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.