Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Apple Self Service Repair

Apple (MacRumors, Hacker News):

Apple today announced Self Service Repair, which will allow customers who are comfortable with completing their own repairs access to Apple genuine parts and tools. Available first for the iPhone 12 and iPhone 13 lineups, and soon to be followed by Mac computers featuring M1 chips, Self Service Repair will be available early next year in the US and expand to additional countries throughout 2022.

Matthew Gault and Jason Koebler:

This move from Apple does not necessarily mean the right to repair movement is over, or that there isn’t still work to be done. John Deere and other tractor manufacturers promised similar access to repair parts and manuals in an agreement several years ago and then used it to argue that right to repair legislation was not necessary. But the version that tractor manufacturers offered was a watered-down version of what activists were looking for, and the ultimate rollout of its consumer repair program was slow and underwhelming., an advocacy group that fights for the right-to-repair, greeted the news with joy but had some cautions. “We’re delighted to see Apple get on board with expanding access to their parts and tools directly to consumers. It’s a big step forward for one of the most dedicated opponents to Right to Repair, and frankly unexpected,” it told Motherboard in an email. “Holes remain. We don’t know if independent repair providers will be able to buy parts and service information. We don’t know if the pricing to consumers will make sense, nor if consumers will be able to use competitively priced parts from 3rd parties.”

I’m betting that a sticking point will be that this is only open to individuals, and that independent providers that don’t agree to Apple’s onerous contract will not be allowed to order parts. And even the ones who do still aren’t allowed to maintain stock.

Matt Birchler:

I’m super curious to see how this is received by people on both sides of the right to repair argument. Will people who support right to repair see this as a win or an empty gesture distracting from their real concerns? Will people who have argued against right to repair because it would mean bulky products be annoyed because this shows that’s not really the case?

Stephen Hackett:

In terms of the cost of parts and tools (and what a self-service repair does to your warranty) we don’t know much, but I am hopeful this will be a viable option for the more savvy consumers out there.

Dan Moren:

One chief impetus for this is no doubt the growing push for “Right to Repair” legislation across the U.S. (my home state of Massachusetts having been an early adopter of this movement).

Of course, this doesn’t mean that Apple’s products will necessarily become any easier to repair. iFixit—a longtime proponent of Right to Repair legislation—and others have long provided detailed teardowns Apple products, and while there has been some improvement in places, don’t expect Apple to let you, say, replace your own RAM (especially given that its now basically part of the system on a chip package).

Jeff Johnson:

Apple 2 weeks ago: DIY software installation is too dangerous for iPhone users.

Apple today: Announcing DIY hardware installation for iPhone users!


Update (2021-11-23): Kyle Wiens:

Let me share my life’s story and why Apple’s repair announcement is a big deal to me.

Adam Engst:

While the Self Service Repair program was a surprise, The Verge’s Maddie Stone notes that the timing was likely related to a shareholder resolution that could have gone to the US Securities and Exchange Commission. Apple says the program has been in the works for longer and wouldn’t comment on whether shareholder pressure influenced the timing of the announcement.

Regardless of how it came about, I applaud Apple for creating the Self Service Repair program. I hope not to need it personally, but if I do, I might give it a try since I’ve replaced batteries in older iPhones and done major surgery on 27-inch iMacs. Or I might not—replacing the battery in an iPhone 5 was nerve-wracking (see “Replace a Dying iPhone 5 Battery,” 5 March 2014).

That said, I have some issues with how Apple is positioning Self Service Repair and what downstream effects it might have.

John Gruber:

This appears to be a cause for celebration in right-to-repair circles, but I don’t see it as a big deal at all. Almost no one wants to repair their own cracked iPhone display or broken MacBook keyboard; even fewer people are actually competent enough to do so.

Nick Heer:

I think you may be underselling how great it is for people to buy parts independently and then get someone else to install them, especially in parts of the world with few Apple Stores.

