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Apple launches self-repair scheme for iPhones and Macs

Genuine Apple parts and tools will be available to purchase alongside free instruction manuals - Genius bar t-shirt not included

Apple has announced Self Service Repair, a new programme that will allow customers to purchase repair kits directly from the company and fix their own devices without having to visit an Apple store.

It marks a significant U-turn in the company's business strategy which has for many years firmly stifled a customer's right to repair their devices at home.

The new programme is aimed at customers "who are comfortable with completing their own repairs" and will be rolled out gradually in the US starting in early 2022 before a wider global launch.

The first devices supported will be the iPhone 12 and iPhone 13, before the programme is eventually expanded to cover Macs with M1 chips too.

The first phase of the rollout will cover the most commonly affected modules on the iPhone meaning everyday consumers will be able to repair their batteries, displays, and cameras themselves for the very first time.

Customers will be able to purchase genuine Apple parts and tools, and download the appropriate repair manuals free of charge. Apple said customers will be able to access a new store which will have more than 200 individual parts and tools to help with at-home repairs.

The news comes as Apple backtracked on another repairs-related issue last week. Users reported Apple software 'breaking' Face ID if they attempted their own display repair on the iPhone 13.

“Creating greater access to Apple genuine parts gives our customers even more choice if a repair is needed,” said Jeff Williams, COO at Apple.

“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.”

Apple said more than 7,000 third-party repair companies, including Apple Authorised Service Providers and other Independent Repair Providers (IRPs), already had access to these parts, tools, and manuals, but it's the first time users will be able to take repairs into their own hands.

A 2D graphic depicting an Apple customer repairing their own device at home

Apple

iFixit, the device teardown and at-home repair specialists, said the news would be greeted warmly by the community, and "invalidates many of the arguments Apple and other manufacturers have used against the right to repair" in the past.

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Though, the company highlighted a few important caveats that mean Apple's news isn't the repair revolution consumers may have hoped for.

It noted users won't be able to harvest parts from other devices to replace broken modules such as displays. If an individual owns to iPhone 13s, one with a broken screen and one box-fresh, that person would not be able to take the working screen and transplant it to the broken phone, for example.

iFixit also said it is concerned that Apple may use the new programme to lock down parts through serialisation and control when devices go obsolete. 

"In the past, they’ve committed to providing parts to IRPs for 5-7 years after the release of a new device," it said. "Once they’ve got total control over parts availability, nothing’s stopping them from knocking a year or four off that commitment."

However, so-called 'right to repair' legislation may stop Apple from doing just that. The idea of a consumer's right to repair their own device is not a new one, but has resurfaced in the public discourse in recent months after the Biden administration told the Federal Trade Commission to issue rules against anticompetitive repair restrictions.

The sweeping executive order came after right to repair legislation was being considered in 27 US states earlier this year, and numerous high-profile cases are now being investigated such as the company which provides and serveries the infamously always-broken ice cream machines at McDonald's restaurants.

France is the only state outside of the US with right to repair legislation. Smartphone parts must be available in the country for at least five years.

Apple came under fire last week due to the aforementioned Face ID issues with screen replacements, but has faced criticism for years for its restrictive at-home repair rules.

These rules have typically applied across its entire portfolio of products bar the Mac Pro, which has been easily repairable and upgradable for multiple iterations now.

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