Apple delivered an early Christmas gift to environmentally conscious and DIY enthusiasts on Wednesday: It said it would soon begin selling parts, tools and instructions for people to do their own iPhone repairs.
It was a big win for the “right to repair” movement, which has demanded that tech manufacturers provide the necessary components and manuals for customers to repair their own smartphones, tablets and computers.
Apple, Microsoft, Google, Amazon and others have long fought against proposed legislation that would make such repair tools public. But the movement gained momentum this summer when the Federal Trade Commission announced it would step up law enforcement against tech companies that made it difficult to repair their gadgets.
For decades, the idea that people could maintain their own consumer electronics was impractical. Genuine parts were hard to come by and repairs could be expensive and intimidating. When phones and computers broke down, buying new ones was the easiest option.
Now Apple’s self-repair program is a sign that the tech industry could finally get to the point where maintenance becomes part of the experience of owning a gadget.
“It’s a win for repair shops, it’s a win for consumers, and it’s a win for the planet,” said Nathan Proctor, director of the US Public Interest Research Group, a consumer advocacy organization that worked on the “right to repair.” legislation.
Here’s what this means for you.
What does Apple’s program mean I can do with my broken iPhone?
Apple said early next year that people could use an online store to order parts and tools to repair their newer products, including the iPhone 12 and 13 and recent Mac computers. Customers who send their broken part to Apple will receive a credit towards the purchase of a new part.
The program will focus on the most common items that need repair, such as screens, batteries, and cameras, before expanding to other types of components.
The company has not yet published a list of parts costs, but said consumer prices would be equivalent to what authorized repair shops paid. Currently, a replacement iPhone 12 screen will cost an authorized retailer about $234 after a broken screen is traded in. At an Apple Store, repairing an out-of-warranty iPhone 12 screen costs about $280.
“By creating better access to genuine Apple parts, our customers have even more choice when a repair is needed,” said Jeff Williams, Apple’s chief operating officer, in a statement.
Why is this bad?
In short, you have more options to fix iPhone, which can cut your cost.
Previously, it was easiest to go to an Apple Store to get an iPhone repaired. But just as taking your car to a dealer for service wasn’t the cheapest option, going to an Apple Store wasn’t the most cost-effective option either.
The alternative was to take your iPhone to a third party for repair, possibly at a cheaper price. When I brought a broken iPhone XS screen to an Apple Store this year, I was charged $280 for the repair, compared to $180 from an independent retailer.
Still, Apple has made iPhone repairs increasingly difficult for third-party stores, said Kyle Wiens, CEO of iFixit, a company that sells parts and publishes instructions for consumers to repair their electronics.
Even when genuine parts were used, some repairs could only be verified with Apple’s software tools, which were not available to the public. Apple provided those software tools only to its personnel and authorized repair shops who signed a contract and agreed to purchase only parts from the company. These authorized stores were then more likely to charge higher prices than unauthorized ones.
Apple’s new program opens more doors. You can try to repair your device yourself to save money. Or you can buy the parts from Apple and take it to someone else to do the repair.
All of this can encourage people to maintain and hold onto their products for longer, similar to regular car maintenance. That has implications for reducing technology waste and helping the environment.
What if I don’t own an Apple product?
Apple has historically been one of the most vocal opponents of the “right to repair” movement. The company cited security risks — such as the hijacking of a customer’s data during an unauthorized repair — as a primary reason for keeping parts and instructions out of reach of the public.
So this news is important for non-Apple customers. If Apple, one of the world’s most valuable public companies, sets a new standard with repairs, you can expect other tech manufacturers to follow — especially if they want to avoid federal fines.
“This announcement marks an important step towards securing our right to repair, and we are proud of Apple for this bold step,” said Mr. Whose.