Last week Apple announced that they would be introducing a way for consumers to repair their products from home. Although, the self-repair scheme will only be available for US customers from early 2022, Apple have said that they plan to expand the operation to more countries as the year progresses.
Apple products are notoriously difficult to repair, and that’s exactly how they like it..
The news comes as a big shock to Apple users and technicians, as Apple have a long-standing history for being anti-repair. Historically, their products have been designed in a way which prohibits repairs and encourages consumers to simply upgrade to a new device (which inevitably adds to the global electronic waste problem). Apple have also been very outspoken about their dissatisfaction with providing parts for repair by external parties.
Due to the complex design, Apple iPhones are notoriously difficult to take apart and fix. In addition to this, Apple have been apprehensive about providing their parts or repair methods to any organisations other than their own. Understandably, this has caused Apple to make many enemies in the technology industry.
What parts will be repairable?
At the start of 2022, US customers will have the option to purchase parts and tools direct from the Apple website. The parts available at first will be for repairing screens, batteries and the camera (as these are the most commonly serviced issues). However, more parts will be available as the scheme continues into next year.
For the time being, the Apple repairs scheme will only be available for iPhones 12 and 13, but parts are said to soon be introduced to the system for Macs which run on the Apple M1 chip.
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The Right to Repair movement
This drastic change of heart by Apple is likely due to increasing pressure from outside forces to make their products more sustainable. The Right to Repair law, was brought into effect for UK industries on the 1st of July 2021. The legislation aims to support the repair and continued use of devices. It also encourages companies to provide parts (for a specified length of time) so that consumers can repair their items privately.
Due to this law, companies must also make a concerted effort to adapt the design of their products to allow for future repairs. Although the legislation currently doesn’t apply to IT equipment, many companies have already started adapting ahead of the curve as the popularity of sustainable products grows.
The ‘Fairphone’ takes the concept of self repair and runs with it. With the environment in mind, this phone has been created with the ability to change individual parts with ease. Consumers will be able to upgrade elements of their device as-and-when they need/want it without the need to send their electronics to a service centre. In addition to the environmental benefits of such a design, consumers will likely enjoy the option to repair at home; where they can be sure of the safety of their data and they know they won’t be without their device for days on end.
Is Apple feeling the pressure?
The Biden administration probably has something to do with Apple’s quick shift to sustainability too. The President, along with the Federal Trade Commission have been lobbying for the Right to Repair movement for some time. As added pressures are on World leaders to reduce global emissions, those leaders are going to start looking at their biggest short-comings (and there are many within the laws of electronic waste). As it stands, the Right to Repair law only applies to household electronics, not to mobile phones and computers. But, as e-waste levels continue to grow, there will be more eyes on officials to rectify the gaps in the law (ensuring that large organisations are treating these potentially hazardous devices responsibly).
Apple would rather you sent your repairs to their service centres
It can be argued, that Apple are merely doing the bare minimum to silence the ever-growing hoard which is pressuring them to make their products more eco-friendly. Although they have announced the repair scheme, they claim that the best action for customers is still to return their device to one of Apple’s registered service centres.
In the past 3 years, Apple’s service centres have doubled in numbers. However, they stated in their press release that they also wanted to give customers the opportunity to make repairs from home also.
“Self Service Repair is intended for individual technicians with the knowledge and experience to repair electronic devices. For the vast majority of customers, visiting a professional repair provider with certified technicians who use genuine Apple parts is the safest and most reliable way to get a repair.”Apple Newsroom –Apple announces Self Service Repair – Apple
Your warranty is subject to tampering
Any Apple user will tell you, that if you send your device to an unregistered repair shop, you will void your warranty. Previously, if you attempted to fix your iPhone yourself and were unsuccessful, you were then unable to get any compensation for your broken item. It is unclear as to whether a consumers warranty will still be valid if they purchase the tools and parts from Apple’s website. Although Apple is yet to comment on this aspect of the scheme, it wouldn’t be surprising if the moment you take apart your phone yourself, you are in breach of T’s and C’s.
Perhaps it is just my cynical view, but I am inclined to believe the worst in Apple. History has taught me that large corporations such as Apple are far more worried about making money than they are about social or environmental issues. Apple specifying that the self service repair is intended for technically knowledgeable professionals is a red flag in my opinion. It seems as though Apple are covering their backs should someone attempt their repair and be unsuccessful. Knowing their previous warranty policies on tampering, I wouldn’t be shocked if repairing your product yourself (as an individual without technical knowledge) voids your warranty.
Apple are yet to release pricing for their individual parts, but of course, you will only be able to get them directly from Apple or from their registered service centres.
Although Apple has not made their prices public, sources predict that a new screen (along with tools and user manual) will likely cost around $100. Is this a fair price when the user has to perform the repair themselves? That is up for debate, as a new iPhone will cost 10 times that figure. However, if the prices are not regulated and made affordable, many customers will opt for service centres or new devices purely for their convenience.
Even for trained professionals, repairing iPhones and Macs is a fiddley, painstaking task. Because of Apple’s sleek design, the phone cannot be taken apart easily. It requires specific tools and much more time than any other branded device. The likelihood of Apple users taking up the option to self repair is probably quite low, and those that do attempt the repairs themselves, may soon regret their decisions.
Although I’m apprehensive about Apple’s sudden move into self repairable services, it is still a step in the right direction. Throughout 2022, Apple will be expanding it’s reach to countries outside of the US. The self repair service will also include more parts for further models as the year progresses.
The best thing about this scheme is its’ impact on the environment. Apple have said that customers who return their old parts after performing their repairs, will get credit on their account (which can be put toward the cost of fixing their device or saved for a future purchase). Allegedly, failure to return your old components may result in a charge (but of course Apple have not commented on this as of yet).
The future of Apple repairs is unknown. It’s good to know that (even if forced to do so) large corporations are starting to look at their environmental impact. However, it would be more beneficial if Apple were to adapt their design to encourage sustainability. The reuse of electronic devices and their components is vital for our economy as well as our planet. Many precious materials that can be found in electronic devices come from depleting resources (and it’s only a matter of time until those resources run out). Even if their minds are focussed on lining their pockets and silencing the naysayers, for Apple, this is a big deal. For the first time ever, parts will be readily available to consumers, who can make their own, informed decisions, instead of being forced to send their device directly to Apple.
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