‘Right to repair’ victory likely to spread beyond Apple

The threat from Lina Kahn’s FTC to root out “unlawful restrictions” seems to have done the trick.

From Brian X. Chen’s “What Apple’s New Repair Program Means for You (and Your iPhone)” in Thursday’s New York Times:

Apple was historically one of the most vocal opponents to the “right to repair” movement. The company cited security risks — like a customer’s data being hijacked during an unauthorized repair — as a primary reason to keep parts and instructions out of public reach.

For non-Apple customers, this news is thus significant. If Apple, one of the world’s most valuable public companies, is setting a new standard with repairs, you can expect other tech manufacturers to follow — especially if they want to avoid fines from the federal government.

“This announcement marks significant progress toward securing our right to repair, and we’re proud of Apple for making this bold move,” said [Kyle Wiens, chief executive of iFixit, a company that sells parts and publishes instructions for consumers to repair their electronics.]

My take: I was pretty sure Biden’s pick to head the FTC would have consequences. Some of you were skeptical.

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20 Comments

  1. Greg Lippert said:
    This is a positive development but probably for the minority. Most people will still have Apple Care and use Apple to repair devices.

    However, this should help users of older devices that dont have Apple care – or for whom it’s expired. For example, my wife has a nearly brand new AW4 and the screen cracked after a drop – just out of Apple care. Was more expensive to repair than buy a new SE. Now I will look into a third party screen repair so I can give to one of my kids.

    1
    November 18, 2021
  2. Jerry Doyle said:
    The old cliché has merit here: “…. be careful what you wish for.”

    2
    November 18, 2021
  3. Michael Goldfeder said:
    You also have the right to repair your Lamborghini and Bugatti. Good luck with those too.

    1
    November 18, 2021
  4. John Deere tractors & other farm equipment are included. Computers & sensors in many models actually prevent unauthorized repairs in the field, literally. I wouldn’t want to encounter a runaway combine harvester but repairing some items must be left to factory trained mechanics. A service call to get a Deere mechanic out to your farm can take a week or more & $10k, while your harvest remains on the stalk. This is a larger issue than iPhone screen replacements.

    2
    November 18, 2021
  5. Daniel Epstein said:
    Interesting to debate cause and effect in cases like this. Apple has been readjusting its course on hardware design (see computers with better repairability and ports) and customer relations. In this case it is probably for the better. Could be the weight of the argument and the relative worth of maintaining the old stance has changed Apple’s direction. Doubt it is just one person’s government appointment. To me it actually also makes sense if one is trying to be environmentally friendly. We will see if there are other issues where Apple doesn’t change as easily. This one is pretty easy for Apple to accept.

    1
    November 18, 2021
  6. Fred Stein said:
    1) Correlation is NOT causation.

    Surely Apple has been working on this for years, not months.

    To make DIY safe and secure means Apple had to design in materials, some of which are strong and rigid and some flexible; And design parts that can be replaced by amateurs; And ensure that repaired phones are not hackable; and ensure that replaced batteries that won’t catch fire; And ensure that repaired phones remain waterproof.

    Note this applies to iPhone 12 and beyond. Just guessing, Apple set the above design objectives in 2019 or earlier.

    8
    November 18, 2021
    • Gregg Thurman said:
      1) Correlation is NOT causation.

      I think the rush to claim victory by the RTR crowd is a joke and has absolutely nothing to do President Biden’s appointees.

      My electronics firm offered repair services to attract buyers of our electronics. Repair is a labor intensive, low margin business, and I can readily see Apple wanting out of it. Look what happened to in Store repairs. But first Apple had to establish a third party repair policy and support system that didn’t result in tarnishing its brand.

      Claims by Apple of the danger of user repairs was legitimate until iPhone and Mac devices were designed such that RTR were reasonably possible.

      Reread the announcement, Authorized third party and user repair support only extend forward from the iPhone 11 and M series Macs. User repairability has been designed/built into these devices (nothing older), which means planning for repairability began at least 7 years ago.

