Apple’s Self Service Repair Doesn't Go Far Enough to Be Worth It

D.I.Y, or D.I why bother?

  • Apple will now sell you spare parts to repair your iPhone.
  • You’ll need to provide a serial number to access certain parts.
  • Repair shops won’t benefit much from this new program.
person handing over an iPhone with a cracked screen

PR MEDIA / Unsplash

Apple’s Self Service Repair program is up and running, but it doesn’t go far enough. 

From now on, if you crack your iPhone’s screen or suffer another common calamity, you can order parts directly from Apple and follow its official repair manuals. You can even rent the most comprehensive tool kit ever, which comes in two cases and weighs a total of 79 pounds, for $49. But if you were hoping for big savings, or if you run a repair shop and were hoping for easier access to official parts, then you’re out of luck. 

"I am a huge advocate of DIY, but I am not an advocate of Apple iPhone users trying to repair their phones without understanding how to do so," sustainability specialist Alex Dubro told Lifewire via email. 

(Don’t) Do It Yourself

The whole point of Self Service Repair is that anyone with a bit of experience—or courage—can buy parts and fix up their devices. It’s like buying a new rubber belt for your washing machine or a lightbulb. But from the very beginning, Apple seems to be using what repair advocate iFixit calls "scare tactics" to put people off. 

You can head over to the new site and browse the available options, but if you want to buy, say, a new screen for your iPhone 12, you can’t check out without first entering your iPhone’s serial number or IMEI (a unique identifier). There’s a reason for this: Apple matches the new part to your phone so that the FaceID camera in the new screen can be paired with your iPhone.

Last year, Apple made it impossible for any non-official repair person to replace the screen on the iPhone 13. If you tried, the FaceID would not function. Possibly due to bad publicity, Apple removed the restriction, but it’s part of a trend against repairability that is only now changing. 

I am not an advocate of Apple iPhone users trying to repair their phones without understanding how to do so.

This insistence on locking down repairs is a mere hindrance to individuals and a near disaster for independent repair shops. While you and I will typically only buy a replacement screen for a particular iPhone, a repair shop will want to keep parts on hand, especially commonly-broken parts like screens. 

If a repair shop wants to keep replacement screens in stock, it cannot order them from Apple’s new store. 

"If we want to make Right to Repair wildly successful, we need to make it open-source, open to auditing, less focused on money for Apple, more focused on independent repair shops, and not make consumers give their IMEI," says Dubro.

Manual Roll

But it’s not all bad. Apple has made a range of repair manuals available online for anyone to use. But like the spare parts, repair manuals are currently limited. You can find manuals for iPhone models, but Mac manuals are limited to quick start guides and the like, although the plan is to add more models (and also to make spare parts available outside the US).

The iPhone manuals are comprehensive. From a listing of part numbers for correct ordering of spares to tips like never reusing an old screw because "iPhone screw grooves are covered in adhesive that can’t be reused."

iPhone face down with a cracked back

Fili Santillán / Unsplash

The manuals also detail the use of Apple’s special tools, like a screen-pressing clamp. They really show how much goes into a proper repair. 

"When I worked in the defense sector years ago, there were all sorts of jigs and things to make sure that gaskets were correctly fitted so the IP ratings of the devices could be maintained. This is the sort of stuff you need to use to actually correctly assemble stuff," Mac user Danfango said in a MacRumors forum thread on the new repair program. "I’m glad they're being realistic about it and revealing exactly what is involved."

Cheaper? Not Really

So should you be doing it yourself? If you aim to save money, then no. According to The Verge’s Jon Porter, Apple’s replacement parts are barely cheaper than the equivalent in-house repair and sometimes cost the same. A battery replacement kit for the iPhone 12 and 13 is $69. The same repair, done by Apple, also costs $69. 

Other repairs are cheaper, but usually not by enough to make it worth your while. Is this repair program really something Apple is 100% behind, a part of its commitment to reuse, recycling, and environmental improvements in general?

Or is it a way to do the minimum to get ahead of Right to Repair legislation that would go way further? After all, the most impressive part of Apple’s offer is the repair manuals, but maybe those are just republished from its internal repair documents?

Either way, it’s a start, and that’s something, at least.

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