Why Apple changed its mind about the right to repair

Apple does not have a good reputation in terms of allowing customers to repair their hardware. In the last decade and more, Apple computers have become virtually impossible for users to service or upgrade, and the iPhone has always been a locked box. Adventurous owners could follow the guides from iFixit to try to make repairs themselves, but that’s a dangerous proposition. Remember, it was only earlier this year, when we discovered that replacing the screen on the iPhone 13 would disable Face ID. (Apple later dropped this.)

So Apple’s announcement earlier this week that it would start selling parts and tools directly to consumers and offering repair guides was a big surprise, and repair rights activists immediately hailed the move as a victory. “One of the most visible opponents of repairing access is a turnaround,” said Nathan Proctor, senior director of the Right to Repair campaign at Public Interest Research Groups (PIRG). “Apple’s move shows that what advocates of repair have been looking for has always been possible.” iFixit was similarly pleased, saying the move was “just the right thing Apple is doing.”

Both groups banned their statements noting several arrests. PIRG says Apple’s plans were not as comprehensive as the repair rights law being debated in more than two dozen states, while iFixit wants to “analyze the legal conditions and test the program” before it can say how much merit Apple deserves. But regardless, it’s still the main thing. So what prompted Apple to make this move?

Proctor told Engadget in an email exchange that he thinks “the combined pressure of consumers, regulators and shareholders has changed Apple’s thinking.” But he also quickly pointed out that the pressure was coming from Apple itself. “We’ve seen from some leaked 2019 emails that many inside Apple never wanted to be hostile to fixing the way Apple used to be,” he said. You’ve probably seen it [Apple co-founder Steve] Wozniak called [out] practices, but leaked emails show an internal concern that they were doing the wrong thing. ”

Apple recently made some more films showing that potential state oversight and oversight could lead to changes in the company. In 2020, Apple finally allowed users to set different browser and email apps as default on iPhones and iPads, and Siri became smarter in learning your preferences for different music apps when you ask it to play ringtones.

While it’s likely that Apple is considering government pressure, this change could also simply be part of a company that listens to its customers and corrects some of the mistakes it has made over the past five years. Take the new MacBook Pro, perhaps the biggest “mea culpa” Apple has ever offered: the company reversed its trend of looking for a slim and lightweight design at all costs and instead actually made the 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pro thicker and heavier than their predecessors. The company also added ports it had previously removed, shut down the unpopular Touch Bar, and generally made a laptop that seemed to listen to consumer feedback. The same can be said for his new home repair program.

Regis Duvignau / Reuters

Apple’s move this week can also be seen as an extension of a program the company launched last year, when it began providing parts and training to third-party service technicians who met Apple’s qualifications. Obviously, this is not the same as making it easier for anyone to make repairs, but opening up access means that the landscape of repairs for Apple products has changed significantly in recent years.

However, no matter how big a change this new plan is, Proctor and PIRG see this as a first step, something Apple will have to continue and expand to really deliver what repair rights activists think consumers deserve. “I think Right to Repair knows what it wants and it will be really hard to convince us to settle for something smaller than an open market for repairs,” Proctor said. “If they had taken this step a few years ago, we might have had to make a deal, but we have momentum and we will strengthen the repair as much as we can. I think most legislators agree: this is just one company and a limited program. The floor has been raised, but we are not close to the ceiling yet. ”

iFixit has a similar view of the situation. “[Apple] pioneers of glued batteries and proprietary screws, and are now taking the first steps on the way back to long-lasting products that can be repaired. iFixit believes that a sustainable, repairable world of technology is possible and they hope that Apple will follow this commitment to improve their repairability. ”

As for what’s to come, it sounds like Apple is committed to making this just the first step. The company said the repair options will initially focus on the most commonly repaired modules in the iPhone 12 and 13, such as the screen, battery and cameras, but says more options will come next year. We don’t know if Apple will ever give activists who have the right to repair everything they want. It seems unlikely that Apple will make an iPhone where you can simply open it and insert a new battery, like old phones.

Apple can often be the mainstay for the rest of the industry – just look at how quickly other phone manufacturers have dropped their headphone jacks. So it’s possible that we’ll see some other big consumer electronics companies pull similar moves. “I think other companies will follow,” Proctor said. He also noted that Google has just released software that allows the replacement screen on the Pixel 6 to be properly calibrated to work with the fingerprint sensor on the screen. ” We see a lot of changes in the works and we hope to be able to lay a new foundation [for] access to repairs. ” If that happens, we’ll probably remember Apple’s face as a catalyst for these changes – assuming the company follows its new stance and makes it easier for owners to fix a wider range of their products.

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Naveen Kumar

Friendly communicator. Music maven. Explorer. Pop culture trailblazer. Social media practitioner.

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