      So take your right to repair victory lap, you did Apple a big favor by concealing the reasoning behind the apparent change in policy.

      5
      November 18, 2021
      • Fred Stein said:
        Yup, long time in planning.

        I’m delighted that RTR, etc claim victory. It was always about their own ego massaging (being polite).

        The real winners are users and Apple. Users can keep their devices longer, replace their screens more frequently and save a few bucks. Apple outsources a low margin business, and gets decent margins on replacement kits. Apple competitors will have a hard time matching this.

        2
        November 18, 2021
  7. Fred Stein said:
    Let’s have a laugh.

    “Samsung announces DIY screen replacement for Galaxy Fold 1, 2, and 3, to be available in June 2022. We are thrilled to tell owners of Fold 1 that the device they bought for $2000 and is now worth $900 on resale can be repaired next year when it will likely be worth $600. The screen replacement kit costs only $300.”

    8
    November 18, 2021
  8. Robert Paul Leitao said:
    The number of iPhone owners around the world is rising at an astonishingly fast pace. For Apple, this move is not only timely it is also economically efficient. Apple provides the parts for purchase. Others assume the risk of repairs. It’s an absolute PR win and resolves a growing issue of repair logistics and availability.

    6
    November 18, 2021
    • Gregg Thurman said:
      Robert gets it. Apple gets out of a low margin business, and replaces it with a profitable repair parts model, while transferring responsibility to others.

      2
      November 18, 2021
      • Bart Yee said:
        @Gregg
        “ Apple gets out of a low margin business, and replaces it with a profitable repair parts model, while transferring responsibility to others.”

        Add “while allowing others to take repair responsibility if the user wants it or want their chosen repair firm to take it.” Apple has now given choice of repair to the user, consistent with choice on app tracking. User can be responsible, AASP can be responsible, 3rd party repair can be responsible or they can pay Apple to be responsible.

        As noted, Apple can still make decent margins selling Apple branded OEM parts and parts warranty.

        1
        November 18, 2021
  9. Jacob Feenstra said:
    From an economic point of view Apple has little to worry about. The chance that DIY leads to full-blown failure—eat your dog food and throw up—may be just as high as people succeeding. Those who fail will be forced to go up the ladder in the ecosystem: buying a new or newer Apple item. And those who are good at DIY (including unauthorized repair shops) can now get genuine parts.

    For me and my wife it makes little difference, we mostly take our damaged phones to an “unauthorized” repair shop in Asia and then pass the item on to relatives.

    3
    November 18, 2021
  10. Fred Stein said:
    One more big advantage that Apple made clear and most ignored: Recycling.

    This DIY announcement and the years of planning and prep are part of Apple’s bigger ‘green initiative. It’s not just window dressing or add-on, it’s intrinsic to Apple’s values and designs.

    1
    November 18, 2021
  11. Fred Stein said:
    And more..

    This expands “retail at home” a theme promoted by our beloved Gene Munster and Loup. Genius Bar at the kitchen table.

    Yet another Apple innovation, long in planning, accelerated by Covid-19.

    0
    November 18, 2021
  12. Robert Paul Leitao said:
    Please keep in mind Apple is offering DIY or 3rd-party repair options starting with the iPhone 12 & iPhone 13 series handsets. Most likely this step has been planned for a while and user repairability was incorporated into the designs. It’s still no replacement for the low cost of AppleCare+ which is available on all new iPhone models for $9.99 per month or less, depending on the model. In other words, I don’t this this was in any way an abrupt change in policy. It’s been planned for a while.

    3
    November 18, 2021
  13. Kirk DeBernardi said:
    Say what you will, it remains a victory in a teapot for — as Mr. Dediu so aptly put it — a whining few.

    Good optics for Apple, and let’s let Ms. Kahn believe she and her entourage had something to do with it.

    1
    November 19, 2021

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