from the do-not-pass-go,-do-not-collect-$200 dept
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 “right to repair” legislation, a push that 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.
And if the construction of the iPhone 13 is anything to go by, Apple has learned absolutely nothing in the last five years of heated debate, legal wrangling, and bipartisan anger. According to iFixit, the iPhone 13 is harder to repair than ever. The screen technically can no longer be replaced at all without the use of a microscope and special software. If you try to do it yourself, it disables the iPhone’s Face ID identification technology. That’s something that’s been confirmed by both iFixit and numerous independent repair shops:
iFixit isn’t impressed:
“This is a dark day for fixers, both DIY and professional. One of the most common phone repairs that could once be done with hand tools now requires a microscope. This means you won?t be able to fix your iPhone screen yourself without sacrificing major functionality. It also has huge implications for the professional repair industry, for which Apple is the dominant brand to service. Small shops could be shuttered, forced to choose between spending thousands on new equipment or losing a major source of income.”
After complaints bubbled up, Apple told The Verge it would eventually release a software update that doesn’t require you transfer the microcontroller to keep Face ID working after a screen swap. Though that update isn’t here yet, there’s no guarantee it won’t come without caveats, the screen is still very difficult to repair, and making the decision in the first place (after several years of very public right to repair backlash) speaks volumes. It’s also still part of an overall trend at Apple to monopolize repair.
If an independent repair shop wants to survive, they now have to join (assuming they’re even allowed) Apple’s problematic independent repair program. Otherwise, independent repair shops lose a ton of revenue every time these policy choices are made (which from Apple’s perspective is the whole point). Apple will routinely claim they’re only concerned about consumer privacy and security, but it’s possible to be pro-privacy and security and pro-environment, pro-consumer, and pro-independent repair simultaneously.
Historically, the more companies like Apple, Sony, or John Deere attempt to monopolize repair, the bigger the bipartisan coalition of annoyed consumers grows. That increases the risk of state or federal legislation blocking their efforts, a bit of mathematics they’ll eventually be forced to take to heart.