Apple’s New Self Service Repair Program

Apple Newsroom:

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. Customers join more than 5,000 Apple Authorized Service Providers (AASPs) and 2,800 Independent Repair Providers who have access to these parts, tools, and manuals.

The initial phase of the program will focus on the most commonly serviced modules, such as the iPhone display, battery, and camera. The ability for additional repairs will be available later next year.

“Creating greater access to Apple genuine parts gives our customers even more choice if a repair is needed,” said Jeff Williams, Apple’s chief operating officer. “In the past three years, Apple has nearly doubled the number of service locations with access to Apple genuine parts, tools, and training, and now we’re providing an option for those who wish to complete their own repairs.”

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. iFixit, in a celebratory post, claims:

But we’re thrilled to see Apple admit what we’ve always known: Everyone’s enough of a genius to fix an iPhone.

Nonsense. I just don’t see how more than a sliver of people would even want to do this rather than go to a professional shop.

Also, nothing announced today changes the fact that Apple still requires Apple genuine parts for all authorized repairs, no matter who does the repairing. There’s good reason for that, and it’s not a money grab. Today’s announcement, to my eyes, is about nothing more than reducing regulatory pressure from legislators who’ve fallen for the false notion that Apple’s repair policies, to date, have been driven by profit motive — that Apple profits greatly from authorized repairs, and/or that their policies are driven by a strategy of planned obsolescence, to get people to buy new products rather than repair broken old ones. I don’t believe either of those things,1 but for those who believe either or both, I don’t see how this Self Repair Program really changes anything other than who’s performing the labor.

Brian X. Chen, hailing the announcement in his column at The New York Times:

Apple delivered an early holiday gift on Wednesday to the eco-conscious and the do-it-yourselfers: It said it would soon begin selling the parts, tools and instructions for people to do their own iPhone repairs.

The appeal to do-it-yourselfers is self-evident. I don’t see how this is eco-conscious at all. It doesn’t enable people to repair older devices that Apple itself and authorized repair shops weren’t themselves able to repair.

The company has not yet published a list of costs for parts, but said the prices for consumers would be what authorized repair shops paid. Currently, a replacement iPhone 12 screen costs an authorized shop about $234 after a broken screen is traded in. At an Apple store, repairing an out-of-warranty iPhone 12 screen costs about $280.

In short, you will have more options to mend an iPhone, which can bring your costs down.

Previously, it was easiest to visit an Apple store to get an iPhone fixed. But just as taking your car to a dealer for servicing isn’t the cheapest option, going to an Apple store also wasn’t the most cost-effective.

The alternative was to take your iPhone to a third party for repair, potentially for a more competitive price. When I took a broken iPhone XS screen to an Apple store this year, I was quoted $280 for the repair, compared with $180 from an independent outlet.

Chen is not exactly comparing like-to-like here, with his prices for a replacement iPhone XS display “from an independent outlet” and the $234 Apple charges for an iPhone 12 display component, but it seems pretty clear that for a customer to pay just $180 for the XS screen replacement, including labor, the “independent outlet” was not using Apple genuine parts. How is that relevant to this new Self Service Repair program that is based on buying genuine parts directly from Apple? What we’re looking at here is saving $46. Good luck replacing that screen yourself, without any specialized tooling.

Don’t get me wrong: this program is nice, and perhaps a bit surprising given Apple’s public stance on the issue in recent years. We’re better off with this Self Service Repair program in place than we were without it. (Making service manuals available might actually help extend the lifetime of older devices for which Apple no longer sells parts.) But to me it clearly seems to be a small deal, not a “big deal”, as Chen claims.

And if it is a big deal, it’s for Apple, politically. (Nothing wrong with that.)

  1. While running some benchmarks for another article, today I upgraded my iPhone X from 2017 to iOS 15.1. iOS 15 doesn’t just run on that four-year-old iPhone, it runs great. No company comes close to Apple in supporting older devices for longer. ↩︎