Apple to the Right to Repair movement: Okay, here you go

Apple — famous for selling high-priced, hard-to-repair hardware — is making its parts, tools and manuals available to anybody who asks.

From “Apple announces Self Service Repair” posted Wednesday on the Apple Newsroom:

Apple today announced Self Service Repair, which will allow customers who are comfortable with completing their own repairs access to Apple genuine parts and tools. Available first for the iPhone 12 and iPhone 13 lineups, and soon to be followed by Mac computers featuring M1 chips, Self Service Repair will be available early next year in the US and expand to additional countries throughout 2022. Customers join more than 5,000 Apple Authorized Service Providers (AASPs) and 2,800 Independent Repair Providers who have access to these parts, tools, and manuals.

The initial phase of the program will focus on the most commonly serviced modules, such as the iPhone display, battery, and camera. The ability for additional repairs will be available later next year.

“Creating greater access to Apple genuine parts gives our customers even more choice if a repair is needed,” said Jeff Williams, Apple’s chief operating officer. “In the past three years, Apple has nearly doubled the number of service locations with access to Apple genuine parts, tools, and training, and now we’re providing an option for those who wish to complete their own repairs”…

Self Service Repair is intended for individual technicians with the knowledge and experience to repair electronic devices. For the vast majority of customers, visiting a professional repair provider with certified technicians who use genuine Apple parts is the safest and most reliable way to get a repair.

First thought: It’s the world turned upside down. Second thought: This will kill third-party repair shops. Third thought: Don’t try this at home. Fourth thought: This service will create more third-party repair shops. Fifth thought: Apple would be happy to be out of the repair business. Sixth thought: Service doesn’t scale.

UPDATE: iFixit’s take…

Everyone Is a Genius: Apple’s landmark DIY repair announcement is a remarkable concession to our collective competency. Apple has long claimed that letting consumers fix their own stuff would be dangerous, both to us and our stuff. Now, with renewed governmental interest in repair markets—and soon after notably bad press for parts pairing—Apple has found unexpected interest in letting people fix the things they own.

31 Comments

  1. Don Donofrio said:
    That is a lot of thoughts. I am glad you shared all of them, I always like your insights.

    Some other thoughts (I guess really questions):
    – will this be a profit center at all for Apple or run at a loss?
    – how will they handle things like the pairing of parts to the Secure Enclave, will they give users a tool to do that?
    – Will screw driver kits at iFixit sell out?

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    November 17, 2021
  2. Hugh Lovell said:
    RE: Fifth thought. Yes, definitely, I think. I watched the decline of in-store repair at the Genius Bar over 14 years working at stores (not as a genius, but I could see what’ was going on). It’s “read these training manuals and start your first shift next Monday” these days instead of technicians who can dive deep into the hardware and software. Most stuff is shipped off to a depot for part replacement instead of performing the repair or replacement in the store.

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    November 17, 2021
    • Bart Yee said:
      @Hugh Not to discount your experience in any way BUT, in my experience and observations in electronics and automotive repair, there are guessers vs diagnosticians, parts swappers (sometimes en masse) vs pinpoint part or module assessment, and experienced technique vs first to fifth time trying.

      At the retail stores, especially over 270 US stores, is it reasonable to have and maintain an on site repair area with “skilled” repair technicians to promise some or most repairs while you wait (under 2 hours), same or next day, or sent to central depot and returned to user by delivery or return pickup? Not to mention 270 separate store parts depots from iPhone 5S to current (assuming a 7 year parts policy)? Or a hybrid of repairs based on model popularity and whether to ship out or do in-store?

      And then the issue of deeper dive into more software, app, or user configuration issues or real malware / hacking problems? Who and how long to direct to?

      I’m sure Ahrendts and successors continually debate and evaluate this issue of convenience vs accuracy, locality vs experience and skills, and user needs vs wants. The one option the retail Apple Store can provide (if they do) may be loaner products to tide one over until unit is repaired (or diagnosed) and returned.

      0
      November 17, 2021
    • Tommo_UK said:
      @Hugh completely agree. Genius bars are now great touch points for customer service provided it fits it the brief of a KB article or company policy. Otherwise they’re just pick up and drop off points for your precious device which is wiped replaced or shipped off for repair.