John Gruber:

There’s also this factor: if the device in need of repair is still usable — say, an iPhone with a cracked but functional screen, or a MacBook with one or more broken but nonessential keys — it might be a lot more appealing for a user who doesn’t live near an Apple-authorized repair shop to go to a local independent shop for same-day service than to ship their device to Apple for official service.


On the flip side, though, I think a lot of the “Apple’s repair policies are screwing people” sentiment is based on the misconception that Apple grossly overcharges for repairs.


The new Self Repair Program requires you to submit the damaged device’s serial number to Apple first, then Apple sends the necessary parts on a need-to-use basis. I’m back to my original opinion, that the Self Service Repair Program is just what it says on the tin — a program for people who really do want to repair their own devices — and thus is irrelevant to all but a small sliver of actual users.

Dave Mark:

It used to be relatively easy to customize and repair your gear. As parts have given way to part assemblies (glued/soldered assemblies that become a single replaceable requirement, even if a single part fails) and the quest for smaller makes devices harder to open, harder to take apart, the ability to repair your own gear has become harder, almost impossible.

So those small numbers John points out are real. But should this be the way it is? Again, wouldn’t you love the ability to swap out a display as easily as you used to be able to swap out RAM on your old Macs?


Going into an Apple Store with a problem has never felt like a money grab scheme to me. I’ve always felt like the support staff wants me to leave satisfied. If they can find a way to get me a fix without spending money, they’ll do so. But when there’s no way but to replace a parts assembly for $900 on an out-of-AppleCare device, that’s what they do.

John Gruber:

But: times change. Apple hasn’t moved away from user replaceable memory and storage components out of spite. Integrating memory and storage into the chips themselves is the reason why devices have gotten thinner and lighter and much, much faster. The incredible performance of Apple silicon — for both iOS devices and Macs — is part and parcel with integrating memory and storage directly onto the SoCs.

And in terms of replacing screens on iPhones, consider waterproofing and device aesthetics. To my knowledge, no company makes a mainstream smartphone with an easily-replaced display, because a smartphone with an easily replaced screen wouldn’t sell because of all the design trade-offs that would be involved.

Adam Demasi:

Hard for me to trust Apple’s goals with the new Self-Service Repair. Last time Apple faced pressure they started the Independent Repair Program, which we later learned is set up in a way that’s basically a PR stunt. I hope Apple proves my scepticism wrong.

Cory Doctorow:

Apple’s announcement caught us all by (pleasant) surprise. Right up to that day, the company was adamant that letting us fix our stuff would lead to identity theft and exploding phones.


They still hate independent repair and will do whatever they can to minimize or extinguish the activity. There are lots of ways to accomplish that goal while still offering a “Self-Service Repair” program.


As Apple independent repair maven Louis Rossman explained in his vlog on the new announcement, the Independent Repair Program was a bit of theater that did virtually nothing to enhance independent repair. Shops that signed up for it found themselves forced to sign onerous NDAs and were subjected to impossible conditions. For example, IRP repair shops were banned from holding inventory of common parts like batteries or screens. Instead, they were required to gather invasive customer data on anyone who showed up looking for a repair, submit that data to Apple, wait for it to be processed and approved, and only then would Apple send the part. The customer, meanwhile, was deprived of their phone or laptop while they waited for this rigamarole to run its course.

Dave Mark:

One question that Louis does raise, that we won’t know for some time, is how granular a repair Apple’s new program will allow. Can I order just the part I need (say, a $100 MacBook LED display vs a $900 display assembly)?

Hartley Charlton:

CIRP’s research suggests that almost all iPhones in use have a display in “useable” condition and most iPhones have a battery in “useable” condition. 12 percent of iPhone displays are cracked but useable, and just six percent are unusable and in need of replacement. 26 percent of iPhone batteries are said to provide battery life lasting half a day without charging, and 14 percent need to be charged every couple of hours. Battery replacements are therefore likely to be among the most common repairs, but comparatively few active devices are in need of replacing either of these parts that are subject to a high level of wear and tear.

