APPLE’s goal Has always been to empower the users of its goods. “People are inherently creative. They will use tools in ways that the toolmakers never thought possible,” once said Steve Jobs, the late computer maker’s co-founder. So it’s always funny that the company went to great lengths to keep customers fixing its products. Repair manuals are kept secret; Genuine replacement parts are hard to get; And recently, replacing the screen of the last iPhone has disabled the facial recognition feature of the gadget.
Enjoy more audio and podcasts on IOS Or Android.
No more. In a series of moves that surprised many, Apple earlier this month promised a software repair to make the new iPhone model more repairable, and on November 17 announced that it will allow people to repair their devices and provide manuals, tools and Share. Even his critics have applauded, especially the leaders of a growing global “right-to-fix” movement including Kyle Wiens, the host of iFixit, a website that sells parts and publishes free repair guides.
But the likely impact of the “Self Service Repair” program is unclear. A new online store will open from early next year. Owners who return used parts for recycling will receive credit for a purchase. Independent repair shops can join in without signing heavy agreements with Apple. And, critically, repairs by individuals will no longer void the warranty (damage done while tinkering is not covered).
But the tool maker leaves less ground than initially appeared. Apple’s replacement parts, like its premium devices, cost a pretty penny. A new screen for the iPhone 12 is priced at $ 268. It is also not clear to what extent Apple will make its devices easier to repair. Because even swapping a battery requires removing the easily breakable screen, not many will try this at home.
Still, if Apple went further, its repair program could become a model for the smartphone and, perhaps, the wider electronics industry. Even its current form will push rival resource-makers to follow suit. “When it comes to repairs, Samsung Electronics is doing even worse than Apple,” says Mr Viens. Apple’s movement, he adds, has in one fell swoop the lie for many arguments used by electronics companies against making gadgets easier to repair than people getting hurt.
Apple has also managed to stay ahead of the regulatory trend, says Nabil Nasr of the Rochester Institute of Technology, who is working on a study for the Group of Seven (C7) The richest democracies regarding the life cycle of consumer electronics products. Regulators, he explains, are tackling the problem of e-waste – it could soon become difficult for firms to comply with all the mandates. In America, for example, legislatures in 27 states are now discussing right-to-fix bills. The European Union is also moving to pass such rules.
Apple-watchers wonder if the company will try the same strategy elsewhere in its business. It may make pre-emptive concessions, for example, in the heated controversy over how it regulates the app store on the iPhone. On November 9, a federal judge in California denied Apple’s request to remain part of a recent ruling. This needs to be until December 9 to allow app developers to inform their users how they can pay them directly and avoid Apple’s fees of up to 30% of the purchase price. Perhaps Apple could loosen up there too.■
This article was published in the Business section of the print edition under the heading “iMac, iPhone, iRepair”