      More like Happy Helper Bars than Geniuses these days, which is no reflection whatsoever on the employees for whom I’ve nothing but respect, however Apple’s deliberate dumbing down of the genius bars leaves those of us who remember what they used to be like and offer, often sorely disappointed.

      Having said that, I recently had my AirPod Pros replaced in-store because a known manufacturing defect over a year ago left them vulnerable to developing a problem. They took them off for testing, discovered one had indeed developed a problem with the noise cancellation and tizzing, and replaced both AirPod Pros, not just the faulty one, along with new tips. 10/10..

      1
      November 17, 2021
  3. Jerry Doyle said:
    “…. First thought: It’s the world turned upside down. Second thought: This will kill third-party repair shops. Third thought: Don’t try this at home. Fourth thought: This service will create more third-party repair shops. Fifth thought: Apple would be happy to be out of the repair business. Sixth thought: Service doesn’t scale.”

    Seventh thought: It looks to give the stock price a bounce this morning. Right?

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    November 17, 2021
  4. Horace Dediu said:
    First thought: This will have no effect on anything except to slightly dampen the whining.

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    November 17, 2021
    • Tommo_UK said:
      @Horace I’ll have cheese with my whine thanks.

      Follow up thought:

      Apple could launch a new line of repair tools (iTools) so people can self-service their devices with both approved parts and tools.

      Price: $99 for the set, or $199 for the Pro set (you have to have the Pro set to service any Pro device).

      Free if you buy AppleCare.

      iTools also fit snugly into an optional $199 leather pouch and are made of ceramic to minimise risk of damaging electronics, and must be handled with care or discolour. Pro case ($299) includes inbuilt AirTag.

      Leather case is not impervious to marks if carried in jeans.

      iTools should not be carried loose in your jeans outside of the case or may both pierce your jeans and puncture your groin. AppleCare is not a substitute for good personal care, and iTools should be kept way from, children.

      Finally: attempting to carry an Apple iTools onto an aircraft may put you on the do-not-fly list.

      1
      November 17, 2021
  5. Jerry Doyle said:
    Eighth thought: One cannot help but to admire a company that responds to consumer complaints in ways that annuls, negates or overrides the origins of the complaints.

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    November 17, 2021
  6. David Emery said:
    A small number of people will be thrilled. A much larger number of people will find out how bad their soldering skills are, and end up buying a new phone. 🙂

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    November 17, 2021
    • Horace Dediu said:
      And a huge number may finally learn what soldering means.

      10
      November 17, 2021
      • Gregg Thurman said:
        Surface soldering is a very expensive proposition. Every year ICs will have new, differing pin positions, requiring new soldering rigs that may or may not be compatible with existing desoldering stations. The idea of home repair is such an incredible joke.

        1
        November 17, 2021
  7. Randy McCleary said:
    9th thought:
    – APPL as hardware manufacturer and in-warranty replacement only, then parts and 3rd party or purchase a refurbished device? Keeps their on-site geniuses working with latest hardware only. -RJ

    0
    November 17, 2021
  8. Rodney Avilla said:
    The biggest problem this will create is a big cloud over the 2nd hand markets. If you buy a used iPhone, you won’t know who may have tinkered with the insides.

    8
    November 17, 2021
  9. Rare & cosmetic concession. Deep in Apple’s latest 10-K on page 48 is a section on accrued warranty and guarantees. Because of the new way people purchase and trade in iPhones Apple really has a handle on the cost of warranty claims. Those costs have declined from ~$3.9 billion in 2019 to $2.7 billion. Quality control and trade-in programs may be the reasons. This allows significant wiggle room for more lenient handset replacements if you take it in to an Apple store or call them for warranty service. Nevertheless they’re unlikely to take back the iPhone you trashed out on the garage workbench. Who does that anymore? Confession, in the 60s & 70s I tore apart more small engines, calculators, tv sets, car cassette players and SLR’s than imaginable. I rarely was able to put Humpty Dumpty back together again.
    SIDENOTE: Apple shares up over 2% right now. That’s not about right to repair. That’s about performance!

    2
    November 17, 2021
  10. John Konopka said:
    How will this kill third party repair shops? Seems good for them to have better access to parts, tools and information.

    My guess is that the number of people interested in DIY repairs is really low. When I worked on a computerized product we produced an interface library so people could program it themselves. I think we got about 3 out of 2,000 customers interested.

