Ben Pearson: ‘Here’s Why Movie Dialogue Has Gotten More Difficult to Understand’ ★
Ben Pearson, writing for Slashfilm:
I used to be able to understand 99% of the dialogue in Hollywood
films. But over the past 10 years or so, I’ve noticed that
percentage has dropped significantly — and it’s not due to
hearing loss on my end. It’s gotten to the point where I find
myself occasionally not being able to parse entire lines of
dialogue when I see a movie in a theater, and when I watch things
at home, I’ve defaulted to turning the subtitles on to make sure I
don’t miss anything crucial to the plot.
Knowing I’m not alone in having these experiences, I reached out
to several professional sound editors, designers, and mixers, many
of whom have won Oscars for their work on some of Hollywood’s
biggest films, to get to the bottom of what’s going on. One person
refused to talk to me, saying it would be “professional suicide”
to address this topic on the record. Another agreed to talk, but
only under the condition that they remain anonymous. But several
others spoke openly about the topic, and it quickly became
apparent that this is a familiar subject among the folks in the
sound community, since they’re the ones who often bear the brunt
of complaints about dialogue intelligibility.
I think part of this is a trend that might have been inevitable, as the language of cinema inevitably became the lingua franca of the world. Most people can thoroughly enjoy movies recorded in a foreign language with subtitles. (Have I ever mentioned how fucking much I love Bong Joon Ho’s Parasite? My god, what a masterpiece.) So of course, you can, in theory, enjoy a movie recorded in your own language even if you can’t make out all or even a lot of the dialogue. Trend isn’t even the right word, though — it’s a fad, like grunge typography in the 1990s or the bizarre orange-teal color grading of movies during the 2000s.
But the other factor — which Pearson addresses directly — is the singular influence of Christopher Nolan. Nolan is to mumble-mouthed movie dialogue what David Carson was to illegible typography. Did I buy every issue of Ray Gun? Yes. Do I watch every movie Nolan makes? Yes. But, still, it’s a fad.
The correct answer here is Stanley Kubrick. In the same way the color grading of his films has never seemed dated, no matter the current fad, the audio tracks have not either. You can understand every fucking word every character says. Which makes Nolan’s recent films a bit frustrating, given how amazing a job he did supervising the 50th anniversary re-release of 2001: A Space Odyssey. My gut says Nolan is going to outgrow this.
Reuters: U.S. State Department Employees’ iPhones Were Hacked With NSO Group Spyware ★
Christopher Bing and Joseph Menn, reporting for Reuters:
iPhones of at least nine U.S. State Department employees were
hacked by an unknown assailant using sophisticated spyware
developed by the Israel-based NSO Group, according to four people
familiar with the matter. The hacks, which took place in the last
several months, hit U.S. officials either based in Uganda or
focused on matters concerning the East African country, two of the
sources said. […]
Apple’s alert to affected users did not name the creator of the
spyware used in this hack. The victims notified by Apple included
American citizens and were easily identifiable as U.S. government
employees because they associated email addresses ending in
state.gov with their Apple IDs, two of the people said.
Fascinating to consider that the U.S. State Department is only aware of this hack because Apple notified the affected employees. That’s certainly how this report reads.
In a public response, NSO has said its technology helps stop
terrorism and that they’ve installed controls to curb spying
against innocent targets. For example, NSO says its intrusion
system cannot work on phones with U.S. numbers beginning with the
country code +1. But in the Uganda case, the targeted State
Department employees were using iPhones registered with foreign
telephone numbers, said two of the sources, without the U.S.
Big-time ✊🍆 feel to this. Like hearing about PC malware that bypasses PCs with Russian keyboards attached.
Canadian Police Claim AirTags Are Being Used by Thieves to Track Cars They Intend to Steal ★
York Regional Police:
Since September 2021, officers have investigated five incidents
where suspects have placed small tracking devices on high-end
vehicles so they can later locate and steal them. Brand name ‘air
tags’ are placed in out-of-sight areas of the target vehicles when
they are parked in public places like malls or parking lots.
