two they worked on.A

    And I haven't had to repair an iPhone much past the iPhone 6.

    If I had the choice of saving $200 repairing an iPhone or paying Apple $200 to fix an iPhone, I would gladly hand my credit card over to Apple for a trained, experienced technician with ALL of the proper equipment to do the job right.
    Agreed. Have done a handful of repairs on iPhones, but the last one I did I accidentally damaged a cable connector as you’ve mentioned, because I don’t do repairs as frequently as a repair person does. Just like my car, I’d rather pay someone these days. 
    radarthekat
  • Reply 14 of 36
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 10,161member

    Apple's Self Repair Program was never going to be what repair advocates wanted


    No shit, Sherlock. For the repair advocates to get what they want would require a complete, from the ground up, redesign of the iPhone and nothing less. The really grinding thing is that the right-to-repair advocates are such a tiny minority to kowtow to. How many people, if their 4KHDTV, 4KBD Player, AVR, HD Projector, etc, are going to dive in and try to repair it? No, you take it to a shop, usually the place you bought it from, for repair or replacement. 
    charlesnthtAlex1Nmuthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 15 of 36
    lkrupp said:

    Apple's Self Repair Program was never going to be what repair advocates wanted


    No shit, Sherlock. For the repair advocates to get what they want would require a complete, from the ground up, redesign of the iPhone and nothing less. The really grinding thing is that the right-to-repair advocates are such a tiny minority to kowtow to. How many people, if their 4KHDTV, 4KBD Player, AVR, HD Projector, etc, are going to dive in and try to repair it? No, you take it to a shop, usually the place you bought it from, for repair or replacement. 
    Personally if I can’t fix it myself I just dispose of it properly and purchase a brand new replacement. I went through an ordeal getting a Samsung TV repaired using authorized service centers about 10 years ago and it was a disaster. After the third time I had spent more money of just the value of my time than the brand new product was worth. The original TV direct from the factory was actually pretty good but the authorized service centers just made what was initially a minor problem far worse.
    Alex1N
  • Reply 16 of 36
    doggonedoggone Posts: 326member
    I wonder how many people are going to be up to repair such as complex device.  I'm pretty handy with repairs and can do such things as upgrading ram or drives etc in a Mac.  I'm sure I could repair a screen or battery in a phone but it will take time, be very tricky and could easily go wrong.  I, for one, would get Apple to repair it, especially if buying third party parts would disable features like FaceID.  Ultimately it would be faster and probably cost the same to get Apple to repair the unit. Another point is that Apple know how to dispose / recycle the old materials efficiently.  

    My guess is that only 1 in 100 iPhone users would be up for doing their own repairs on and the rest would get Apple or a third party to do the fix. I get that having choices is important but if this is only going to affect 1% of users it is really worth the effort?


    Alex1N
  • Reply 17 of 36
    XedXed Posts: 1,513member
    doggone said:
    My guess is that only 1 in 100 iPhone users would be up for doing their own repairs on and the rest would get Apple or a third party to do the fix. I get that having choices is important but if this is only going to affect 1% of users it is really worth the effort?
    I'd wager it's well below 1%.
    muthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 18 of 36
    AlexeyVAlexeyV Posts: 8member
    What all of these advocates for, "right to repair," leave out is just how damn difficult it is to repair a modern Apple device especially an iPhone. I worked for Apple in an Apple retail store and I HATED repairing iPhones, especially ones with cracked screens. Everything is tiny and fragile. Even for experienced and trained technicians repairing an iPhone is not fun. The danger of destroying a cable or connector if you use the wrong amount of force or apply force in the wrong direction is ever present. It is delicate work. Despite training, it was common for new Apple technicians to break the first iPhone or two they worked on.A

    And I haven't had to repair an iPhone much past the iPhone 6.

    If I had the choice of saving $200 repairing an iPhone or paying Apple $200 to fix an iPhone, I would gladly hand my credit card over to Apple for a trained, experienced technician with ALL of the proper equipment to do the job right.
    Well, I never work for Apple, but I’m have repaired a dozens of iPhones from 5 to 8. Moreover, I do repairs using 3rd party Chinese parts with no issues. Anyone can do it.

    P.S. Last repair was MBP 2017 with dead SSD. Total cost of repair is 25$. I think no one will argue, that it’s not posible with original parts. 
    edited May 8 sandor
  • Reply 19 of 36
    Paul_BPaul_B Posts: 82member
    A.  Apple DOES not care for anyone to repair a machine that should NOT be repaired which is logical.

    B. Read A.

    C. Buy a new machine, it's not a car, or home.  We are talking pennies.

    D.  Read A, B, C.
  • Reply 20 of 36
    sandorsandor Posts: 650member
    danox said:
    crowley said:
    rob53 said:
    I find it interesting that people and governments continue to demand that Apple build their products a certain way. What gives anyone the right to tell Apple how to create and manufacture their products? There’s certain standards that are required for every product but not the level demanded of Apple. Many products are glued together with no option for repair yet nobody is going after these products. Many products are design for single use. Why aren’t these required to be repairable? Look at cars. Get in an accident and most are considered totaled or beyond repair but unless they’re flattened they could be repaired. Where are the tools, parts and manuals to rebuild the front end of a new car? Oh wait, it’s not economically feasible to repair them. Computers are getting so small that repairing them to their original state just doesn’t make economic cents (pun intended).
    What Michael Bay universe are you living in where most cars that get into accidents are considered “totaled”?

    Car repairs happen all the time.

    The EV future is even more removed from the you fix it era.

    The EV *companies* are trying to make it that way, but as the successfully Tesla repair shops have shows, it is a manufacturer created wall vs actual inability to fix.

    If anything, EV are less complex than ICE, especially in terms of mechanical bits (ie basic elements needed to "limp home")
    No valves to time, no plugs to gap, no fuel pumps hidden in gas tanks to fail...
    muthuk_vanalingam
Sign In or Register to comment.