Apple Wants to Do All Your iPhone Repairs

It's all about control

Key Takeaways

  • If you break your iPhone 13 screen and don’t go to Apple or an affiliate for repair, you could lose FaceID.
  • iPhone screen repair is already expensive, but the added complexity of Apple's restrictions will impact costs even at independent shops.
  • This could give Apple control of the iPhone repair market, allowing it to set all of the conditions and prices.
Closeup on someone holding a smartphone with a shattered screen.

Witthaya Prasongsin / Getty Images

The fact that Apple would attempt to build in a way for FaceID to be disabled if the screen is replaced by a non-affiliated repair shop is plenty of cause for concern.

Apple tried to make it very difficult for independent repair shops to replace the iPhone 13's screen without disabling FaceID. Thanks to a microcontroller chip paired with the screen, only Apple can make a swap easily. Well, Apple, an Apple Independent Repair Provider (IRP), or an Apple Authorized Service Provider (ASP).

Other repair shops (or individuals) will have to perform a much more laborious process that involves carefully transferring the current chip to the new screen. Apple has since begun walking back the decision after much backlash, but this likely isn't the end of it.

"This decision by Apple means the work of independent repairs is undermined unless they get 'official Apple repairer' status—which is extremely expensive to attain," Matt Thorne, co-founder at refurbished iPhone retailer reboxed, said in an email to Lifewire, "It's a major hurdle for the Right to Repair and second-hand community."

The Cost

Replacing a busted iPhone screen is a fairly common repair since cracked smartphone screens are extremely common. Depending on the model, replacing a broken iPhone screen could cost you anywhere from $129 to $329 through Apple. So it stands to reason that some folks might be willing to use a third-party or unofficial screen as a replacement if it makes the bill smaller.

Someone juggling bills and debt with a calculator, laptop, and paper bills and an empty wallet.

Seksan Mongkhonkhamsao / Getty Images

If a less expensive repair ends up disabling a frequently used feature, as could be the case with the iPhone 13, it could discourage a trip to the repair shop entirely. Or, as Thorne points out, "... the price over repair increases, leading people to upgrade their broken device rather than repair it." If it costs almost half the original price of the phone to replace a cracked screen, it's easy to see how that could happen.

While it remains to be seen if higher repair costs would lead to device upgrades or replacements rather than maintenance, it likely still means higher repair costs. For an independent shop to properly replace an iPhone 13's screen, it'll either need to become an ASP or affiliate IRP or buy expensive equipment. Either option will cost a lot of money, and that cost will impact repair bills.

Tough Choices

If Apple tries something like this again, whether it goes back on its word or finds a new component to exploit, users will have some tough decisions to make. Official repair options are relatively expensive, and Apple affiliate repairs likely won't be much better. So if they want to (or need to) pay less for a new screen, they might have to be willing to sacrifice FaceID.

Someone using small tools to repair a smartphone.

Boonchai wedmakawand / Getty Images

"Being able to repair Apple products using Apple tools and parts would mean repairs could be carried out to the same standard as taking the device directly to Apple," said Paul Walsh, Director of technology refurbishing company WeSellTek, in an email to Lifewire, "but given the high cost of Apple parts, it is highly likely that users would give up the use of FaceID in order to get a cheaper repair."

So it would arguably be beneficial for an independent shop to become an Apple IRP, but becoming an IRP has its drawbacks. And becoming an ASP is costly for a shop while also being extremely limiting. With Apple being so averse to relinquishing control, neither option seems beneficial.

By making one of the most common smartphone repair tasks so difficult for unaffiliated entities, Apple seems to have been trying to corner its market. The imposed hardware and software restrictions could still be intended as the new norm, which would leave iPhone users with only one choice: go through Apple.

"This would mean that if the user needed to repair their phone, the only option would be to go directly to Apple or via an IRP," said Walsh, "In either case, they would be forced to pay the price dictated by Apple."

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