Thieves then track the targeted vehicles to the victim’s
residence, where they are stolen from the driveway.
Thieves typically use tools like screwdrivers to enter the
vehicles through the driver or passenger door, while ensuring not
to set off alarms. Once inside, an electronic device, typically
used by mechanics to reprogram the factory setting, is connected
to the onboard diagnostics port below the dashboard and programs
the vehicle to accept a key the thieves have brought with them.
Once the new key is programmed, the vehicle will start and the
thieves drive it away.
Over the past year, more than 2,000 vehicles have been stolen
across the region.
Five incidents out of 2,000 is not exactly a trend, but the basic idea here is interesting. I’m interested in knowing how the police figured out that AirTags were used in this way. Let’s say a thief hides an AirTag on your car while it’s in a public parking lot. Then you park the car in your home’s driveway. The thief comes in the middle of the night and steals your car. You call the police and they come to your home to investigate. How would they know an AirTag had ever been involved?
My only guess is that in these five incidents, the victims were iPhone users who got the “AirTag Found Moving With You” alert. They tapped the “Play Sound” button, found the nefariously hidden AirTag, and (perhaps because they know their car is high-end) had the foresight to call the police. Or, maybe they disregarded the alert, thinking their iPhone had picked up on someone else’s AirTag by mistake. But then their car gets stolen a day or two later, and the unexpected “AirTag Found Moving With You” alert they had disregarded suddenly seems relevant, so they share that with the police.
If that’s the basic idea, then the use of AirTags in this way might be more prevalent than the five cases suggest, because if the car owner doesn’t use an iPhone (or uses an older iPhone still running an older version of iOS), neither the owner nor the police would have any way of knowing an AirTag had ever been involved in the theft.
From the DF Archive: Taiwan Flag Emoji Disappears From iOS 13.1.2 Keyboard in Hong Kong ★
Speaking of kowtowing to China, this one still irks me. And, at this point, likely will for the foreseeable future.
The Other Memory-Holed Episode of ‘The Simpsons’ — the One With Michael Jackson ★
Small bit of follow-up regarding yesterday’s item about Disney+ blocking an episode of The Simpsons in Hong Kong because it contained a joke about Tiananmen Square. The article I linked to at The Wrap claimed “Disney+ users in the U.S. may be able to stream every episode of ‘The Simpsons’ ever made,” but that’s not true. Here’s Isaac Butler, writing for Slate two years ago:
One unexpected fallout from our cultural reckoning with the life
and work of Michael Jackson is the erasure of a Simpsons
episode. “Stark Raving Dad,” the premiere of the show’s
third season, tells the story of Homer being committed to an
insane asylum, where he meets a patient named Leon Kompowsky, who
claims to be Michael Jackson. Homer, not knowing who Michael
Jackson is, believes him. Antics ensue. The central joke is that
Leon is actually voiced by Michael Jackson, a joke extended
further by his use of a pseudonym in the end credits. Following
the renewed allegations of child sexual abuse against
Jackson, executive producer James L. Brooks announced last week
that The Simpsons will no longer include the episode in
syndication packages, streaming, or even future DVD releases of
the show. It’s gone. But don’t call it a book burning, he
cautions. “This is our book,” he told the Wall Street Journal,
“and we’re allowed to take out a chapter.” [...]
“Stark Raving Dad” is not the golden age’s best episode, but it is
the shot across the bow. In its absurd plotting and metatextual
japery, its alchemical mixture of cynicism and heartwarming
sentiment — to say nothing of the way it reckons with its guest
celebrity’s public image — it establishes the formula that the
show was to follow for years. The episode belongs in a museum — preserved forever, not swept into the memory hole.
There was also a years-long stretch after 9/11 where the season premiere of season 9 — “The City of New York vs. Homer Simpson” — was held from syndication because a segment takes place at the World Trade Center. It’s been back in syndication and streaming since 2006, though. They should do the same with “Stark Raving Dad”.
