How Apple devices are like leaky kitchen sinks

From Hayes Brown's "Biden's new executive order could let you fix your iPhone" posted Friday on MSNBC:

It can be easy to forget how much of a quasi-scam it is that only Apple is able to repair Apple products. If the plumbing under your sink begins to crumble and leak, to use a hypothetical drawn from my recent experiences, you call a plumber who can just go out and buy parts to replace the failing ones. It’s not like Moen (or whatever manufacturer) made it so that only its trained technicians can open up your sink to swap out specialty pipes that only it makes that are compatible with your faucet.

Yet, for example, if your iPhone’s camera is cracked, that’s exactly what happens. The company restricts access to spare parts and diagnostics that would allow an independent repair shop to easily make that fix. Even the stores that are “authorized” to do repairs are still limited to a few basic tasks. Anything more complicated than a broken screen or dead battery still requires the store to ship that product back to Apple, Vice reported in 2017.

It’s not like Moen (or whatever manufacturer) made it so that only its trained technicians can open up your sink to swap out specialty pipes that only it makes that are compatible with your faucet.

Which brings us back to Biden’s new order, which is focused broadly on promoting competition between businesses, a much-needed initiative given how a few giant companies dominate their sectors of the economy. Among its 72 provisions is one that finds “tech and other companies impose restrictions on self and third-party repairs, making repairs more costly and time-consuming, such as by restricting the distribution of parts, diagnostics, and repair tools.”

My take: Right to repair. After all these years, who knew it could be done with a flick of a pen?

BTW, keep your eye on Tim Wu and Lina Kahn. It's only been a few months, and look where we are.


  1. Jerry Doyle said:
    Governing by EO borders on the ludicrous. The EO subsequently can be undone easily by another president through the same easy stroke of a pen. Biden already has undone over 100 EOs signed by the previous president. If the opposition party gains Executive power in three years the odds are favorable that all, or certainly most all, of president Biden’s EOs will be rescinded by the new president in the Oval Office. This back & forth in governing is not fair to big business, not fair to industries and certainly not fair to mom & pops. Most important, it is not fair to the affected consumer.

    There is little continuity of integrity in governing through Executive Orders. EOs are a manifestation of weakness in the Executive Branch’s ability to govern efficiently. The process is a political show and not much more than a “dog & pony” show.

    So, the president of the Executive Branch takes out his/her pen & declares “Ordered” what the president was unable to get done successfully through working with the legislative branch of government.

    Voters elect our leaders & representatives to work together, not to go separate governing paths. To reiterate & to recapitulate: EOs are unfair to companies and to consumers.

    July 10, 2021
  2. Michael Goldfeder said:
    As Jerry said, EO’s are nothing more than political fanfare after being unable to get anything approved through the legislative branch as an actual law. That being said, I wouldn’t have some local mechanic repair my once expensive Infiniti. I take it to the dealer as I’m not going to attempt any repairs on my own. If something goes wrong, then they’re on the hook. Having anyone other than an “Apple Certified Dealer” do anything on an iPhone is equally as problematic.

    Many folks have hip and knee replacements, but they’re not as good as what we were all born with from the start. It’s a lesser substitute. Same for putting another component part inside an iPhone or Apple device. Better off going to Apple to have it repaired.

    I read Steve Wozniak chimed in yesterday with his opinion to allow any iPhone consumer to self repair. Do so at your own risk is the caveat. Probably looking for another 15 minutes of fame.

    July 10, 2021
  3. Bart Yee said:
    It seems every guy (looking at mostly guys) who ever built a computer out of commodity and standardized parts wants to screw (literally) with fixing their own phones, especially with the help of various YouTube videos and tutorials. Most of the parts they can access are harvested from used devices or second sourced / factory seconds, overruns snuck out of the factory or copies made by someone else to questionable quality, somewhat similar to auto parts.

