Apple’s Self Repair Program…. Don’t Be Fooled By This Announcement

Yesterday Apple dropped this press release announcing their Self Repair Program. Starting next year in the US (with other countries coming “soon”), Apple will be allowing users to complete their own repairs via a new online store dedicated to parts and tools. It will give customers who are comfortable with the idea of completing their own repairs access to Apple genuine parts, tools, and manuals, starting with the iPhone 12 and iPhone 13 lineups.

The first phase of the program will focus on the iPhone’s most commonly serviced parts, such as the display, battery, and camera, but more kinds of repairs will become available later next year. Apple silicon Macs with the M1 chip, including the MacBook Air, 13-inch MacBook Pro, Mac mini, and 24-inch iMac will be next to join the program.

The Self Service Repair program will be facilitated by a new Apple Self Service Repair Online Store, offering more than 200 individual parts and tools to complete ‌iPhone 12‌ and ‌iPhone 13‌ repairs at launch. Customers will first need to consult the repair manual to ensure that they are comfortable performing the repair before they order the part(s) and tools required for the repair.

Now this sounds good on the surface. But Apple isn’t doing this out of the goodness of their hearts. In my mind there’s a number of reasons why they are doing this:

  • President Joe Biden signed an executive order earlier this year directing the FTC to crack down on companies who fight the option to do self repairs or third party repairs. Which they have vowed to do. Apple who historically have fought the right to repair anywhere and everywhere must have seen the writing on the wall and decided rather than fight, they should craft a response to this that still has them coming out on top. Plus they can roll this out in any place where they are left with no other choice but to comply.
  • The products mentioned are recent products. Which means that there is the possibility that they are covered by AppleCare. That means nobody is going to do their own repairs on these products as it will be free or cheap for the consumer to leverage AppleCare coverage instead of trying to fix it themselves.
  • You can bet your bottom dollar that Apple is going to provide these tools and parts with a hefty markup. And if you try to repair something and you screw up the repair, you can bet your bottom dollar that Apple will charge you an insane amount of money to fix it.
  • While I might be comfortable swapping a MacBook Pro battery, or an iPhone screen, most consumers, as in 90% or more are not. And Apple knows this. Which means that the take up on this is going to be low.
  • Apple can change the optics away from “Apple is against right to repair” to “Apple is open to right to repair” and get some brownie points for doing so.

But there’s one more thing to borrow an Apple phrase to keep in mind. Apple is only doing this with individuals. Not with third party repair shops. Now they have a program for that which has its own pitfalls for the owners of those shops. But this announcement doesn’t improve upon that. I say that because it still forces the average person to the Genius Bar rather than giving them the option to repair their Apple product wherever they want. And that of course also assumes that you want to pay Apple prices for your repair.

The bottom line is that this is an optics exercise for Apple. If they really wanted to embrace right to repair, they would go further than what was announced. But they haven’t. So don’t be fooled by this announcement. It isn’t what you think it is, and it’s not going to get the results that you think it will.

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