Advocates Sour On Apple’s Repair Program: Repair Roundup Week of April 25

Advocates Sour On Apple’s Repair Program: Repair Roundup Week of April 25

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Each week, we will bring you the top repair news from around the world, curated for iFixit by the folks over at the Fight to Repair blog.

The Big News

After announcing that it would help iPhone owners repair their own devices in November, Apple finally pulled the covers off its self-service repair program this week. The announcement was big news—and follows the unveiling of similar programs by the likes of Samsung and Google in recent weeks. As we noted: Apple’s decision to begin facilitating its customers’ repair of their own devices marks a tectonic shift in company policy. iFixit owes its existence, in large part, to Apple’s refusal to publish detailed service and repair manuals for its beloved laptops and phones. The fact that the company is now making manuals, parts, and tools (including software) available is a huge development and a big win for consumers.

Now that it is formally launched, however, and the small print of the Apple’s repair program is legible, one is left with the lingering sense that this is a self-service repair program run by a company that isn’t at all fond of the notion of self-service repair.

Here are a few of the (big) caveats to Apple’s program:

  • Parts pairing – as we noted in our write-up on the program, Apple is allowing only very limited, serial number-authorized repairs. Customers who would like to perform a repair must have the serial number or IMEI of the phone they wish to repair. That precludes common-sense repair options like, say, using an aftermarket part (a decision that will result in an “unable to verify” warning), or the participation of third-party repair professionals or even downstream recyclers.
  • Limited scope – Apple’s program only extends to late-model iPhones (iPhone 12, iPhone 13, and SE3 devices. I’m using an iPhone 8 – a five-year-old device that (no surprise) is really in need of some service and repair. It would have made more sense for Apple to open its program to its older hardware first, which is the most likely to be in need of repair. But for me and millions of other owners of older Apple hardware, the Self-Service Repair program has nothing to offer.
  • Limited parts – Apple’s program only offers help with a shortlist of repairs like battery replacements, cracked screens, and broken cameras. Apple isn’t offering to sell replacement parts for the vast majority of the parts that are in its devices. Furthermore, the diagnostic tools it is offering through its program to help calibrate and authenticate new parts are only available to customers who buy their part through Apple’s Self-Service Repair program.

What do all these caveats mean? They mean we need a formal, legal right to repair. As we noted, recent weeks have seen a tremendous variety of new repair programs introduced by electronics OEMs: HTC, Samsung, Google, Microsoft. The details of those programs vary—some throw the doors wide open to customer and independent repair. Others, like Apple, crack that door open ever so slightly. Ultimately, however, our rights as consumers to maintain and repair our own property—and help save the planet in the process – shouldn’t boil down to how generous a multi-billion-dollar electronics OEM is (or isn’t) feeling. If we want to extract the maximum value out of expensive and vital technology like smartphones, laptops, heavy machinery, and home appliances, access to parts, manuals, schematics and the tools necessary to perform repair should be available by right, not by permission.

Other News

Wheelchair Right To Repair Bill Edges Closer To Becoming Law In Colorado

Massachusetts became the first state in the nation to pass a right to repair bill, by ballot initiative, in 2012. Ten years later, Colorado could become the first state legislature to enact a right to repair bill of its own making. On Tuesday, the Colorado Senate passed HB22-1031, the Right to Repair for Wheelchairs bill, by a vote of 30-5, sending the bill back to the Colorado House of Representatives, which has already passed a version of the bill, for a final vote before it heads to the Governor’s desk to be signed into law.

Passage of the bill would be a huge victory for the right to repair movement – the first new right to repair law in a decade. It would also be a huge victory for wheelchair users and advocates for the disabled, who suffer from long waits for service and repair in a tightly constricted marketplace dominated by large, private equity-backed Complex Rehabilitation Technology (CRT) firms.

“If a part breaks on someone’s wheelchair, it needs to be fixed quickly. Going days or even weeks with a broken wheelchair can result in sores, injuries or someone can no longer leave their home,” Julie Reiskin, Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition executive director told Colorado PIRG. “Many of the things that break are easy repairs that we should be able to do ourselves or take it to someone we trust. We need the right to repair our stuff. We also need to reduce barriers in Medicaid to get repairs done quickly and we need to hold companies accountable that do not respond to their customer’s needs.”

Keep an eye on this story. This could be big.

In The Battle Over the Right to Repair, A Quest for Open-Source Tractors

Greta Moran over at Civileats.com has a great piece that looks at the grassroots effort by farmers and consumer rights advocates to create an open source platform for agricultural equipment. Moran profiles Jack Algiere, a farmer and the director of agroecology at the Stone Barns Center for Food & Agriculture in Tarrytown, New York. He is a proponent of open-source equipment that farmers can customize to the unique needs of their farms. Algiere “grew up in an era when it was second nature for farmers to fix their equipment—before farm equipment manufacturers like John Deere and others started incorporating proprietary software, parts, and tools only accessible to authorized dealerships.”

As Deere and other big-Ag equipment makers successfully kill off attempts by lawmakers in farm states to give farmers access to the information needed to service and repair their own equipment, a parallel movement is taking shape with calls for a new, production model altogether, built on an open-source system, Moran rights. “Under this model, farm equipment is designed to be easily modified and repaired by relying on accessible, universal parts, while sharing or licensing the design specifications and source code.”

A New Podcast: What The Fix

There’s a new right to repair podcast out: What The Fix! In our first episode, I and my co-host Jack Monahan speak with Aaron Perzanowski, author of the new book The Right to Repair and a professor of law at Case Western Reserve School of Law. In our conversation, we delve into topics like antitrust law, sustainability, and intellectual property. You will also be able to purchase a premium subscription which unlocks video podcasts, an extended interview, and a say in what topics we cover.

Device Teardowns Galore

The Framework laptop mainboard is now available for purchase: “All you need to do is insert memory, plug in a USB-C power adapter, and hit the tiny power button on-board, and you’ve got a powered-up computer.”

The iFixit Steam Deck Teardown, in case you missed it.

An unsanctioned teardown of Microsoft’s Xbox Series X led to a YouTuber’s device being banned—but not without having discovered some secrets. Among the things discovered, they noted that it comes with 40GB of GDDR6 installed. For reference, the consumer console has 16GB of GDDR6.

The Valve Steam Deck‘s fan has been a sore subject for gamers for the loud and high-pitched noises it makes—but fortunately, iFixit is working on a solution.

Microsoft Surface Laptop has a new video detailing its disassembly and repair.

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