Ex-Google Employees Sue Company, Saying It Betrayed ‘Don’t Be Evil’ Motto ★
Bobby Allyn, reporting for NPR:
Three former Google employees have sued the company,
alleging that Google’s motto “Don’t be evil” amounts to a
contractual obligation that the tech giant has violated. At the
time the company hired the three software engineers, Rebecca
Rivers, Sophie Waldman and Paul Duke, they signed conduct rules
that included a “Don’t be evil” provision, according to the suit.
The trio say they thought they were behaving in accordance with
that principle when they organized Google employees against
controversial projects, such as work for U.S. Customs and Border
Protection during the Trump administration. The workers
circulated a petition calling on Google to publicly commit
to not working with CBP.
This feels like a publicity stunt, not the grounds for a serious lawsuit.
Also, Steve Jobs in an Apple Town Hall meeting back in January 2010: “Don’t be evil is a load of crap.”
‘How This All Happened’ ★
Morgan Housel, writing at Collaborative Fund:
This is a short story about what happened to the U.S. economy since the end of World War II.
That’s a lot to unpack in 5,000 words, but the short story of what happened over the last 73 years is simple: Things were very uncertain, then they were very good, then pretty bad, then really good, then really bad, and now here we are. And there is, I think, a narrative that links all those events together. Not a detailed account. But a story of how the details fit together.
I enjoyed this essay tremendously. This line, in particular, has stuck with me for the last week: “Expectations always move slower than facts.”
Could COVID Lead to Progress? ★
Steven Johnson, writing for The New York Times Magazine:
What about the more subtle psychological legacy of Covid? How will it change the way we perceive the world — and its risks — when the pandemic finally subsides? I have a memory from May of this year, taking my 17-year-old son to the Javits Center in Manhattan for his first vaccine, followed by a shopping trip to pick out a tie for his (masked, outdoor) senior prom. At some point waiting in line, I made a halfhearted joke about how we were embarking on the classic father-son ritual of heading out to the mass vaccination site to protect him from the plague. I meant it ironically, but the truth is that for my son’s generation, proms and plagues will be part of the rituals of growing up.
There’s no question in my mind that growing up, right now, is going to lead more kids to focus their careers on science and medicine. The worst thing that happened in early 2020 was a sort of worldwide collective denial. A sort of “OK, fine, there’s a bad virus going around Asia, we’ve heard this story before — it’s not going to be a major issue here” mindset. I certainly thought like that. It’s human nature. The fact that we hadn’t had a major worldwide pandemic in a century led us to believe — not so much through reason, but more through gut feeling — that we couldn’t have one. Not like this.
Today’s youth will never grow up feeling like that. For them, the next pandemic will always loom on the horizon.
Wednesday, 24 November 2021
Vlad Savov and Sohee Kim, reporting last week for Bloomberg, “Apple, Google Monopoly Over Apps Must Be Stopped, Epic Games CEO Says”:1
Epic Games Inc. Chief Executive Officer Tim Sweeney renewed his
attack on Apple Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google as the world’s
dominant mobile duopoly before calling for a universal app store
that works across all operating systems as the solution.
“What the world really needs now is a single store that works with
all platforms,” Sweeney said in an interview in Seoul on Tuesday.
First, a note to Bloomberg editors: two companies can’t possess a monopoly. The word you’re looking for is duopoly — or, (very) arguably, monopolies, plural. Second: the solution to an ostensibly problematic duopoly is ... a single universal store? And we’re supposed to take this without laughing?
And, gee, I wonder which company Tim Sweeney thinks should own and run this store?
“Right now software ownership is fragmented between the iOS App
Store, the Android Google Play marketplace, different stores on
Xbox, PlayStation, and Nintendo Switch, and then Microsoft Store
and the Mac App Store.” Epic is working with developers and
service providers to create a system that would allow users “to
buy software in one place, knowing that they’d have it on all
devices and all platforms.”