The small number of active devices in need of replacement parts, combined with the fact that many users will not be comfortable completing their own repairs, indicates that very few iPhone users will actually take advantage of the Self Service Repair program.

Joe Rossignol:

In an internal memo obtained by MacRumors, Apple provided a few more details about the program, including that repair manuals will be made available on the Apple Support website, confirming the location of where customers will be able to review this information prior to ordering parts for a self-service repair.

Apple’s memo also said that its online parts store will be operated by an unspecified third party.

See also: Dithering, Reddit.

Update (2021-11-24): Jesper:

In reality, repairs with authorized service providers have to abide by glacial policies that prevent at least non-Apple Stores from stocking up on spare parts. Over the years, and across many separate incidents, I have had repairs of iPhones and MacBooks take many days beyond what the actual repair work would take. For devices that are intended to be used every day, this is not acceptable, and is the worst kind of business decision: the one that maintains control and policy at the expense of customer convenience. This is exactly as stupid as that pirated-vs-original comparison.

In reality, there exists two axes: qualified vs not, as well as Apple-blessed vs not. The Self Service Repair program highlights the absurdity of the emerging narrative: a random person at home, taking things carefully, can be trusted to do a job that an independent repair shop, which lives and dies by its reputation and literally does this all day can’t be. Apple’s previous position deserves some back-handed credit, in that at least “only we could do this” was free of such loops of logic – it was plainly and obviously wrong, but it was not that particular brand of ludicrous.


And it is particularly not an excuse to perpetuate the myth that knock-off parts are a choice in all cases, and are preferred by individual repair shops, which are therefore dishonest and/or not about to do a good job anyway. The entirety of the market, and the quality of its collective outcomes, depends on Apple’s policies. They can change it tomorrow.

Update (2022-04-13): Filipe Espósito:

[The] company is yet to launch the program and has never provided more details about it.

Is it still coming? Has Apple changed its mind?

12 Comments RSS · Twitter

I'm extremely comfortable with SMD soldering, taking things apart, electronics DIY, etc and I don't think I would ever consider repairing an iPhone, iPad, or Watch by myself. It's just not worth the hassle and risk if something goes wrong. Definitely great for Macs, though I wonder how much more difficult modern Macs are to DIY repair compared to my 2014 MBP -- even replacing the battery in that was noticeably more difficult than when I did it in my 2009 MBP.

"I'm extremely comfortable with SMD soldering, taking things apart, electronics DIY, etc and I don't think I would ever consider repairing an iPhone, iPad, or Watch by myself."

Here's one anecdote. About a year ago, a friend of mine texted me, telling me her iPhone 7's screen had broken, and if I could repair it. Since I wasn't anywhere close to her, I sent her the link to the iFixIt screen repair toolkit for her phone. This includes everything you need, including the screwdriver with the right bits.

A few weeks later, she had replaced her screen, on her own. Including transferring her old home button to the new screen, everything. This is the first time she ever did any kind of work on any kind of electronic device.

If device manufacturers don't literally glue their devices together, replacing parts like the screen is usually not that hard.

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(But also: I fully expect Apple to cancel this program within five years, citing either lack of demand, or high rates of damage caused by attempted repairs, or other spurious reasons. Apple clearly isn't doing this because they actually believe in it, they're doing it to prevent legislation from being passed.)

"Will people who have argued against right to repair because it would mean bulky products…?" Let's see: The Framework laptop (13.5") weighs 1.3kg, is 15.85mm thick. The 2014 13.3" MacBook Pro (the last model I have any experience with, or want to) weighs 1.57kg, is 18.35mm thick. The Framework is totally user configurable, upgradeable, repairable, and costs ~$1000. The MacBook Pro is a nightmare on all counts, and in 2014 cost $1600 ($1800 in 2020 dollars) and up. Okay, the new 14" MBP is 1.55" thick, weighs 1.6kg, and costs $2000 and up. What was that argument again?

