Apple has announced plans to let customers repair their own phones in a monumental shift from its current repair policies. It is going to sell repair parts directly to the public, something that few phone manufacturers have done over the last decade. It will also make repair guides available to the public.
“Available first for the iPhone 12 and iPhone 13 lineups, and soon to be followed by Mac computers featuring M1 chips, Self Service Repair will be available early next year in the US and expand to additional countries throughout 2022,” it said in a press release.
According to Apple, the initial focus will be on screens, batteries, and cameras but will expand next year. Customers will have access to repair manuals and can then order Apple parts and tools online. After they’ve completed their own repair they can return the broken parts to an Apple store for store credit. Apple said it will offer more than 200 individual parts and tools to help repair iPhone 12s and 13s.
“Creating greater access to Apple genuine parts gives our customers even more choice if a repair is needed,” Jeff Williams, Apple’s chief operating officer, said in a press release. “In the past three years, Apple has nearly doubled the number of service locations with access to Apple genuine parts, tools, and training, and now we’re providing an option for those who wish to complete their own repairs.”
This is a massive change from Apple, who has long maintained a repair monopoly on its products and done whatever it could to prevent people from fixing their own devices. Apple initially disabled Face ID on iPhone 13s with independently repaired screens and has promised a software fix for the issue.
Since the inception of the iPhone, Apple has fought against consumer and independent repair. For years, Apple only allowed “authorized” repair companies to fix iPhones, which created a huge grey market for aftermarket parts and a bustling online culture for DIY repair guides that were created by staff and users on sites like iFixit. Apple has generally fought against independent repair; the company has sued repair companies that use what it has argued in court are “counterfeit” parts, has lobbied against right to repair legislation that would require Apple to do what it just announced it will voluntarily do, and has historically argued that fixing your own phone is dangerous.
Apple’s announcement may be in response to pressure from the right to repair movement, which has been led by companies like iFixit, independent repair companies, and consumer rights activists. The right to repair movement has won a few victories over the last year, with the Biden administration providing some repair protections in a recent executive order. The FTC has also signaled that it is considering taking action on repair monopolies.
This move from Apple does not necessarily mean the right to repair movement is over, or that there isn’t still work to be done. John Deere and other tractor manufacturers promised similar access to repair parts and manuals in an agreement several years ago and then used it to argue that right to repair legislation was not necessary. But the version that tractor manufacturers offered was a watered-down version of what activists were looking for, and the ultimate rollout of its consumer repair program was slow and underwhelming.
Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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