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

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

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