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Apple Answers Call To Simplify iPhone DIY Repairs

Responding to pressure from the “right to repair” movement, the Cupertino, Calif.-based company will make parts and instructions available to consumers – but a consumer advocacy group says the company should also address its practice of parts-pairing.

Apple on Wednesday announced the launch of the Self Service Repair program for iPhones, making repair manuals and genuine Apple parts and tools available through its Self Service Repair Store.

The online store offers more than 200 individual parts and tools, allowing adventurous and handy customers an opportunity to complete their own repairs on iPhone 12 and iPhone 13 lines, as well as the iPhone SE (3rd Generation). The company plans on extending the program to its Mac computers with Apple silicon later this year, according to a release.

In March, the U.S. Public Research Group (U.S. PIRG) released a report giving Apple an “F” grade for fixability. Nathan Proctor, senior director of U.S. PIRG’s Campaign for the Right to Repair, said Apple’s new program is a step in the right direction but the company still has work to do on the issue of fixability. The program covers a limited number of repair parts and is aimed at “technicians” – the company says the “vast majority” of repairs should be completed by a professional repairer. But the Self Service program marks a huge shift for the company which historically clamped down on genuine parts availability.

“This is actually an improvement of the program they announced in November,” Proctor said of the launch. “There are parts of the announcement that make it evident that we’re making an impact with the work we’re doing. But we’re still concerned with the level Apple is digging in on pairing parts.”

Parts-pairing is Apple’s controversial practice of making certain parts functional only when matched to a part with an Apple serial number on file. Mismatched parts will get the user a warning and could cause the phone to become non-functional. This makes third-party parts unusable. “There’s little advantage if any to the consumer to pair the part to the device like that,” Proctor said. “It makes it way more complicated to fix the phone. This program is progress, but we need clarity on what they baseline rules are for repair.”

Several states, including New York, Minnesota, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania, have legislation in the works that call for increased repairability. Federal legislative efforts are also under way. Other companies, such as Samsung and Google previously announced similar fixability efforts this year.

According to a white paper, also released by Apple on Wednesday, “If a repair is needed, we believe we have a responsibility to customers and the environment to offer convenient access to safe, reliable, and secure repairs to help customers get the most out of their devices. That why we now offer more repair options…”

Apple uses propriety tools for each of its devices and those tools can now be rented through the Self Service website starting at $49 per kit. Many parts are available through the website, including speakers, display parts, screws, seals, and more. The company has also for the first time made available its proprietary display press that will give the correct water resistant seal.

“I’d be more enthusiastic about this program if apple would move away from this neet to have control over the parts,” U.S. PIRG’s Proctor said. “It’s draconian and has significant downsides to the environment. They are the only company doing this level of parts-pairing.”

Apple did not return messages seeking comment by press time.

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