I’ve been arguing all along that, if victorious in their lawsuits against Apple and Google’s mobile app console platforms, Epic would surely turn its sights on Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft’s game console platforms, using their win over Apple and Google as precedent. When pressed on this — why Epic was going after the iOS and Android app stores, but not the Switch, PlayStation, and Xbox game stores (and in fact, gave those game console stores a 20 percent discount after launching their seemingly ill-fated jihad against Apple and Google) — Sweeney has previously given a hand-wavy justification about game console platforms being acceptable because the hardware itself isn’t profitable.
That reeked of bullshit from the get-go. Now he’s made it clear. Epic got their clocks cleaned in their lawsuit against Apple, and now Sweeney’s having a tantrum and letting it all hang out. If I were on the PlayStation, Xbox, or Nintendo Switch store teams, I wouldn’t trust Epic as far as I could throw them. ★
E.U. Regulators Are at It Again ★
Björn Finke, reporting for Süddeutsche Zeitung (original in German; I’m quoting here from Safari 15’s translation to English):
For example, these powerful companies must no longer prefer their
own services in search results, as Google did in the 2.4 billion
case. You may also not collect business data from independent
merchants on the platform and use it for your own offers, as
Amazon is accused of. And they must allow mobile phone users to
install other app stores and thus get more choice in mobile phone
programs. This will hurt Apple a lot. In the event of violations,
the Commission can intervene directly in the future without having
to prove market power and harmful consequences in long
Misguided, to say the least.
Parliament expanded the list of platforms to be viewed and
includes, for example, Internet-enabled TVs or voice assistants
such as Alexa. On the other hand, MEPs increased the thresholds
for sales to eight billion euros and the market value to 80
billion euros. This means that only Booking.com should be able to
fall under the law from Europe for the foreseeable future. MEP
Schwab argues that it is better for the Commission to focus on the
really large companies in the implementation and control of the
legal act. Critics warn, however, that the US government could
consider it an unfriendly act if the groundbreaking law hits
almost only American companies.
European regulations that are targeted, almost exclusively, at U.S. companies. You think that might be perceived here as “unfriendly”? You don’t say.
Another important addition to the Commission draft is that
Parliament wants to force gatekeepers to allow exchanges between
rival messenger services and social media. Then, for example, a
user could send a message from WhatsApp to the competitor Signal — this opening should also stimulate competition.
This nugget is under a sub-head that was translated to “Send a message from WhatsApp to Signal? No problem”. No problem at all. Probably will only take a few lines of code to get all the world’s messaging systems — including those using end-to-end encryption like Signal and WhatsApp (and iMessage) — talking to each other.
They should do another draft that mandates the invention of personal jet packs and flying cars, too.
600 Google Employees Sign Manifesto Opposing Company’s Vaccine Mandate ★
Jeffifer Elias, reporting for CNBC:
The manifesto within Google, which has been signed by at least 600
Google employees, asks company leaders to retract the vaccine
mandate and create a new one that is “inclusive of all Googlers,”
arguing leadership’s decision will have outsize influence in
corporate America. It also calls on employees to “oppose the
mandate as a matter of principle” and tells employees to not let
the policy alter their decision if they’ve already chosen not to
get the Covid vaccine.
Wow, they made a list of the dumbest people at Google.
Don’t let the door hit you on the way out. And, to be clear, Google has somewhere north of 140,000 employees.
(I sure would like to read the actual “manifesto”, but I can’t find it.)
The Apple v. NSO Group Complaint (PDF) ★
The opening paragraph:
Defendants are notorious hackers — amoral 21st century
mercenaries who have created highly sophisticated
cyber-surveillance machinery that invites routine and flagrant
abuse. They design, develop, sell, deliver, deploy, operate, and
maintain offensive and destructive malware and spyware products
and services that have been used to target, attack, and harm Apple
users, Apple products, and Apple. For their own commercial gain,
they enable their customers to abuse those products and services
to target individuals including government officials, journalists,
businesspeople, activists, academics, and even U.S. citizens.
It gets more strident from there.
