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: battery replacement, disposable society, iphones, repairs, right to repair
Companies: apple


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  • icon
    Mason Wheeler (profile), 7 Jan 2019 @ 12:11pm

    We now know that batteries can be replaced, extending the life of our older phones.

    Yeah, but we've always known that! The fact that Apple ever tried to claim otherwise is particularly despicable in and of itself.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Ninja (profile), 8 Jan 2019 @ 9:56am

      Re:

      You'd be surprised what humans are capable of when there's a sizeable sum of money involved. Like making business with countries that censor communications, persecute and kill dissidents while proudly advocating for free speech and human rights.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Jan 2019 @ 2:44pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Thad (profile), 7 Jan 2019 @ 2:55pm

      Re: Planned Obsolescence

      Great. Can you recommend a smartphone manufacturer whose products are supported for more than a few years?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Sylvia, 7 Jan 2019 @ 4:25pm

        Re: Re: Planned Obsolescence

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 8 Jan 2019 @ 6:38am

          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".

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Anonymous Monkey (profile), 7 Jan 2019 @ 3:25pm

      Re: Planned Obsolescence

      Seen this come to be in the motorcycle industry. It started even earlier in automotive.

      Whoever thought this stupidity up needs to be drug out behind the shop, beat with a shock strut, then put out of our collective misery.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Vic B (profile), 7 Jan 2019 @ 3:41pm

      Re: Planned Obsolescence

      Apple taught the world that 2-3 years is all that is expected of a smartphone. That model made them ultra wealthy and everyone followed suit, accomplices in crime. I'm not sure however that phone makers will take the risk of building and selling a 10 year phone. Apple 3GS anyone?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Thad (profile), 7 Jan 2019 @ 4:03pm

        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.)

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 7 Jan 2019 @ 4:07pm

        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.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 7 Jan 2019 @ 10:37pm

        Re: Re: Planned Obsolescence

        Eh, depends on the user. I only got around to replacing my iPhone 4 a couple months ago. Probably wouldn't have if the power button was still working as designed.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 8 Jan 2019 @ 2:53am

        Re: Re: Planned Obsolescence

        How about a pre-micro$oft Nokia phone that worked for 12 years with original battery and nearly half a week between recharges?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Jan 2019 @ 6:07pm

    If your business model requires expansion to survive, then perhaps you need a better business model.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Peter (profile), 8 Jan 2019 @ 12:28am

    Might be about time for to force Apple to work sustainably

    What is going on here - while the rest of the world tries to figure out how to save the planet, Apple specifically designs products that need to be trashed and replaced after a very short time?

    Just so the company with some of the highest profit margins on the planet can make even more money?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    JimThePCGuy (profile), 8 Jan 2019 @ 4:45am

    Cook was referring to their own $29 battery replacement program

    I think Cook was referring more to Apple's own $29 battery replacement program albeit a temporary one.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Jan 2019 @ 5:06am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Jan 2019 @ 5:12am

    Karl, please stop using the word "breathless". Thank you.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Jan 2019 @ 6:10am

    Now that they have a cash value assigned to loss due to repairs you can bet they'll double down on bad behaviour.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Toom1275 (profile), 8 Jan 2019 @ 6:23am

    Sounds like the words of the title should be rearranged:

    Apple Admits The Obvious: It Harms Users For Its Bottom Line

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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