My first computer in 1988 was a Mac Plus. It was really fun, "insanely great" tech "for the rest of us". I did freelance Mac support for a living 1994-2009 (when illness forced me to stop). That spirit of the early years is long gone, as Apple has now become the very Big Brother it mocked in 1984, while its QC continues to slide even as the novelty frenzy grows ever more feverish. For the average user without high-end needs, various versions of Linux can be made to look and feel very much like macOS. (Those with high-end needs unfortunately will have to continue swallowing whatever Apple gives them.) I've had it; that's where I'm going next.

I'd do it, simply so that Apple doesn't wipe my device and "upgrade" the OS.

How are they going to price these parts?

If their existing full-service repair prices are any indication, they'll be priced to strongly encourage people to replace their broken devices.

Still, saving on labor costs would make a screen replacement *slightly* less painful for a college student who didn't notice a stray sesame seed in the hinge of their M1 MacBook Air until after they reopened the laptop and found the screen cracked.

“Will people who have argued against right to repair because it would mean bulky products…?” Let’s see: The Framework laptop (13.5”) weighs 1.3kg, is 15.85mm thick. The 2014 13.3” MacBook Pro (the last model I have any experience with, or want to) weighs 1.57kg, is 18.35mm thick. The Framework is totally user configurable, upgradeable, repairable, and costs ~$1000. The MacBook Pro is a nightmare on all counts, and in 2014 cost $1600 ($1800 in 2020 dollars) and up. Okay, the new 14” MBP is 1.55” thick, weighs 1.6kg, and costs $2000 and up. What was that argument again?

I don’t know. What was your argument? That the mechanics required to make component replacement easy take up zero volume and weight? Or that Apple (and others such as Microsoft and Dell) are deliberately designing their products in an obtuse manner?

Whether you use a door, hinge, flap, whatever the case, a device that doesn’t have those will always take up less room and weight. How much less? And is it worth the tradeoff? That, you can argue about.

Sometimes, Apple finds the room to leave some aids in to make it easier; e.g., the flaps to pull batteries in the newest MBPs. Sometimes, they instead decide to make the device a little thinner and lighter.

It doesn't have to be about doors, hinges and flaps. It might be software that intentionally breaks repairs, as with face ID.

Handcuffed CMYK guy

IF I ONLY KNEW ... Repair lockout extends to high-end print equipment from Canon, One, Fuji, Vutek, Durst and others. Buy a three-quarter million dollar and high-speed printer and you're locked into monthly tens of thousands in required service contracts. Pay to play. No way to self serve and fail to pay machines shut down. Most of time it was okay since we wanted these machines running. But on a smaller Canon machine the costs were ridiculous, and they reluctantly offered to unlock service screens if I sent a technician to their repair school and pay a monthly charge to buy the passwords. I sold it, cut my losses.

Learn from my mistakes with a couple million in huge print equipment. Negotiate service UP FRONT where commissioned Salespeople are involved before buying any high-end equipment. And go to the mat to get best service pricing for entire ownership, and make sure they give you keys at the end, and guarantee parts for X years past end of life. Don't assume these companies will help you out. I was told most equipment companies treat repair as a massive profit center that must stand on it's own. Negotiate service up-front with salespeople or walk away.

Handcuffed CMYK guy

I know this thread is talking about Apple and right to repair. It touched off a nerve and is really costly the bigger the equipment gets.

My sons iPad got stuck in a boot loop, I followed the instructions and tried to upgrade it from my laptop. Got an Error 4013.

Arter a long chat with Apple, they offered to send a box so that I could send it to them so they could have a look at the iPad.

Not saying they would fix it, just inspect it. All for 75% of the cost of a brand new iPad.

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