Yesterday's news that Apple is going to make it easier for people to repair their own iPhones was likely well-intentioned. However, it's impossible to ignore the fact Apple might just be trying to avoid Right to Repair lawmakers getting more involved than they already are. But as with everything Apple does, the move hasn't pleased everyone.
First, the news: Apple will soon begin selling more than 200 iPhone 12 and iPhone 13 parts and tools to anyone who wants to have a go at fixing their own kit. New screens, batteries, and cameras will be the order of the day initially — the things that most often break or wear out. Apple is going to give people the documentation they need to carry out these repairs, too.
But the response on this has been polarized, to say the least.
- On one hand, we have the people who enjoy a technical tinker of a weekend shouting from the rooftops that big bad Apple is finally doing what they always wanted — reducing its reliance on its own Apple Stores and Authorized Service Providers. These people think that because they want to rip their iPhone apart, everyone does.
- On the other hand, people are worried that this could all go horribly wrong. People will take iPhones apart and not be able to put them back together again. Or they'll put them together and not be able to turn them on, causing a visit to the Apple Store anyway. Even if the repair goes well, there are more potential consequences — as one former Apple Store employee tells me, "even stuff like putting a display gasket back on properly to maintain water-resistance after opening the phone — people ain't gonna do it right and then will complain when their phone dies from a splash later.
As ever, the reality will be a mish-mash of both angles. There will, without doubt, be some people who will jump at the chance to take an iPhone apart and try to fix it themselves. But I'd wager that the number of people actually willing to do that is a lot smaller than those same people believe.
Actually trying to iFixit yourself
Sometimes you're so close to a group of people that you think everyone feels the same way. I suspect the average iPhone owner won't want to go near an iFixit repair kit, let alone start learning about what it takes to replace a camera module. The iFixit folks say that "everyone's enough of a genius to fix an iPhone." I'd humbly suggest that is very much wide of the mark. Everyone in the iFixit office, sure.
Theoretically, that should also mean that the number of people breaking their iPhones will be lower than some worry. Those who aren't sure what they're doing will hopefully go the old route of making an Apple Store appointment and letting the professionals do their jobs. Those who want to get their hands dirty will likely have the skills and patience required to do what's needed.
It's also important to remember that Apple hasn't given us all the details we need here, too. No pricing has been made available yet. I think anyone expecting an official replacement iPhone 13 display to be cheap is dreaming, and it could still be cheaper to get a repair shop to put a third-party one on instead. Apple's stance on third-party components is a topic for another time, of course. And how cheap do those replacement Apple parts need to be to make Apple's own repairs simply not worth the extra money? Will they be cheap enough? So many questions, so few answers. At least for now.
Fixing is the goal
For me, the best iPhone is an iPhone that's been repaired by someone who knows what they're doing, whoever that happens to be. Apple's new moves mean those people don't necessarily have to work in a repair shop, and that's cool. But this seems like news that's unlikely to change the world the way some seem to think — either for good or bad.
Oliver Haslam has written about Apple and the wider technology business for more than a decade with bylines on How-To Geek, PC Mag, iDownloadBlog, and many more. He has also been published in print for Macworld, including cover stories. At iMore, Oliver is involved in daily news coverage and, not being short of opinions, has been known to 'explain' those thoughts in more detail, too.
Having grown up using PCs and spending far too much money on graphics card and flashy RAM, Oliver switched to the Mac with a G5 iMac and hasn't looked back. Since then he's seen the growth of the smartphone world, backed by iPhone, and new product categories come and go. Current expertise includes iOS, macOS, streaming services, and pretty much anything that has a battery or plugs into a wall. Oliver also covers mobile gaming for iMore, with Apple Arcade a particular focus. He's been gaming since the Atari 2600 days and still struggles to comprehend the fact he can play console quality titles on his pocket computer.
Absolutely agree. I've replaced cell phone and tablet screens and batteries. Not typically for the feint of heart. Even cracked the screen of a Nexus 7 trying to pry that thing apart, after doing another just fine. These were devices well out of warranty, where the cost of the screens/batteries were available at about half the cost of the 'professional' repair. I highly recommend just getting Apple Care and using that to get your phone fixed while it is still a relatively new device. Once past it's prime, do what you want. Even had the Apple techs bork an iPhone once during a battery replacement, under warranty. The result there was they handed me a new phone.
It really depends on the pricing that Apple will charge for the parts, or components. If Apple charges the same price as what Apple would charge a customer if Apple actually did the repair, then its not worth doing yourself.
Churchill said "Never has so much been owed by so many to so few". Now just change the words to "Never has so much been given up by so many to so few". The fraction of 1% tech channels and self fixit community has won! The fraction of 1% gets to tinker with their Apple products even more. Parts being made available should have always been the norm. That I agree with. But beyond that this is nonsense. Fact (look it up) statistics say for every person who gets a discount on a repair (that comparatively few ever need) will not be much more than the amount of people who go for a discount and get screwed by bad repair. I'm sure there will be the "oh that's not true!", yes it is. It is true. Anything that falls outside the knowledge base of a person and is given over to a shop is at the mercy. Car to an iPhone. But hey, as long as tech channels and the fixit community is happy.
WTH is a “damp squib”?
Squib: a small firework that burns with a hissing sound before exploding. A damp one is somewhat uneventful.
Ahh, OK. Thanks.
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