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Apple Announces Self Service Repair Program

Apple has announced the Self Service Repair program, which gives individual users who are comfortable with repairing electronic devices access to Apple parts, tools, and repair manuals. When it launches in early 2022 in the United States, Self Service Repair will focus on the most commonly repaired modules of the iPhone 12 and iPhone 13 lineups, including the display, battery, and camera. Apple says it will be rolling out support for M1-based Macs, additional repair options, and availability in more countries throughout 2022.

Apple sees the process following this path:

  1. The user reviews the repair manual for the product and part in question to make sure they’re comfortable performing the repair.
  2. Then the user places an order for the necessary parts and tools using the Apple Self Service Repair Online Store.
  3. After completing the repair, the user returns the used part for recycling and receives credit toward their purchase.

While the Self Service Repair program was a surprise, The Verge’s Maddie Stone notes that the timing was likely related to a shareholder resolution that could have gone to the US Securities and Exchange Commission. Apple says the program has been in the works for longer and wouldn’t comment on whether shareholder pressure influenced the timing of the announcement.

Regardless of how it came about, I applaud Apple for creating the Self Service Repair program. I hope not to need it personally, but if I do, I might give it a try since I’ve replaced batteries in older iPhones and done major surgery on 27-inch iMacs. Or I might not—replacing the battery in an iPhone 5 was nerve-wracking (see “Replace a Dying iPhone 5 Battery,” 5 March 2014).

That said, I have some issues with how Apple is positioning Self Service Repair and what downstream effects it might have. It’s clear that Apple doesn’t want everyone thinking they can repair a broken iPhone screen:

Self Service Repair is intended for individual technicians with the knowledge and experience to repair electronic devices. For the vast majority of customers, visiting a professional repair provider with certified technicians who use genuine Apple parts is the safest and most reliable way to get a repair.

No one should dive into a repair they don’t think they can complete successfully, but I find the emphasis on safety somewhat disingenuous. Apple might mean that professional repair is safest “for your device,” which is very likely true, but it reads more like Apple continuing to spread fear, uncertainty, and doubt about DIY repair under the veil of being concerned for the safety of its customers. Particularly with iPhones, it’s hard to imagine serious injuries commonly stemming from repairs, especially if the person doing the repairs keeps parts out of their mouth—biting a lithium-ion battery is just plain stupid. It’s not like repairing CRT monitors, which harbor enough voltage to kill, at least in theory. Or not.

I also suspect that Apple sees the Self Service Repair program as a way to head off other right-to-repair concerns and maintain as much control as possible. For instance, iFixit notes:

  • Apple’s repair software doesn’t allow replacing a dead part with a working one from another device, even though that would be less expensive and better for the environment than recycling the donor device.
  • An official repair program like this might help Apple justify further serialization of parts to ensure that it remains the only parts supplier, with the associated ability to keep prices high.
  • Controlling the parts marketplace also gives Apple the power to determine when a device becomes obsolete—if you can only use genuine Apple parts and Apple no longer makes them, repair becomes impossible.

But again, there’s no question that the entire Apple ecosystem is better off with the Self Service Repair program than without it. Right-to-repair advocates like Kyle Wiens of iFixit and Nathan Proctor of USPIRG are generally positive about the move and hope that it encourages other manufacturers, but they’re also realistic that there’s a lot more to be done.

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Comments About Apple Announces Self Service Repair Program

Notable Replies

  1. Lithium battery short circuits can start fires. An incorrectly installed battery can be pinched and can later short. I think the risks of non-skilled people doing these repairs are real. However, if this program reduces the use of non-genuine Apple batteries, it could lead to improved safety overall. But I doubt that this program will move the needle.

  2. I just saw this Apple press release:

    It sounds like good news, but I’ll withhold any celebration until after we learn the details of the program (especially how much these tools and parts will cost) and people with more expertise than myself (like iFixit) have had a chance to comment.

  3. You beat me in posting this by seconds, David. I’ll be interested to hear what our experts think too.

  4. I are not an expert…but getting genuine Apple parts, tools, and instructions for repairs if you want to do it yourself is a good thing. However…repairing an iPhone…and the iPads, iMacs, mini, and laptops to come…isn’t for the faint of heart. It requires technical expertise, maybe additional tools, knowledge most mortals don’t have, knowing how much or how little to push, pry, prod, or bend to get things to come apart without breaking, etc. I think that we’ll see a lot of devices get broken by people who wanted to save a few bucks despite the lack of all that stuff…and end up spending more to get it fixed correctly or to get a new device.

