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Apple to Allow Used Parts in Some iPhone Repairs Later This Year

Apple writes:

Today Apple announced an upcoming enhancement to existing repair processes that will enable customers and independent repair providers to utilize used Apple parts in repairs. Beginning with select iPhone models this fall, the new process is designed to maintain an iPhone user’s privacy, security, and safety…

Apple will also extend its popular Activation Lock feature to iPhone parts in order to deter stolen iPhones from being disassembled for parts.

Apple’s rather vague announcement seems aimed at heading off additional state regulation against “parts pairing,” which prevents repair shops from using functional parts harvested from otherwise damaged devices. It’s good to see the threat of regulation pushing Apple to allow traditional approaches to repair for at least a few devices. Simultaneously, it’s frustrating to see the company dragging its feet and then claiming that fixing a system it created counts as “innovating,” as Apple’s John Ternus says:

“For the last two years, teams across Apple have been innovating on product design and manufacturing to support repairs with used Apple parts that won’t compromise users’ safety, security, or privacy.”

As noted, much of the difficulty surrounds Activation Lock, which legitimately reduces the utility of stealing an iPhone by preventing it from being reused or broken up for parts (see “Smartphone Kill Switches Are Preventing Thefts,” 11 February 2015). Extending Activation Lock to iPhone parts does seem necessary to dissuade thieves.

That’s unpopular with the Right to Repair movement because many people forget to turn off Activation Lock before disposing of an iPhone, or it’s broken such that Activation Lock can’t be disabled. Unless Apple can walk the tightrope between requiring Activation Lock for parts and allowing it to be turned off for legitimate uses, many damaged iPhones will continue to end up in landfills.

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