from the we've-changed-but-not-really dept
Apple has never looked too kindly upon users actually repairing their own devices, or using lower cost independent repair services. 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).
Recently, Apple has made a few pivots on this front, including, most notably, its apparent about face on California right to repair legislation. And while Apple has also made some modest progress in backing off its attempt to monopolize repair (see: its Self-Service Repair Program), outside organizations like iFixit say the tech giant still has a long, long way to go.
iFixit recently dropped the reparability score for the iPhone 14 from a recommend 7 out of 10 to a do-not-recommend 4. Why? The organization took heat from hardware geeks who noted the 7 out 10 score wasn’t accurate because Apple is still using “parts pairing” to ensure that independent, affordable repair is either cumbersome as hell or simply impossible.
From a pure hardware perspective the reparability architecture of the iPhone has definitely improved, but only if you follow Apple’s sanctioned process and buy the parts from Apple. If you buy the parts independently, the new parts you or your independent repair shop installed won’t work due to Apple’s sophisticated software protections:
“Today, you need one more thing: a software handshake, using Apple’s System Configuration tool. It contacts Apple’s servers to “authenticate” the repair, then “pairs” the new part to your system so it works as expected. Of course, it can only authenticate if Apple knows about your repair in advance, because you gave them the exact serial number of your iPhone, and they’ve pre-matched it to a display or battery. This is only possible if you buy the screen or battery directly from Apple. Forget harvesting parts—which is a huge part of most independent repair and recycling businesses. It’s also impossible to pair any aftermarket parts—which means only Apple-authorized repairs can truly restore the device to full functionality.”
That’s a lot of environmental waste and added consumer costs and restrictions created by a company that claims to have seen the light on “right to repair.” And as iFixit notes, Apple implements systems like this without much in the way of meaningful transparency:
“In a move that will not surprise close observers of Apple, they have developed the system without notifying the people who do the actual repair work that it impacts.”
Tech industry lobbyists are increasingly using their influence to ensure right to repair laws don’t cover the most problematic industries on right to repair (like medical equipment, game consoles, or autos), then they’re increasingly using software restrictions to make make affordable, independent repair as cumbersome and annoying as possible. All while soaking up media praise for having seen the light.