The Apple third-party repair program is supposed to make it easier for small businesses and users to repair the best iPhones and other Apple kit. Unfortunately, however, it looks like it's not as good as it looks on paper.
A report in The Guardian says that "delays in the process and high pricing for parts make it almost impossible to compete with the juggernaut."
It's hard to say whether Apple is deliberately throttling access to parts and equipment so that more users come to it directly for repairs, but some companies certainly seem to think that this is the case.
Right to repair
The program came about in 2021, when Apple was pressured by a review into recognising the right to repair for customers beyond its own first-party service. At the time, it was lauded as a "way for small companies to compete with Apple to repair their products – such as the iPhone – using Apple tools and spare parts." Those that would benefit from the program however viewed it as a token effort to stave off potential legislation around the right to repair.
The Guardian Australia has now spoken to some third-party repairers in the US and Australia who suggest that long response times from Apple and expensive parts make it "almost impossible to be viable competitors" against Apple itself.
Even though Apple has indicated that there is an 8-week wait to get brought into the program, some repairers in the report indicate that the wait can be more like six months. "It feels like the applications sit in a black hole, without any point of contact within Apple to provide an update on their status," said one involved in the program.
The repair program should be a way that Apple shows that it's serious about the right to repair, but as repairers find themselves losing money, it becomes hard to see how it has helped in the long run. One business stated "repairs between 30 and 40 Apple products every week," and that "the average repair takes between an hour to an hour and a half. If it charges the rate Apple charges customers for repairs, then its maximum margin is about $60." With rent and labor, he adds, they are losing money.
It's unfortunate because the best iPhones in recent years have become more repairable than ever, receiving solid scores from the iFixit repairability watchdog. The right to repair is becoming more and more important, so maybe Apple will listen to those using its program, and continue to better serve its users.
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As iMore's Senior Staff writer, Tammy uses her background in audio and Masters in screenwriting to pen engaging product reviews and informative buying guides. The resident audiophile (or audio weirdo), she's got an eye for detail and a love of top-quality sound. Apple is her bread and butter, with attention on HomeKit and Apple iPhone and Mac hardware. You won't find her far away from a keyboard even outside of working at iMore – in her spare time, she spends her free time writing feature-length and TV screenplays. Also known to enjoy driving digital cars around virtual circuits, to varying degrees of success. Just don't ask her about AirPods Max - you probably won't like her answer.