How Apple are making it impossible to repair your phone

If Apple could have it their way, they wouldn’t let you fix your phone without them at all.

If you can’t mend it, you have to replace it with a new phone, right? Read on as we’ve got some thoughts on this…

Planned obsolescence is part of the game plan, making your smartphone and a lot of other tech you have at home, harder to mend.

For example, Apple solder parts such as the processor and flash memory to the motherboard, and glue bits together that don't need to be, an unnecessary step that makes things deliberately hard to then fix.

They also use a non-standard pentalobe screws that are almost impossible for menders to replace.

The right to repair movement

When was the last time you had something repaired? The right to repair has become an unlikely battleground for the environment, as more of us want to rehome or repair our phones rather than upgrade them yet again.

The ‘right to repair’ means that you should be able to get your phone, or other bits of tech, fixed easily at a fair price. 

This includes being able to choose a repairer instead of being forced to use the services of the device's maker by default.

But it looks like Apple doesn't want people to fix your essential iPhones or Macbooks. 

The company has fought against the right to fix things in the U.S. and has been accused of slowing down iPhones with older batteries on purpose.

We can expect the older tech companies to fight against the right to repair, because it cuts into their profits (that’s over $19 billion dollars in Q3 2022 in Apple’s case).

By forcing customers to use their service centres, they can make more money and keep their market share.

One step forward…

Consumer pressure is starting to make a difference.

This year however, in response to the growing right to repair movement, Apple launched a self service repair option, meaning Genuine Apple parts and tools can now be purchased by everyday people like you.

The new online store has more than 200 different parts and tools. 

If you know how to fix electronics, you can now fix things like the display, battery, and camera on the 

  • iPhone 12
  • iPhone 13
  • iPhone SE (3rd generation).

Later this year, Apple will roll out manuals, parts, and tools for fixing Mac computers with Apple Silicon. 

Here’s how to do it…

  1. Start the Self Service Repair process by going to to look at the repair manual for the right product they want to fix.
  2. Go to the Apple Self Service Repair Store and buy the parts and tools you need.

Sounds good right? 

Well, kinda no. 

How many of our squad would know how to fix their own phone, we wonder?

The key thing here is obvious — “customers who know how to fix”, which you guessed it, aren’t that many people.

And it doesn’t work out much cheaper than going to Apple direct, which is expensive and exactly why we all use third party repair shops in the first place.

We feel it’s a case of a lot of talk, but very little action.

Apple doesn’t want you using third party repair shops. They say it opens you up to lower quality parts and / or hackers. There is now a service that lets you know if a replacement battery isn’t Apple certified for instance.

In the US, Apple's programme for independent repair providers gives some companies access to the parts and tools they need to fix Apple devices. Now, independent repair shops in 32 countries can apply, but the programme is still only available in the US for now.


One step backward…

With the iPhone 12, Apple has made it even harder for third-party repair shops to fix the phone and more expensive. Cheers Apple.

Compared to the iPhone 11, Apple has raised the repair costs for the iPhone 12 by more than 40%. If your device is out of warranty it costs more than £279 to fix the screen on an iPhone 12 and £69 to fit a new battery.

But if you take your iPhone 12 to a third-party repairer, some features like the camera might be almost impossible to fix..

Reports say that fixing the camera on the iPhone 12 requires Apple's system configuration app, which is (drum roll…) only available to the company's authorised technicians.

And let’s be fair here.

It's not just Apple. 

Even Samsung's best phones are hard for third-party repair shops to fix.

When there aren't enough parts to fix a phone, the company will make a new one, which uses more energy and resources.

Did you know it takes as much energy to make one smartphone as it does to use it for 10 years?

When was the last time you used a smartphone for 10 years? 

It’s almost impossible right, because it breaks down, slows down, you crack the screen, get water in the camera, drop it off a boat in the North Sea when a judge asks for your WhatsApps…life happens.

So the most sustainable phone is a phone that can be repaired (or rehomed by our amazing team).

As phones get harder to fix, the amount of e-waste will rise, which, like most people, we are pretty against.

When Apple and Samsung said they would stop sending chargers with their phones, they both said it would be better for the environment.

But they have turned a blind eye to the damage that would be done to the environment trying to rig the right to repair.

So…how do we fix phone-fixing?

In many ways, big phone companies make it hard for third-party repair shops to do their jobs. 

This includes making designs change all the time, making the repair process harder, and making it harder to get parts, diagnostic software and repair instructions.

In the meantime, you’re left with a drawer of old phones or huge repair bills, while repair shops have less work.

Countries like Canada, the UK and the USA are making some progress in the fight to remove barriers to repair. 

Both the European Union and US state, Massachusetts, have made changes to their laws.

It has been fantastic to see France has made a Repairability Index that requires companies that make electrical and electronic equipment to tell customers on a scale of one to ten how easy it is to fix their products.

Repair the right to repair…

Until global efforts to change laws about the right to repair pick up speed, consumers won't have much choice but to pay big companies for their authorised repair services.

If they don't, they could lose their warranty, end up with a broken device, or even break the software copyrights of the manufacturer.

In an ideal world, we want to see phone companies helping us all fix our devices by giving third-party repairers replacement parts, repair instructions, and diagnostic tools.

Let’s not forget this would also help Apple and Samsung reach their environmental goals and reduce their carbon footprint. So it would be a win-win. We just need to make the right to repair movement, louder, stronger and clearer.

Are you in?

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