Apple and Self Repair

Thu Apr 28 2022

First, open source free speech Twitter, and now self repair Apple?!

What in the world is going on?

Yesterday, Apple published their first ever public self repair service website. Starting now you can purchase your own Apple parts and fix your own Apple products. They've only released parts for the iPhone generations 12 and 13 (including SE) but they have future plans to release manuals and parts for "Mac computers with Apple Silicon".

This isn't a new announcement. Apple first announced their self service repair back in November of 2021. I guess myself and everyone else of the free tech comunity didn't think they'd actually do it.

Peter Parker saying "Huh, I never thought he'd really do that."

It's true. They've released on their website repair manuals for those iPhones. It's possible to download them and look through the manuals free of charge to understand how your own Apple device works.

a sample internal view page of Apple's iPhone 12 Mini repair manual

This is beyond monumental. This is an extraordinary change for Apple as a company because it's suddenly now possible to keep using the same phone for five to ten years with the presence of accessible repair parts.

Of course, this doesn't factor into consideration things like proprietary codebases or old hardware deceleration or purposeful obfuscation that Apple admits to, but this is a massive leap in the right direction.

Why now?

The big question now is: why? Why would a tech giant committed to purpuseful obfuscation and "aesthetic over functionality" suddenly shift gears and try to be more hardware friendly?

The reason is for legal purposes. Last July, president Biden issued an exective order commanding agencies to "promote the interests of American workers, businesses, and consumers" and "address persistent and recurrent practices that inhibit competition", and later (in Section 5.h.ii) referring to "unfair anticompetitive restrictions on third-party repair or self-repair of items, such as the restrictions imposed by powerful manufacturers that prevent farmers from repairing their own equipment".

The law is cracking down on companies like Apple for not sharing their company services to the masses. Because Apple is a US-based company, they are legally required to abide to this executive order.

This is exactly why I have a hard time believing that Apple truly cares about the autonomy or well-being of its consumers. They didn't do this because they wanted to help people. They did this because they were legally required to.

They're not proud of this decision. In fact, if you go to the self service repair site you'll notice that it's not immediately obvious that it's even related to Apple at all. There was no marketing push to notify customers of this new service. They additionally don't provide any indication on the pages that the store is an official Apple repair service.

It looks like a scam.

The storefront of the self service repair store. There's no indication that it belongs to Apple or is managed by Apple.

I consider this to be Apple's way of side-stepping around the law. No dedicated Apple customer is going to choose to buy parts from a sketchy website, wait a week for part delivery, then spend half an hour trying to repair their device when they can just go to an Apple store expert and get it fixed for a slightly higher price. If you look at the repair store, you would even have to buy expensive Apple-specific tools to repair basic phone components.

a few Apple repairation tools priced at up to $250 to fix a display screen

Final thoughts

I want to like Apple as a company. Apple makes some amazing products including the 12MP ultra wide cameras, the new M1 chipset, the Mac Studio, and others. I always give them the benefit of the doubt in every scenario but time and time again they fail to satisfy my needs and wants as a consumer.

"Attempts are being made to reverse-engineer Apple's M1 chip; Make it open-source to be compatible with other platforms"

"An open-source Apple M1 chip is possible – not that Apple would ever allow it"

A community's fantastic attempt to reverse-engineer proprietary M1 chips

Apple is so anti-competitive it's frustrating. If you want to be liked and adopted by the free tech community of the world, stop being so anti-competitive.