Apple's Self Service Repair Program Benefits Them More Than You

Not that we’re complaining

Key Takeaways

  • Apple’s Self Service Repair will make spare parts, repair manuals, and tools available to all.
  • In 2022, Apple will add Mac support, and expand outside the US.
  • Right-to-Repair legislation may have forced Apple’s hand.
Person using various tools to repair an iPhone

Apple

In a plot twist that nobody foresaw, Apple will soon sell you the necessary parts and tools to do your own iPhone repairs. 

Not only that but other devices—Macs, for example—will be added to this new Self Service Repair Program later. Apple will even provide repair guides. All this from a company known for its pathetic hardware repairability scores and for claiming that iPhone repairs are too dangerous for the average user to attempt. But will people really start repairing their own iPhones? Or is Apple just trying to get right-to-repair legislators off its back?

"At a minimum, being able to find the battery and screen you need at the 3, 4, or 5-year mark should make any home repair easier, especially if those parts are reasonably priced," iFixit's Kevin Purdy told Lifewire in response to a question about right-to-repair laws.

Do It Yourself

Self Service Repair will begin early next year in the US and roll out to other countries throughout 2022. To start, you'll be able to buy common parts like the iPhone display, camera, and battery, along with the tools and repair manuals to complete the repairs. The program also allows you to send in old parts for recycling. Apple says the new Apple Self Service Repair Online Store will "offer more than 200 individual parts and tools" for repairing iPhone 12 and 13 models initially. 

Self Service Repair is aimed at individuals who feel confident they can fix their iPhones, and not just a way for independent service centers to get in on the act. That's because, back in 2019, Apple launched the equally-long-winded Independent Repair Provider Program to provide official Apple parts to independent repair shops. That program was only available to businesses that employed an Apple-certified technician. 

illustration of person repairing an Apple device

Apple

Overall, this is excellent news. Many of us are happy taking apart our devices to perform common repairs. Now we can do it, confident that the parts we use will work as expected (Apple repairs often require "genuine Apple parts" to pass diagnostic and calibrations tests). 

"This can only help everyone[.] Apple gets a good rep and some money, and users get a way to repair their own devices," iOS app developer Chris Hannah said on Twitter.

Apple's press release also says it's now designing its devices with repairability in mind. That's most likely to benefit Apple's in-house repair techs, who no longer have to disassemble almost the entire phone to get to the rear glass panel. But that doesn't matter. What matters is that anyone with repair skills can now exercise those skills with full support. 

Right to Repair

While we love this turnaround from Apple, it all can seem a bit forced. While repairability benefits Apple, which must replace gazillions of screens and batteries in its stores, it doesn’t benefit from making this available to users. Could it just be a way to stave off stricter laws stemming from the Right to Repair movement?

Almost a year ago, the European Parliament voted to support the Right to Repair. What started as a consumer manifesto is slowly turning into a set of consumer-friendly laws that force companies like Apple not only to make their devices more repairable, but to make spare parts available. For instance, the European Commission proposed that spare parts be made available for at least five years after a product is discontinued, and Germany thinks it should be even longer

"Apple gets a good rep and some money, and users get a way to repair their own devices."

In the US, President Biden signed an executive order that included directions to the FTC to limit restrictions on home repair. It’s just a start, but it shows the way the winds are blowing. 

Apple is getting dinged from all angles for its restrictive App Store practices, its privacy-invading, photo-scanning plans, and more. Throwing out this consumer-friendly program can’t hurt and likely doesn’t cost much to operate.

In the end, though, this is the way regulation works. Part of it is direct orders from governments to businesses, which result in things like Europe’s excellent free data-roaming laws. Other times just the threat of legislation is enough to force big corporations to clean up their act before they’re forced to make much deeper changes.

And in this case, it’s a good result for everyone.

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