No, it’s not April Fools. Apple announced today that starting in 2022 it will allow iPhone 12 and 13 owners to repair their broken phones with factory parts and tools sold by Apple. The company will even provide repair manuals on its website. This will allow users to identify the parts they need so they can order the parts required to repair the device. Once the repair is done, users can ship the defective parts back to Apple and receive a credit to their Apple account for the parts’ value. The program will start with only late-model iPhone parts, and in the US only, but eventually expand across the globe and include parts for its M1-based computers as well.
Apple notes the program will begin with the most commonly repaired parts for the iPhone, which include the display, battery, and camera. Interestingly, the company recently came under fire for an iPhone 13 design that disabled FaceID if the user replaced the display via a third-party as opposed to an official Apple repair shop. Apple backed down from that stance, perhaps in a move that now appears to be foreshadowing today’s announcement. The company notes it will offer more than 200 parts for sale on its upcoming web store, but so far it isn’t saying what pricing will be for the parts or the tools.
Details of the Apple Genuine Parts Repair program leaked in 2019, and look a lot like what Apple is announcing today, aside from the training part.
The move marks a rather surprising reversal from Apple, which has become known as one of the staunchest defenders of the “nobody can repair our products except us” ethos. For years Apple has been making its products not only more difficult to repair by using special screws, glues, and parts, but it has repeatedly resisted calls for the exact type of program it is launching today. Back in 2019 the existence of an Apple Genuine Parts Repair program was leaked to the press, making it appear now Apple has had the capability to launch such a program for quite some time now, and has finally relented, most likely simply to get in front of having its hand forced via legislation.
The latest move from Apple also comes on the heels of two recent developments. In March the FTC released a 55-page report regarding whether or not companies were treating consumers fairly by manufacture-imposed repair restrictions, concluding they were not being treated fairly, at all. Also, the US Copyright Office loosened restrictions on “right to repair” activities in October when it allowed new exemptions to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), granting consumers the theoretical right to tinker with devices they own, as long as they’re not violating copyright protections put in place by the manufacturer.
Previously, Apple said it opposed this type of self repair program because it would let bad actors understand their products at a deeper level, thus allowing for more malicious activity to take place. It also said only people with the proper tools, training, and parts are qualified to do repair work on its products due to their intrinsically complicated design.
Surprisingly, one outspoken critic of Apple’s previously resistant stance was Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, who touted his stance on the benefits of self repair in a Cameo video to the most outspoken “right to repair” advocate on YouTube, Louis Rossmann. In the video Woz states Apple wouldn’t even exist as a company if the type of restrictions on access to computer parts and tools that exist now were in effect back then.
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