Hide Techdirt is off for the long weekend! We'll be back with our regular posts tomorrow.

Apple Admits The Obvious: User Repairs Harm The Bottom Line

from the well-duh dept

It should probably go without saying, but Apple has never looked too kindly upon users actually repairing their own devices. The company’s ham-fisted efforts to shut down, sue, or otherwise imperil third-party repair shops are legendary. As are the company’s efforts to force recycling shops to shred Apple products (so they can’t be refurbished and re-used), and Apple’s often comical attacks on essential right to repair legislation, which only sprung up after companies like Apple, Microsoft, Sony, John Deere, and others created a grass-roots counter-movement via their attempts to monopolize repair.

The motivation for these behaviors is obvious: if users are repairing or recycling their iDevices, that means fewer sales. As such, Apple has increasingly become more and more obnoxious on this front, regardless of the impact on consumer satisfaction, customer rights, or the environment. You know, like that time it claimed that Nebraska would become a “mecca for hackers” (oh no!) if the state embraced legislation protecting a consumer’s right to repair their own devices.

Fast forward to last week, when Apple CEO Tim Cook was forced to write a letter to investors announcing that it had to dramatically scale back revenue projections after it sold fewer iPhones than it had hoped. Part of the problem is that, contrary to the traditional gushing mainstream tech press narrative, Apple’s products (and smartphones in general) have become arguably more derivative and less innovative than in recent years, slowing the upgrade cycle. Though Cook states the primary culprit was a slowdown in the Chinese economy (caused in part by Trump’s “easy to win” trade war), resulting in fewer iPhones being bought.

But buried in the letter is a notable admission Apple has long tried to avoid. That the company’s revenue dip was, at least according to Apple, partially due to users repairing and extending the life of their devices:

“While macroeconomic challenges in some markets were a key contributor to this trend, we believe there are other factors broadly impacting our iPhone performance, including consumers adapting to a world with fewer carrier subsidies, US dollar strength-related price increases, and some customers taking advantage of significantly reduced pricing for iPhone battery replacements.”

Journalists like Jason Koebler, who has been at the lead of the right to repair beat for years, was quick to appreciate Apple finally admitting the obvious:

“Right to repair advocates have long argued that Apple customers would be able to get a lot more out of their devices if Apple gave them the ability to repair them, but say the company doesn’t want to do that because it will hurt its bottom line. Here is evidence that they might be right.”

To be clear, Apple appears to simply be talking about its decision to cut its $79 battery replacement fee down to $29 (free, for some) as a way of apologizing for revelations it was intentionally slowing down some older iPhones, something Apple claimed was necessary to protect the integrity of older devices with aging batteries. Still, right to repair advocates like US PIRG, long frustrated by Apple’s misdirection on this subject, applauded the otherwise unremarkable admission:

“Over the past year, I?ve spent a lot of time talking to lawmakers and consumers about Right to Repair, and it?s clear that ?ThrottleGate? has fundamentally changed the way we think about our smartphones in two key ways. We now know that batteries can be replaced, extending the life of our older phones. We?ve also developed a sense of skepticism about upgrading our smartphones, due to feeling coerced in an underhanded way toward an unnecessary new phone purchase.

?Long-lasting devices are best for consumers, and best for the planet. Which begs the question: Why isn?t Apple out in front of this trend, instead of being caught off-guard by it?”

Granted Apple’s arguably minor acknowledgement is not going to stop companies like Apple, Microsoft, Sony, Verizon, or John Deere from continuing their all-out war on a consumer’s right to repair, while simultaneously radiating branding that heralds innovation and a breathless adoration of the “user experience.” That’s particularly obvious in Apple’s ongoing assault on the eighteen states currently eyeing right to repair legislation, opposition the company likes to pretend is exclusively driven by Apple’s ethical concern about user safety and security.

Filed Under: , , , ,
Companies: apple

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Apple Admits The Obvious: User Repairs Harm The Bottom Line”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Anonymous Coward says:

Planned Obsolescence

The companies that plan their financial gain based on designing products to fail faster than they need to, forcing you to buy the product again is harming the planet. Every company like Apple that uses this strategy needs to be driven out of existence by newer more robust companies. They use their financial might to try to write laws to keep you from ever starting because they know they can’t compete on quality. Stop treating companies like religions and vote with your wallet.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Planned Obsolescence

An update to Kitkat (Android 4.4) was announced [in June 2016] but was delayed because of major issues. (Wikipedia) In July 2017, Fairphone announced in an e-mail to their buyers that they were sorry not to be able to pursue the release of Android 4.4 for the Fairphone 1.

It was released in December 2014, meaning the thing didn’t last a year and a half. Unless someone other than the manufacturer is still supporting it. The FairPhone 2 appears to have been around for about 3 years, so we’ll have to wait to see whether it gets to "more than a few".

Thad (profile) says:

Re: Re: Planned Obsolescence

TBF, in the first few years of rapid smartphone development, 3 years of support was a perfectly reasonable expectation. The difference between the original iPhone and the iPhone 4 was massive, as were the differences between circa-2008 and circa-2011 Android phones.

But things have changed. We’re getting our annual spec bumps, but there’s no good reason why a 5-year-old phone shouldn’t be good enough for most users. (Trust me — I’m still using a Nexus 5. Or was until its power button quit working yesterday.)

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Planned Obsolescence

Development and improvements happen on a curve. I currently own multiple pieces of Apple hardware, including phones from 2014, a laptop from 2008, and a Mini from 2004.

All of them still do exactly what I bought them for; I have no reason to throw them out and replace them.

Apple hardware, both laptops and phones, leveled out around 5 years ago, and everything since then has been feature enhancements, not true game-changing improvements in the technology.

Back when Apple set the 2-3 years schedule, 3 years was night and day difference between hardware; it was faster, more powerful, and had more usable features. That’s no longer really the case; the only reason for upgrading software on the devices from back then is to apply security fixes.

So either Apple needs to expand the cycle to a more reasonable (these days) 4-5 years, or they need to provide new hardware that includes indispensable new features. That’s not going to happen until 2020 at the earliest for laptops and phones, although I hope that the Mac Pro finally sees the light of day this year.

Anonymous Coward says:

It was predictable every one who wants a smartphone has one , as apple phones get better they last longer .A smartphone can now last for 3 years or longer .
Apple is one of the worst companys with regard to repairs ,they make it hard to replace ram or hardrives
in their laptops .
Right to repair is good for the environment ,it makes products last longer .
Theres a limited amount of people who buy phones ,
at some point any company can only sell x no of
high priced products.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...