Launched in the spring, the Right to Repair program has been forgotten by many, but not Apple…
Good intentions – really?
27th April was the date it all started – that was the date that Apple’s Right to Repair program went live.
As is so often the way with Apple, the program was not introduced altruistically. Much like the recent case with USB-C charging, and the even more recent change of heart over their App Store and sideloading, Right to Repair was only initiated to keep in line with new legislation.
Any steps that are taken that help with us repairing our own tech, has to be a good thing, but Apple has never been keen on making it too easy. Even as far back as early Macs, Apple used screws and fixings that were proprietary to them.
Whatever, this latest move did mark a turning point for Apple. The program was met with criticism & praise in almost equal measure. The main problem was, that the repairs, even for fairly simple procedures, had seemingly been made overly complex.
The nuts and bolts
To initiate a repair, you’ll need to upload either a serial number, or IMEI. After the repair has been finished, there is also a good chance that you’ll have to carry out a system configuration with Apple to complete the repair.
The tool kit can cost as little as $49 per week to rent, but Apple will also place a $1000+ dollar charge on your credit card, until the kit is safely returned. To return the kit, simply take it to an authorised UPS collection centre.
Customers can send replaced parts back to Apple for refurbishment and recycling, and in many cases receive credit off their purchase by doing so.
The kit, which comes in flight cases, weighs 79 pounds (around 250 times the weight of your iPhone!), and they are huge too – 20-inches wide and 47-inches high. So, you’ll need a good-sized working space as well.
The kits are, admittedly, comprehensive, but beware, they are not for the feint-hearted. The instruction manuals are huge, and you’ll require the patience of a saint to work through the endless, often confusing jargon.
When the program was first launched, Nathan Proctor, who leads the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) right to repair campaign, commented;
“We are really pleased to see public access to Apple service guides for the first time in decades. However, it’s clear that Apple is doubling down on requiring each part be encoded to a specific phone, and then requiring a connection to Apple to verify the part before it gains full functionality.
I don’t see how locking parts to a specific device and requiring manufacturer approval to install it offers any benefit to the product owner, but it does allow Apple to maintain a lot of control over the repair process. It also means that Apple can decide to stop supporting repairs. If Apple decides that a phone is too old, they can effectively put an expiration date on any product needing repair, defeating one of the most important aspects of repair – minimising toxic electronic waste.
“While this is a start, there are still too many hoops to jump through to fix phones. As it’s becoming clear that Apple and other manufacturers can give us the Right to Repair, we should require them to. And we should have more options. Not just one set of parts. Not just a few manufacturers. No product should be tossed in the scrap heap, wasting money and adding to our toxic electronic waste problem because the manufacturer doesn’t properly support repair.”
Repair guru’s, iFixit, were of the same opinion, saying the Right to Repair program represents a great step forward, but is too restrictive because of the part verification requirements that tie new components to serial numbers.
But, whatever the detail, Apple has done the right thing, and is playing ball. They can now tick the box, that they offer customers a legitimate way to repair their own products.
Initially, the program only for iPhone 12 or iPhone 13. The repair kits you could rent were only to fix the battery, bottom speaker, camera, display, SIM Tray, or Taptic Engine of these phones. At launch, the program was solely available in the U.S.
Recently, though, quite a lot has been going on with the Right to Repair program.
A week or so ago, more countries were added to the list that can now carry out their own, authorised repairs.
Customers in Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Spain, Sweden, and the UK can purchase genuine Apple parts and tools to carry out repairs at home. Apart from the two models of iPhone already mentioned, Apple silicon Mac notebooks are also now on the repair list. In the UK, the repair kits will cost £54.90 to rent.
Apple’s Chief Operating Officer, Jeff Williams, this week said in a statement from Apple;
“We believe the best technology for our customers and for the planet is technology that lasts, which is why we design our products to be durable and rarely require maintenance or repair. But when a repair is needed, we want customers to have many options for safe, reliable, and secure repair. That’s why we’re excited to launch Self Service Repair in Europe, giving our customers direct access to genuine Apple parts, tools, and manuals.”
Not only has more countries been added to the program, but this week, even more products too.
As of this week, Apple’s self-service repair program has just been expanded to include M1-powered desktop Macs. Customers in the U.S. can now elect to repair their Apple silicon iMacs, Mac mini’s, and the Mac Studio. Also on the list is a display…the Studio Display is powered by the A13 Apple silicon chip, and that panel is now on the self-repair list too.
A complete list of the repair manuals is available to browse on Apple’s website. In fact, you must go through the manual if you want to take advantage of the self-service repair program in the first place.
As already mentioned, these running-repairs, are not the most straight-forward to carry out. And, the costs soon mount up as well.
Taking the Studio Display as an example, to replace the nano-textured panel itself, will cost you $967.12. Once you return the broken panel, that will come down to $879.12, and you’ll still have the $49 kit rental cost to throw in.
And don’t even think of this being a cunning way to upgrade a standard finish panel, for the more expensive nano-textured, non-reflective alternative. Apple will only issue replacement parts that correspond with your product’s serial number.
So, is Right to Repair for you? Possibly not, and it is certainly not anything I will be rolling up my sleeves to try out any time soon.
I stand by my original thoughts, that this Right to Repair program, is, at best, a vanity project, or simply just a box that needed checking. Apple has never been keen to let customers repair products, citing reasons from safety, and too complex, to security as excuses.
With this program, there are so many hoops to jump through. There could, and probably should be further, and simpler options offered by Apple.
This Self Service Repair program was only implemented to get ahead of legislation and regulation. At least, it is still a positive step forward, but it’s what direction and what Apple’s vision actually is, for Right to Repair, that will be interesting to witness.
If you’ve taken out AppleCare cover for your gear, taking it to an Apple Store or another authorised repair centre would still be my advice.
But if you are out of warranty, or just love to tinker and delve, then this is at least now an option — even if it’s a complicated and expensive one.
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