    If you already have experience fixing things and have a workbench and tools and such then fixing your iPhone may be an accessible skill. Not so much if you are starting from scratch.

    1
    November 17, 2021
  11. Daniel Epstein said:
    A couple of thoughts! First Apple is likely “infamous” not famous for selling expensive difficult to repair gear. Also not very high on the list of reasons why Apple is famous. The people who complain most about price and repairability of the hardware have a mindset which almost always views the equipment as commodities. Apple tries not to make commodity gear. If you buy an expensive device it is often more expensive to fix.
    I do think though that besides being a nod to the right of repair crowd this also might be a shift in design and repair philosophy overall. Expendable items and discrete components might be easier to replace if it also means easier to manufacture. Customer happiness long term is an important part of the Apple experience.
    Now we can talk about manufacturer’s mark ups on replacement parts and that is usually high. Apple has to maintain spare parts for many of its products for a long time after the product has been discontinued. Why not make that a business that is more of a profit center than just a cost. And will keep regulatory issues under some control. Win win. All of this is probably unnoticeable or almost invisible to the bottom line. As Horace said.

    2
    November 17, 2021
  12. Lalit Jagtap said:
    In the big schema, I think this is a great move by apple to encourage more hands on doing by individuals in USA. We have lost the skills and edge of building or fixing real physical stuff. Now I can even teach high school kids from economically challenged background to do Apple Hardware Repair along with App Development”. Hopefully this will expand and increase trade skills in the USA. That way next big high tech factory might be in Asia but hopefully in USA.

    Since 2010, I have repaired broken screens, replaced batteries, and upgraded memories of Apple devices. But finding apple genuine part on Amazon (wold west) or Ebay by avoiding bad suppliers from China is frustrating experience. In fact last month during presentation my daughter who is Math senior at UIUC broke her MacBook Air screen. And it was big scramble as timeline to get it repaired from Apple or authorized shop was too long. Next time I can repair any Apple machine with access to “parts from Apple” directly.

    2
    November 17, 2021
  13. Kirk DeBernardi said:
    Enter self repair. Exit warranty coverage.

    Tech grease-monkeys? Start your screwdrivers, but…caveat emptor.

    (BTW — you’re whining has paid off handsomely. Thanks 🙂 )

    1
    November 17, 2021
  14. 2016, Jan: Bought a Nikon D810 DSLR & lens for $6k or so. Broke it during a shoot days later. Repaired it myself as I bought it overseas & Nikon USA warranty does not service Nikon Japan. Broke D810 several times since & repaired it myself. I photograph factories & major events. Nikon paid for itself in 1st year, after repairs. In 12 years I’ve required 2 screen repairs to iPhone/iPads, abused far more than my collection of Nikons. I don’t recall any repairs to Macintosh, Apple printers, G5, Macbook or peripherals I’ve bought since 80s. Ever. Charger cables suck tho. Apple quality is the value proposition that keeps on giving…iPhone 13 Pro is no exception.

    3
    November 17, 2021
  15. Kirk DeBernardi said:
    Regarding today’s pop —

    Just as there’s no rationale for when it plunges after some one-off soup du jour event, I believe it too can pop on same.

    Go figure.

    Maybe we should put a name on this pop kind of activity and call it the “Come Around.”

    Apple tends to be thrashed around about a 5 to 10 point spread for quite some time as all the news tumbles in over time about how great or lousy things are, and then finally the market comes around to the reality of what IS and then shifts forward on AAPL.

    We’ve seen it before and we’ll see it again. It’s almost a reliable movement matrix at this point. Us Longs have seen this Patience&Pop theme forever.

    Is this the beginning of our march towards 160?

    1
    November 17, 2021
  16. Fred Stein said:
    Brilliant move. For Apple, repair is a necessary service, not a profitable one.

    They can get incremental margin selling screen repair kits. This biz is easy to scale, no labor. I see lots of broken screen among younger people (and I don’t get around much). Most likely they procrastinate the trips to a repair shop or to Apple. Self, friend, or parent does the work.

    Oh yeah, better customer sat.

    2
    November 17, 2021
    • Gregg Thurman said:
      Brilliant move. For Apple, repair is a necessary service, not a profitable one.