    Now I’ve seen some indie repair folks who have the tools, diagnostic gear, magnifiers, even capability of board level surface mount parts repairs but my sense is the quality of repair can be variable. More to the point, every new iPhone or iPad model can be a new design and internal packaging so learning and gaining repair experience can take time.

    Then there is the issue of warranty for both the repair and device itself, any damage done to other functions, and quality of reassembly to maintain water resistance and full function. Cost is always a concern for users so having more repair options is helpful but determining quality of repairs will essentially be left to Yelp! Reviews.

    Sometimes you really get what you pay for and many times not.

    July 11, 2021
    • Fred Stein said:
      I upvoted.

      Some of these repair guys might be called “kinda scammy”, doncha think?

      July 11, 2021
  4. John Blackburn said:
    Perhaps we shall see whether the right to repair is necessarily compatible with the luxury of powerful lightweight affordable devices.

    July 11, 2021
  5. Rodney Avilla said:
    Maybe Apple could consider selling iPhones with a modified warranty, allowing people to side load or physically alter or repair. Once you side load, the software warranty is void, and any hardware that is affected by the non-Apple software. And once you alter/repair outside of Apple, your hardware warranty becomes void. Not sure if this is practical or not.

    July 11, 2021
  6. Steven Philips said:
    I don’t have much of a problem with a “right” to do a lot of things. As long as you take responsibility for having done it. Not expecting someone else to pick up the tab when you screw it up! Oh, Apple, fix it! No, I didn’t do anything! 🙁

    July 11, 2021
  7. Gregg Thurman said:
    BTW, keep your eye on Tim Wu and Lina Kahn. It’s only been a few months, and look where we are.

    Where are we? Wu and Kahn haven’t done anything yet. On the other hand the media is busily dusting off old articles to make them look fresh and informative, when in fact all they are doing is polishing up their creative (and horribly uninformed) writing skills

    Except for screens and batteries the average (and even the smarter ones) don’t have the skill and equipment to repair Apple products. Even well financed electronics shops will struggle to keep up with all the variations of a Bill Of Materials list, especially those that are surface mounted on a multi-layered circuit board.

    Those advocating DIY repairs are only really talking about screens and batteries. Realistically nothing else is DIY repairable.

    July 11, 2021
  8. Randy McCleary said:
    So let me get this straight, we’re pitting 4yr EOs against 1yr annual product changes? -RJ

    July 11, 2021
  9. 3rd party repair raises warranty issues. What repair voids the warranty? Years ago I needed an iPad ER fast before a major presentation. A mall kiosk repair tech who spoke no English broke open this old iPad Air 2 back before Apple got stingy with the parts. Display and other smashed pieces removed. Here it is still working in 2021. Did he add a spy chip? I seriously doubt it, no room at the inn.
    Any producer of something more complex than honey needs to be concerned about customers opening up the box. Mall kiosks or slick repair centers, they deserve the chance to serve such a large and expensive consumer product segment. 3rd party printer ink finally won their case. Market forces will force out the shoddy shops and some affordable solutions may prevail. Apple’s own warranty service will continue to shine in work and cost as it has for me and my clients. I realize there are exceptions yet from the beginning Apple chose to replace iPhones rather than haggle out loud in-store. I still advise dissatisfied iPhone buyers (rare but real) to take their device to an Apple Store rather than a Ma Bell store. Some even get a newer model as a replacement. I think Apple learns from returns of used devices with less common issues.
    Outside of the US warranty repair is also a big topic among those who know not of what they speak. Some nations force Apple to a 2 year warranty.

    July 11, 2021
    • DMW said:
      What’s wrong with a country, like Australia, mandating warranties for defects match the expected useful life of a product?

      As traditionally cell phone contracts often require handset payments for 2 years, then that has been deemed a reasonable expected life.

      July 13, 2021
  10. Steven Noyes said:
    I would expect this from the NYT or the WaPo:

    “ It can be easy to forget how much of a quasi-scam it is that only Apple is able to repair Apple products.”

    Start out with a blatant lie which builds into your audience’s ignorance and keep piling it on.

    July 12, 2021

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