I genuinely wonder what Apple’s goals are with this suit. Is it just to bring NSO Group’s activities to light? If this goes to trial, the testimony should really be something to see. How much in damages will Apple seek at trial? Enough to bankrupt NSO Group? (Don’t forget Facebook has an ongoing lawsuit against NSO Group for having exploited a bug in WhatsApp to install malware on targets.)
Apple’s Own Announcement of Their Lawsuit Against NSO Group ★
Apple’s legal complaint provides new information on NSO Group’s
FORCEDENTRY, an exploit for a now-patched vulnerability previously
used to break into a victim’s Apple device and install the latest
version of NSO Group’s spyware product, Pegasus. The exploit was
originally identified by the Citizen Lab, a research group at the
University of Toronto. [...]
NSO Group and its clients devote the immense resources and
capabilities of nation-states to conduct highly targeted
cyberattacks, allowing them to access the microphone, camera, and
other sensitive data on Apple and Android devices. To deliver
FORCEDENTRY to Apple devices, attackers created Apple IDs to send
malicious data to a victim’s device — allowing NSO Group or its
clients to deliver and install Pegasus spyware without a victim’s
knowledge. Though misused to deliver FORCEDENTRY, Apple servers
were not hacked or compromised in the attacks.
A couple of things are interesting about this. First, Apple repeatedly refers to the “FORCEDENTRY” exploit by name. This is not PR bullshit — they’re talking about a very specific exploit. Second, they refer to Android as their compatriot, not their competitor. There’s a time and place for Apple to brag about iOS being more secure than Android, but this isn’t it. The message here: “This isn’t just about us, NSO Group is after everyone.”
Lastly, the phrase “the immense resources and capabilities of nation-states”. This is Apple hammering home the fact that deliberate backdoors would be exploited. They’re up against countries with, effectively, infinite money and resources to find and exploit accidental vulnerabilities. If there were deliberate backdoors, the game would be over before it started.
Apple commends groups like the Citizen Lab and Amnesty Tech for
their groundbreaking work to identify cybersurveillance abuses and
help protect victims. To further strengthen efforts like these,
Apple will be contributing $10 million, as well as any damages
from the lawsuit, to organizations pursuing cybersurveillance
research and advocacy.
The New York Times story on this mentioned that Apple would be donating any damages from the lawsuit, if they win. It’s a nice touch that they’re donating $10 million no matter what happens in court. Citizen Lab and Amnesty Tech did crackerjack work exposing this exploit.
Apple is notifying the small number of users that it discovered
may have been targeted by FORCEDENTRY. Any time Apple discovers
activity consistent with a state-sponsored spyware attack, Apple
will notify the affected users in accordance with industry best
Apple Sues NSO Group ★
Nicole Perlroth, reporting for The New York Times:
Apple is also asking for unspecified damages for the time and cost
to deal with what the company argues is NSO’s abuse of its
products. Apple said it would donate the proceeds from those
damages to organizations that expose spyware. [...]
The sample of Pegasus gave Apple a forensic understanding of how
Pegasus worked. The company found that NSO’s engineers had created
more than 100 fake Apple IDs to carry out their attacks. In the
process of creating those accounts, NSO’s engineers would have had
to agree to Apple’s iCloud Terms and Conditions, which expressly
require that iCloud users’ engagement with Apple “be governed by
the laws of the state of California.” The clause helped Apple
bring its lawsuit against NSO in the Northern District of
Shades of nailing Al Capone for tax evasion.
Apple executives described the lawsuit as a warning shot to NSO
and other spyware makers. “This is Apple saying: If you do this,
if you weaponize our software against innocent users, researchers,
dissidents, activists or journalists, Apple will give you no
quarter,” Ivan Krstic, head of Apple security engineering and
architecture, said in an interview on Monday.
That is not — at all — how leaders at Apple usually speak in the press. Apple is not a hard or tricky company to read. They are furious about NSO Group.
One Last Update on Apple’s New Self Service Repair Program (I Hope) ★
From an update I just appended to yesterday’s follow-up:
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.
Twitter No Longer Sends Users to AMP Pages ★
Henry Powderly, reporting for Search Engine Land:
With social media referrals to AMP pages cut down by the change,
the reasons for supporting AMP are getting fewer.