      I can remember when gas stations sold maps, fan belts and cans of oil as part of its engine, brakes, and radiator repair service. That is until they found out they could make much more selling potato chips, beer and ice.

      It’s a revenue per square feet of floor space equation. More of Apple’s Store square footage is being given over to hardware sales than existed just a few short years ago.

      I also note that self repair is limited to ARM equipped products, wherein many separate structures are now integrated into the processor, thus eliminating third parties trying to use non-spec or used components.

      Did Apple give up anything? Yeah, the staffing and logistics costs of maintaining very low margin (if any) factory repair revenue streams.

      I’ll bet the “change” in repair philosophy occurred when Apple got its ducks in a row, and could hand over repair in the best possible way, with the transition planned in conjunction with the M-1’s timeline.

      Politician’s will take credit for Apple’s “change of heart” without disclosing Apple is never bullied into doing something that doesn’t have a solid business case supporting it.

      3
      November 17, 2021
  17. Miguel Ancira said:
    Can we agree to not give airtime to those who try to fix but end up voiding their warranty? It is bound to happen..

    2
    November 17, 2021
  18. Bart Yee said:
    It is brilliant of Apple to start with only the latest iPhone 12, 13, and M1 Macs (note no iPads, AirPods or Watch) and introduce in 2022. These latest products may have assembly (and repair) techniques which lend themselves to easier repair than previous Ive designs. Plus Apple’s supply chain clout is able to provide Apple with incremental ways to leverage parts procurement at even lower cost while providing Apple OEM quality and margin. Third, as many noted, this squashes some of the noise around right to repair (iFixIt – we got concessions!) while burnishing Apple’s user friendlier image.

    Now DIY repairers have the choice – likely more expensive but documented and (probably warranteed parts) vs seeking out used, refurbished or unknown sourced repair parts. In this area, some repair shops will be offering “aftermarket” parts and cost differential as a selling point to prospective customers, or customers may insist on Apple supplied parts. Only time will tell if Apple is successful here, and the metrics for success will vary depending on the stakeholder’s metric. Suffice it to say, if self repair keeps users in the Apple ecosystems, it’s a win for Apple.

    2
    November 17, 2021
    • Bart Yee said:
      Note that nowhere in the announcement is mention of similar programs for iPhones 11 and older. IMO this is likely because parts for those are unlikely to still be in production (maybe the 11) and you’re getting to the 3 year and older likely replacement cycle. For value conscious broken iPhone owners, they can still choose Apple repair, Apple approved service repair, or independent repair (with potentially variable results) or consider putting that cost towards a new device.

      1
      November 17, 2021
      • Bart Yee said:
        Finally, with Apple indirectly encouraging DIY repairs affect the secondhand market where older damaged iPhones are harvested for used repair parts, will that make broken iPhones more valuable if even a little, and will older units last a little bit longer? I think no to all the above simply because there is no added Apple approved supply parts outside of Apple authorized.

        1
        November 17, 2021
  19. Bart Yee said:
    The warranty implications of DIY repair with Apple parts has not yet been elucidated.

    0
    November 17, 2021
    • Kirk DeBernardi said:
      @ Bart Yee —

      I highly doubt Apple will warranty-back others tinkering one whiff.

      Gain a right. Lose a warranty

      0
      November 18, 2021
  20. David Emery said:
    For what it’s worth, here’s my repair experience with Macbook Pros: my treasured 2009 had a motherboard failure while I was traveling in 2012, about a month before AppleCare expired. I dropped it off at the Newport Beach CA store late Thursday, and picked it up at the McLean VA store (back home) the following Tuesday.

    That machine finally suffered a motherboard failure, I need to take it to a computer recycling place (it’s in pieces on a shelf.)

    Its replacement, my 2014 Macbook Pro, got a new battery earlier this year. It was showing significant ‘swollen battery’ and capacity was down to about 80%. I also bought a refurb ’15 MBP about 2 years ago, that’s the machine I traded in for my new M1 Max.

    I also had an Apple G5 desktop that went in for an AppleCare repair. I don’t think I ever had another that broke, all of my desktops (starting with the SE) were retired still in working condition.

    That’s not counting a couple of hard drive replacements in desktops, laptops and Mini that were “do-it-yourself” repairs.

    1
    November 17, 2021

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