The Truth About Apple’s New Self Service Repair Program

by Nosherwan Khan
Apple Self Service Repair Blog Post

On November 17, 2021, Apple took the world by storm. Their latest announcement wasn’t for a new phone or computer or operating system – it was about self-repairs. That’s right, Apple announced the launch of its new Self Service Repair program, and people all over the world were shocked.

What does this new program entail for consumers? Has Apple finally caved in to demands for right to repair? Is this a new era for Apple devices, or does the company have something else in mind? Let’s discuss the deal behind Apple’s newest program and what it means for the future of repairs.

What is the new Apple Self Service Repair program?

Let’s start by talking about exactly what the new Self Service Repair program is. Apple has stated in a press release that the new program will allow people to repair the iPhone 12 and iPhone 13 lineups by providing tools, parts, and service manuals. The program would also extend to M1 devices later down the line, along with adding more parts for other types of repairs. The program is scheduled for early 2022 for US customers, while other territories will be added later next year.

First, customers will be able to review Apple’s authorized Repair Manual. Once they understand the process, they will be able to order parts and tools directly from Apple. Each part will then be authorized and delivered to the customer, following which they will have to send the faulty part back to the company. Doing so will give them credit towards their purchase of the parts and tools. All of this will be done through the new Apple Self Service Repair Online Store, meaning you can get a direct line to Apple’s OEM parts as an individual through an online interface.

Apple has explicitly stated that the program is intended for individuals. For best results, customers are urged to visit Apple-certified repair providers and technicians, who can get the job done better. In line with this stance, Apple is only providing support for display, camera, and battery replacements right now. Once computers factor in, Apple will be expanding its support to other parts as well.

That’s as much as we can glean from Apple’s press release at this time. The program starts in 2022 and will cover the latest iPhones and Mac machines in the next year.

Benefits to the repair community

Apple’s announcement certainly has everyone’s attention in the tech community. The introduction of such a program caught everyone by surprise, especially given Apple’s reputation with repairs. The company has been notoriously opposed to repairs of its devices, citing safety and security concerns in the past. So it’s really surprising to see such a program come out of the Cupertino tech giant.

The biggest win for the repair community here is the publishing of Apple’s service manuals. For years, Apple has heavily guarded its service manuals against the public and refused to publish them to anyone other than their trusted partners. Now, it seems like the manuals will be out in the wild for everyone to see. This will make it significantly easier for people to learn how Apple products work and what is the best way to repair them.

The CEO of iFixit, Kyle Wiens, sees this as a great opportunity. Getting access to Apple’s service manuals means that repairs for Apple products will be much easier to manage.

There’s always opportunities to improve our manuals. Now that we’ll have access to Apple’s information, we’ll be able to make our information and tools and repair kits even better.

Kyle Wiens – CEO, iFixit

Catch our podcast with Kyle Wiens on the right to repair movement and how iFixit is making a difference.

Also important is the access that average consumers get to the Apple supply chain. With this new program, individuals will find it easier to repair Apple phones and computers by getting the necessary parts and tools that they need directly from the company itself. That means no more sourcing from third parties for products that may or may not be guaranteed to work. It also makes it a lot easier for people to get into the repair industry and start their own business, which is a win in everyone’s book.

What’s the catch here?

It’s great to see Apple take such a progressive stance on introducing policies that benefit consumers. But if the Apple Self Service Repair program sounds too good to be true, it’s probably because it might actually be at this point.

Since the program has just been announced, we have yet to determine what exactly is Apple’s game here. Judging from the difficulty of repairing the iPhone 13, it’s pretty evident Apple still doesn’t want everyone tinkering around with their devices. So what exactly are we not seeing here?

Pricing and economic viability

Apple did announce that parts, tools, and manuals will be provided to individuals through the new Self Service Repair program. However, there’s no word on the pricing of these components yet. Apple’s tools most likely won’t come cheap, and there’s plenty of skepticism on how affordable they will be.

Apple’s top-of-the-line phones can reach prices up to US$1,600 with a lot of expensive components in them. Replacing their premium screens or cameras would, therefore, cost quite a bit as well. Given the state of the global economy in recent years, it might be difficult for some people to shell out the cash needed for these repairs. Adding in the fact that customers will receive credit for the faulty parts that they send back to Apple, we can assume that the expense would be significant when repairing iPhones in the future.

Limitation on products & repairs

The program currently has committed to providing resources for fixing the iPhone 12 and iPhone 13 lineup. However, any product other than that is excluded from the program. This would hinder the repairs of older models of the iPhone that are still popular, such as the iPhone 11 and iPhone X line. It even forsakes users of the iPhone SE, a product still being officially sold on Apple’s website and stores.

It’s also baffling that when the program launches, there will be no support for charging port, speaker, or button repairs. These components often fail frequently for users as well. The fact that they are not included in the program is truly surprising.

One other point of contention is if Apple will provide actual broken parts as opposed to entire assemblies for repairs. Let’s say that a customer has a malfunctioning earpiece in their phone; will Apple require them to change the entire display assembly? Surely, the cost for an earpiece replacement would be lower, but if it requires a display replacement, then even basic repairs are going to cost an arm and a leg. How deep this program really goes is also up for debate at this point.

Similarities to the Apple Independent Repair Program

An important point made by Louis Rossmann, famed influencer and owner of the Rossmann Repair Group, is that this could be similar to the Apple Independent Repair Program. Simply put, the Independent Repair Program had limited support for repair technicians and actually made things much more difficult for them.

Rossmann posted a video on his YouTube channel highlighting the failings of the Independent Repair Program. The video also scrutinizes how Apple’s latest program may mirror it.

Louis also called to question the issue of right to repair. In the past, Apple had introduced programs to show lawmaking bodies that it wasn’t anti-competitive so that bills were not passed that were a detriment to its business model.

The new program does have the potential to fall along those lines again. However, judging by the recent policies of the EU, Apple might be strong-armed to finally play fair for once.

Conclusion

Even with everything to consider, it’s great to see Apple, for once, heading in a good direction. The addition of a repair program benefiting individuals is a great move for the repair industry. It shows that with the right push, big tech can be made to reason with and adopt a more consumer-friendly stance.

The details of the Apple Self Service Repair program may be a bit sparse right now, and only time will tell how successful it is in the long run. However, if Apple manages to pull it off, it will have won the respect and adoration of much of the community. We can only hope that that is where the road eventually leads.

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