    Like the plumber’s ad goes…we fix what your husband fixed.

  5. My limited experience inside Macs to date (successful, but barely) confirms this, and I’m a little flummoxed by the timing–announcing such a program when just about everything interesting is on the same chip. In practice it may be limited to batteries, screens and maybe ports? If so I’d be inclined to use it if I needed to.

  6. No disagreement here, but…

    • Apple has specialized tools and jigs for safely opening and closing phones. I don’t think the people working in Apple Stores doing screen and battery replacements are highly trained repair specialists, and I know they don’t use heat guns, suction cups and guitar picks to open and close phones.
    • I fully expect that Apple’s repair instructions are going to involve the use of these tools. You’ll be able to buy them (which is good), but I expect them to be very expensive (which is bad), and they are going to be single-task tools (only usable for specific models of phones).
    • We know that Apple will be providing the instructions - their press release explicitly tells users to read them before purchasing any tools or parts.
    • I don’t think many individual users are going to take advantage of this. I fully expect it to cost as much (if not more) than what Apple authorized repair centers pay for parts and tools - which is pretty steep. I think this is going to be most important for independent repair shops unwilling to join the repair programs - they will now be able to buy the tools needed to make the job easier, if they are so inclined. And their customers will now be able to get new genuine Apple parts (if they are willing to pay Apple’s price for them) instead of used or aftermarket parts.
    • It will be interesting to see whether Apple makes available the tools needed to pair displays, batteries, cameras, etc. with motherboards. Or if they will instead ask you to provide serial numbers so they can ship you parts that are pre-paired (and therefore won’t work in any other phone). I suspect the latter, but maybe I’ll be pleasantly surprised.
  7. I don’t see this program as targeting Great Uncle Hershel who wants to fix his shattered iPhone screen all by himself. It does however give Jane’s iPhone Repair down the block the tools and resources she needs to fix the screen for him.

  8. I own an AASP and can confirm that the price of all the tools needed to repair an iPhone 12 or 13 to Apple standards is way over 1000$

  9. I just last week replaced the battery in a late-2015 MBP using iFixit’s replacement battery and special tools – the tools included the marvelously low-tech blank credit cards for sliding under the adhesive battery, and the “iOpener”, a bag of gel you heat in your microwave and use to warm up the battery to soften the adhesive.

    I wonder if Apple will be as inventive in their tool choice – or if the Apple “repair manual” will be anywhere near as clear as iFixit’s step by step photos.

  10. For now, they’re only talking about fixing recent model phones. From what little I’ve seen leaked to the press over the years, they have a custom jig designed for removing the screen (which I assume involves heat and suction). Once the screen is open, battery replacement is pretty simple - pull the stretch-tabs to remove the adhesive and it comes right out.

    I’ll be very curious about what their procedure is going to be for an MBP with glued-in batteries. I seem to remember reading that their procedure is to replace the entire “top case” module - the aluminum frame, keyboard, trackpad and batteries. All of the electronics are transplanted to a new top-case.

    Which means you’re going to spend a small fortune to buy that part and then (hopefully) get a lot of it back when you send them the old one, which their own people will refurbish with a new battery and maybe other parts, so it can be sold to someone else as a replacement part.

    If Apple has a way to remove the batteries from the enclosure, I’ll be very interested to see what it is.

  11. If you watch a teardown of the new 14" MacBook Pro you will see that the battery modules each have a tab to assist in pulling them out. This has never been seen before on a MacBook Pro to my knowledge. And bodes well for battery replacement. Too bad I bought a 13" M1 in the Spring.

  12. Apple will trade you that 13" M1 for a 14" MBP. If it ends up costing you $600 extra that would mean you had your M1 for $100/month. Pretty good in my book. Lots of people paid about that much for cable back in the day, or their plethora of streaming services these days.

  13. Unfortunately I bought it from UK department store John Lewis.

  14. I’m pretty sure Apple UK will trade in your old Mac regardless of where you originally purchased it. Take it to a local Apple store and ask them about trade-in value.

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