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iFixit Retroactively Reduces iPhone 14 Repairability Score Due to Parts Pairing

iFixit’s Kyle Wiens writes:

We need to have a serious chat about iPhone repairability. We judged the phones of yesteryear by how easy they were to take apart—screws, glues, how hard it was to change a battery. But repairs have gotten trickier, by design. Software now limits many basic iPhone repairs. That’s why we’ve revised the repairability score for the iPhone 14 from a recommend 7 out of 10 to a do-not-recommend 4.

Although iFixit was initially positive about the repairability of last year’s iPhone 14, the company has now revamped its scoring system to account for the significant problems associated with parts pairing. Apple increasingly requires that new parts be cryptographically paired to the devices in which they’re installed, a capability available only to Apple-authorized repair centers or through Apple’s little-used Self Service Repair program (see “Apple Expands Self Service Repair Program; Have You Used It?” 21 June 2023).

iFixit’s complaints may seem odd in light of the company’s lauding of Apple’s recent support for California’s new Right to Repair Act, which requires that manufacturers:

make available to owners of the product, service and repair facilities, and service dealers sufficient documentation and functional parts and tools, inclusive of any updates, on fair and reasonable terms, to effect the diagnosis, maintenance, or repair of a product for at least seven years after the last date a product model or type was manufactured

In a close reading of the Act, it seems that parts pairing is addressed in the definition of “tool,” which includes software that pairs a part. The wiggle room may come in the definition and interpretation of “fair and reasonable terms.” We’ll see if Apple changes any of its repair policies or programs before the Right to Repair Act becomes operative on 1 July 2024.

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