A Few Follow-Up Points on Apple’s Self Service Repair Program

Yours truly, yesterday:

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.

I expected some pushback on this, and got it, and I now think I missed one key point. Despite the program’s name, I think it’s not so much about individual users repairing their own personal devices. The biggest ramification, I think, will be that the program will allow unofficial independent repair shops to procure genuine OEM Apple replacement parts and service manuals. There are tons of people around the world (including here in the U.S.) who don’t live near an Apple store or an Apple-authorized repair shop. A lot of those people, though, might live near (or at least nearer) an independent repair shop. If those repair shops can now order genuine Apple parts and manuals, that’s a win, and maybe a bigger deal than I thought yesterday.

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. A lot of companies in a lot of industries do just that. Car dealers, for example, are notorious for overcharging for parts and routine service. I think the logic goes something like this: Big companies always screw you over for service and repairs; Apple is obscenely profitable and reaps high margins; therefore surely Apple price-gouges for repairs, or makes repairs for older devices arduous to encourage people to buy new devices instead.

But Apple isn’t really like that at all. Longtime DF reader Jim Lipsey sent me a note yesterday. His two kids each happily use an iPhone 6S Plus, but each of them needed repairs this past summer — one needed the camera replaced, the other needed a new battery. Through Apple, the camera replacement cost $59, the battery $49. $108 total, to return two six-year-old iPhones to perfect working order. As Lipsey noted, that’s a tremendous cost-of-ownership value.

Update: Friday, 19 November

Wait a minute, wait a minute. On Twitter, Jason Aten reminded me of something I shouldn’t have already forgotten (considering that I posted about it): Apple two years ago announced the Independent Repair Provider Program. From their announcement then:

Apple today announced a new repair program, offering customers additional options for the most common out-of-warranty iPhone repairs. Apple will provide more independent repair businesses — large or small — with the same genuine parts, tools, training, repair manuals and diagnostics as its Apple Authorized Service Providers (AASPs). The program is launching in the US with plans to expand to other countries.

Given this existing program, I don’t see how this week’s new Self Service Repair Program helps independent repair shops — or Apple customers who rely on those shops — at all. And the existing Independent Repair Provider Program allows shops to stock genuine parts from Apple. 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.