Lots of us have attempted to replace an iPhone screen.
Go on, you naughty iPhone owner – admit it.
I have. It was a horrible experience – primarily because Apple appears to use screws designed for a yet-to-be-discovered micro race that has access to the only screwdriver no one else on the planet has in their toolbox.
It’s a fiddly, sweary process, and one that is full of reminders that you shouldn’t be undertaking it yourself.
Apple has never liked the idea of anyone but itself and its network of Authorised Service Providers undertaking repairs.
Until now. Or, at least, that’s how it seems.
Yesterday, Apple announced its new Self Service Repair program, which will allow regular folk like you and me to fix our own Apple stuff. They even send you the tools needed for the job.
And no – you’re not dreaming.
Is Apple really comfortable with this?
As you read through Apple’s press release it feels like you’re listening to someone slowly explain why, after many years, they’re finally willing to let you drive their expensive car.
To save you some time, this is how it reads.
“So, I’ve been thinking, and it’s ok if you want to drive my car,” says Apple. “No, I know – seriously, it’s ok. I know you’re not expecting this, and you’ve been asking for it for so long. I’m also aware that you’ve been taking it out behind my back. But that’s ok. Really. I’m fine with it.
“Let’s stop this, shall we? Look – I’ll give you the keys. It’ll be ok. I know it’ll be ok. You’ll be joining my other two mates who are allowed to drive it. Sure, they’ve got decades of driving experience under their belt. But you’ll be ok. I think you’ll be fine. No, you definitely will be ok. Look, you just need to be capable of driving it, which I’m sure you are. Honestly. You probably really are capable of driving my very expensive car.
“Ok, look – I’ve written a manual for the car. You need to follow it really carefully if you want to drive it. And this is only because I know you’re going to be ok and you’re highly unlike to crash it into a tree. You’re insured, right? And would you consider yourself as close as is humanly possible to a professional driver? I just want to be sure of that. Maybe some proof of extended driving experi- no, no, sure, that’s ok. Seriously, though, if you just want a ride in the passenger seat instead, that’s cool. In fact, that’s probably safer for everyone, isn’t it? Here, give me back the keys, please.”
This press release will have been through many, many hands before it was published. Phrases like “product owners who are capable of performing repairs themselves”, and, more tellingly, “Self Service Repair is intended for individual technicians with the knowledge and experience to repair electronic devices” reveal that Apple is far from comfortable with its new at-home repair service.
So, what’s going on?
Why are they doing this?
As pointed out by Maddie Stone in The Verge, Apple isn’t doing this out of the kindness of its own heart. It is simply reacting to a shareholder-led fight over the right to independent repair that was previously heading towards the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Apple’s Nick Leahy tells The Verge that the new repair program is “the next step in increasing customer access to Apple genuine parts, tools, and manuals”. This is technically true, but that doesn’t change the fact that Apple would really rather not hand over their car keys to everyone and sundry.
Following yesterday’s announcement, Green Century Capital Management cancelled its shareholder proposal which was aimed squarely at reversing Apple’s stance on independent repairs. Interesting timing, right?
Indeed, for years, people have campaigned for Apple to loosen the rules surrounding the repair process of its products. Clearly, the threat of shareholder action tipped the scales; Apple could do nothing but bow to the environmental and social pressure.
What a turn of events! We’ll probably see a glowing Apple logo in the next MacBook Air at this rate.
What can you fix yourself?
Apple isn’t exactly flooding us with details of its Self Service Repair program (which will be US-based only to begin with). All we know at this stage is that “parts, tools, and manuals” will be made available for iPhone 12 and iPhone 13 device owners. This will be followed “soon” by M1-based Macs.
It appears as though the program will be phased, too, with the initial batch of parts likely to include the iPhone’s display, battery, and camera components. Additional parts and tools will follow later in the year.
Orders for parts will take place on a new Apple Self Service Repair Online Store (there’s no sign of this at the time of writing), and a recycling program will enable customers to receive a credit for any parts they return to Apple as part of the repair.
That’s all we know. Apple quotes “more than 200 individual parts and tools”, which – if my prior experience of breaking Apple Law and attempting a fix myself is anything to go by – probably comprises one screen, one battery, and 198 different types of screw.
There’s no doubting that this is a nice step forward for anyone who wants the freedom of repairing their Apple devices at home. You should be able to do this, after all. But when it arrives with such meticulous timing following a genuine threat to Apple’s ability to conduct its business, I find it hard to stand up and applaud their decision.
At least you won’t have to take your smashed iPhone screen to Dodgy Dave’s iFix Apple Repair Store anymore.