For some of us, the reasons were obvious all along. It never made sense to me why any publishers supported AMP in the first place.
It took four years, but support for AMP is suddenly collapsing. Good riddance.
Dave Mark on the Repairability of Apple’s Devices ★
Dave Mark, writing at The Loop:
Not sure how big the audience for right-to-repair is, but I do
count myself in its number. And if it was easier to do, I suspect
that number would be much larger. Imagine if repairing a cracked
display was a simple, five minute operation. Wouldn’t you rather
order the new display and make the swap yourself?
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
Ideally, many people would still like to be able to swap out RAM on today’s Macs as easily as we could on old Macs. Same thing for SSD storage. Adding RAM and storage, years after purchase, was a great way to significantly extend the practical lifetime of Macs. A while back (15 years ago?) I replaced the spinning hard drive in a 15-inch PowerBook with an SSD, and it was like buying a brand-new much faster machine.
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.
Peng Shuai: U.N. Calls for Proof of Chinese Tennis Star’s Whereabouts; W.T.A. Chairman Willing to Pull Out of China ★
Peng, who is one of China’s most recognizable sports stars, has
not been seen in public since she accused former Vice Premier
Zhang Gaoli of coercing her into sex at his home, according to
screenshots of a since-deleted social media post dated November 2.
“What we would say is that it would be important to have proof of
her whereabouts and wellbeing, and we would urge that there be an
investigation with full transparency into her allegations of
sexual assault,” Liz Throssell, the spokesperson of the UN Human
Rights office, told reporters in Geneva on Friday. [...]
The head of the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) Steve Simon has
said he is willing to lose hundreds of millions of dollars worth
of business in China if Peng is not fully accounted for and her
allegations are not properly investigated.
“We’re definitely willing to pull our business and deal with all
the complications that come with it,” Simon said in an interview
Thursday with CNN. “Because this is certainly, this is bigger than
the business,” added Simon.
Chinese state media released an email Wednesday, purportedly written by Peng and addressed to Simon, that reads as preposterously fake.
Bravo to Simon and the WTA for taking this no-bullshit fuck-the-money stance. The NBA cowardly prostrated itself to the CCP two years ago, when Daryl Morey — then GM of the Houston Rockets — tweeted “Fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong.” (Morey is now president of my hometown 76ers.)
The International Olympics Committee will be tested next: the 2022 Winter Olympics are slated to be hosted in China, starting in February.
Apple Pushes Back Return to Office Plan to February ★
Tim Cook, in a company-wide email (published by Zoe Schiffer, who has moved from The Verge to NBC News):
As of today, we are targeting February 1, 2022 to begin our
hybrid work pilot in many global locations where teams have not
yet returned to our corporate offices. We plan to start the pilot
with a phased approach, welcoming people back to the office for
one or two days a week for an initial period of four weeks. After
this transitional period, we will begin the pilot in full, with
eligible teams in the office three days a week, on Monday,
Tuesday, and Thursday, and with flexibility to work remotely on
Wednesday and Friday. You’ll receive more details about how the
first four-week phase will roll out as we get closer to the
As I noted when we announced our hybrid work pilot, we do have a
number of teams whose work requires a greater need to work
in-person, and they will come into the office four or five days a
week based on the plans for these specific teams.
Read: folks who work on hardware.
At the same time, we are committed to giving you more flexibility
as we move forward. In addition to the option of working remotely
twice a week on Wednesday and Friday, we announced this summer
that team members would be able to work remotely for up to two
weeks per year with a manager’s approval. I’m pleased to share
that we’re increasing the amount of time you can work remotely to
a total of four weeks per year. This provides more opportunity to
travel, be closer to your loved ones, or simply shake up your
Sensible, measured, and adaptable to changing conditions. Apple’s years-long response to the pandemic regarding its workforce (including retail) has been utterly Cook-ian.
Thursday, 18 November 2021
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. ★
Wednesday, 17 November 2021
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
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
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.) ★