Apple Has (Kind of) Opened Up to the Right to Repair

Image Credit: iStock, PhillDanze

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On Wednesday, Apple finally opened the door for customers and independent technicians wanting to perform DIY fixes on iPhones and Mac computers. The crack is barely big enough to let in the light of day.

A new online store run by the Silicon Valley giant will let customers buy the parts and tools they need to repair some Apple products. Still, with the most complex electronic surgeries remaining in the province of authorized technicians, Apple, at its core, remains as restrictive as ever.

The Fix is In

To be sure, the debut of the Self Service Repair Store heralds a major shift in Apple’s policy, at least symbolically. The company has traditionally restricted the supply of replacement parts, and the privilege of installing them, to its own personnel and a network of Authorized Service Providers. This undemocratic status quo birthed the Right-to-Repair movement, a loose affiliation of consumer advocates, politicians, and economists who argued corporate restrictions on product repairs shortchange consumers. One advocacy organization, The Public Interest Research Group, estimates the cost of restrictions on electronics repairs runs US consumers $40 billion a year.

And so, will Apple’s change open up the floodgates of a DIY revolution? Not quite.

  • Apple is selling screens, batteries, cameras, and other parts for the iPhone 12, 13, and the 2022 iPhone SE, with parts for proprietary-M1-chip-equipped Macs on the way later this year. The fix stops there, however. Older devices outside this limited range are ineligible for the self-fix.
  • A replacement screen for the iPhone 12 Mini costs $226 and you still have to buy the tools to make the repair (Apple will rent them to you for $49 a week) — not to mention, spend precious hours of your life getting it right the first, second or third time. Having the same screen replaced by a technician through the company’s official repair program costs $229. The discount: three bucks.

Cooked in Congress: A kick in the pants from legislators is helping nudge the industry toward greater consumer-friendliness. In March, a bipartisan trio of US senators introduced a right to repair bill that, if passed, would force electronic equipment manufacturers to make spare parts available to owners and independent technicians. Earlier this year, Google and Samsung launched partnerships with phone repair company iFixit, aiming to sell spare parts for their phones.