Friday, August 25, 2023

Apple Supports California Right-to-Repair Bill

Jason Koebler (Hacker News, at the new 404 Media, Hacker News):

Apple told a California legislator that it is formally supporting a right to repair bill in California, a landmark move that suggests big tech manufacturers understand they have lost the battle to monopolize repair, and need to allow consumers and independent repair shops to fix their own electronics.


This is a landmark shift in policy from Apple, the most powerful electronics manufacturer in the world and, historically, one of the biggest opponents of right to repair legislation nationwide. It means, effectively, that consumers have won. The news was first reported by TechCrunch and iFixit.


The legislation would require manufacturers “to make available, on fair and reasonable terms, to product owners, service and repair facilities, and service dealers, the means, as described, to effect the diagnosis, maintenance, or repair of the product.” This means manufacturers have to make the same diagnostics, tools, and parts available to the public as they make available to their own authorized repair professionals.

Nick Heer:

If you are interested in how SB 244 evolved over time, I have uploaded a comparison between the bill text introduced and the latest version. One update that caught my eye is that, according to the definition on line 56, a “desktop computer, laptop, tablet, or cellphone” are all considered “general” or “all-purpose” computers.

Sam Bergin:

The bill states that manufactures will need to provide the same tools and parts that they use internally for repair. Meaning logic boards, major part assemblies, and the software needed to pair new parts into the system. Like most manufactures today, they only swap out major (expensive) parts. They certainly don’t do component level repair, and they don’t use schematics or board view PDFs. Access to individual board components and documentation are the things truly needed if device owners are to stand a chance at having reasonably-priced and successful repair experiences.

John Gruber:

I don’t find Apple’s support for this legislation surprising, but most people commenting on it do.


Providing all the necessary documentation, tools, and parts for every new device the company makes is a pain in Apple’s corporate ass, and I think that’s why Apple resisted such legislation. From their perspective any such law is an unnecessary annoyance. But it’s undeniably reasonable for there to be consumer protection laws, and if there are going to be Right to Repair laws that cover computing devices, those laws ought to be good ones. And the plain language of Apple’s letter is that the company thinks this is a good one.


If Apple says they support California’s SB 244, it probably just means they actually support it.

Juli Clover:

California’s bill also says that service and repair facilities that are not authorized repair providers for a company must disclose if they’re using replacement parts that are used or not from the manufacturer. That means an independent iPhone repair shop in California would be required to source parts from Apple or to inform customers that device repairs are done with counterfeit components or used parts.

Further, the bill has a component that prevents manufacturers from being required to make tools, parts, and documentation available for any component that would disable or override antitheft security measures, which would encompass features like Face ID.

Independent repair shops already have the option of purchasing components from Apple, but have complained that Apple forces them to sign invasive contracts. As for the Self Service Repair Program, the kits and components that Apple sells are not much more affordable than simply getting a repair from an Apple Store.


There’s the loophole right there.

Apple is currently electronically serializing every component in their devices, including the battery for “anti-theft” purposes. Apple has already serialized the lid angle sensor on MacBooks, meaning you can’t replace the simple magnetic switch without going through Apple or an ASP.


Pretty soon, the iPhone back glass, USB-C port, and the individual keyboard key caps will be serialized for “anti-theft.”


Update (2023-10-27): Kevin Purdy (Hacker News):

Following the passage of California’s repair bill that Apple supported, requiring seven years of parts, specialty tools, and repair manual availability, Apple announced Tuesday that it would back a similar bill on a federal level. It would also make its parts, tools, and repair documentation available to both non-affiliated repair shops and individual customers, “at fair and reasonable prices.”


I repair mobile devices and computers on the side, I’ve repair hundreds of iPhones and tablets. From batteries to screens to Audio IC repair, I’ve purchased from eBay MobileSentrix InjuredGadgets Amazon other repairers who sell their bulk parts and so on. Apples self service repair store has to be one of the most obtuse, expensive, SLOW, and inflexible distributors for parts. Some of which you can only get from Apple. Sure their guides are nice and detailed but it’s all centered around pop n swap repair, no schematics or diagrams. The calibration and pairing software is all hidden behind black boxes and they only allow you to use it at a certain point with their parts only. The shipping options are crap and way overpriced. It’s essentially adult play repair, they rent you the tools and devices to fix your own device so you can play doctor. It’s seemingly stunted look at your customers. Go look at Sony or others who partner with large distributors to ship their parts and also provide a helpfully linked place to find manuals and diagrams. If the current Apple Self Service repair store is what Apple does in support of right to repair, I shudder to think how worse it would be if they are allowed to influence the policy and grow out their options. Yikes


It’s appears they are convinced some meaningful part of the “Right to Repair” can’t be stopped and of course as competent strategists they are, Apple can’t be caught “of the wrong side of history” so they pretend to switch sides, or even paint themselves as on of the original supporters.


I’m 99% sure in practical terms this will amount to as much as the “Apple-certified repair” program or those repair kits sold for almost the price of a device.

I’m sorry to be so negative, but the company is the same, the people are the same, their track record has been the same. So.. what are the chances this is different?


Update (2023-12-12): Karl Bode:

But given the immense, bipartisan popularity of right to repair reform, Apple (like Microsoft) back in August claimed it was having a change of heart. The company’s support helped push California’s new right to repair law over the finish line, and now Apple is clearly lending its support for a federal right to repair law[…]


Here’s the thing: most of these companies haven’t genuinely changed their stripes. They just know that the bipartisan popularity of these reforms make it impossible for them to continue actively opposing them. So what they’re doing is lending their support for state laws, provided said laws exempt most of the key industries engaged in the dumbest behaviors.

Karl Bode:

Maine is the fourth state behind Colorado, New York, and Minnesota to pass right to repair protections in the last year, much to the chagrin of the auto industry. While lobbyists did manage to weaken many of the laws (particularly in New York), several of the new laws (notably Minnesota) offer significant improvements to state law, making it cheaper and easier to repair consumer technology.


I suspect many of those companies, including Apple and Microsoft, have pivoted away from fighting state level right to repair laws, and toward using their political influence to co-write a weaker federal law that pre-empts tougher state restrictions.

Karl Bode:

While Apple obtained ample praise for its recent decision to support the California right to repair law, the company generally remains terrible on numerous aspects of right to repair. iFixit, you’ll recall, recently had to downgrade the iPhone 14’s repairability score after users complained Apple was using parts pairing to ensure that independent, affordable repair is either cumbersome as hell or simply impossible.

According to iFixit, the iPhone 15 is even worse[…]


2 Comments RSS · Twitter · Mastodon

Apple will find a way around this.

Louis Rossman might be a bit blunt, but his first hand experience on this topic is valuable

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