Teardown: Apple self-service repair | E&T magazine

Apple supports the right to repair…sort of.

  1. Apple launched its first self-repair program in the United States in April, with Europe expected to follow later this year. However, unlike others launched recently by Samsung, Google, HTC and Microsoft, the company retains full control over its program. Its rivals have teamed up with independent repair specialist and aftermarket supplier iFixit.

Major electronics companies have gradually responded to demands from right-to-repair activists as politicians have become more open to introducing legislation. France was the first country to do so in January 2021 and plans to extend the repairability scores it imposes on a range of electronics to include durability.

It’s fair to say that most consumers will always prefer repairs to be carried out by an expert (although it’s also true that most AND readers will feel like they are part of the exception). Installing a new SIM tray and even an adhesive-backed battery can be a relatively trivial task; replace a screen not so much. Likewise, there’s not a whole lot of reason why anyone would want to pay parts and tinker for a device that’s still under warranty, despite growing privacy concerns.

Self-repair will impact independent vendors. Programs in partnership with iFixit also allow owners to purchase approved parts and then have them installed by an expert. They will make the user more confident about the likely outcome and potentially expand the global repair network, leading to more price competition.

Before we look at how Apple Self-Service Repair is a bit of an outlier, an important point to make is that most programs cover newer products, usually around four years old. The first supported product is the 2016 Google Pixel 2 handset. In contrast, Samsung supports the Galaxy S20 and S21, the first of which launched in early 2020, while Apple’s program covers generations since and after the Galaxy S20 and S21. iPhone 12, launched later the same year.
There’s not much for anyone to try and breathe life into an older device due to the current economic crisis.

Similarly, most launches cover handsets, though Microsoft will support the new Surface laptops and HTC will support its Vive VR headset. More lines will be added over time, with Apple committing to add Mac notebooks powered by its own processors later this year. However, again, this would only go back to 2020, although in its own position paper on self-repair the company acknowledges that a MacBook Pro lasts “on average 2-4 years longer than the traditional PCs”.

Image credit: iFixit

The fact that self-repair is initially offered only for newer and generally more expensive products should not obscure the fact that these initiatives represent a good start. Even though campaigners such as iFixit have touted not just repairability but e-waste as strong arguments in their favour, OEMs want to see just how much appetite there is for self-repair – while seeking to influence the future regulatory roadmap.

Apple’s launch schedule has raised other concerns, however. First, the repair manuals are free and clear, but the range of parts made available is relatively limited, falling into six main categories with supporting parts such as screws and covers. These include the screen and the battery.

Second, the Apple program still has a reasonably sized barrier to entry. You can hire his repair tools for $49 plus parts, but you must pay a refundable deposit of $1,200 (£980). That can lead to a lot of balking in these cash-strapped times – and the kit itself is pro-grade, arguably overkill (as a comparison between the two sturdy cases that hold 79lbs (36kg) of tools and the package claims iFixit can perform the same tasks).


Cases Ifixitcase Apple 754181512416227075 Inline

Image credit: iFixit

Also on the barrier to entry, there are few self-repair cost advantages offered over parts. According to an iFixit analysis, the difference for a screen can be as little as $2. “Parts are very expensive; $329 for an in-store repair where Apple does everything versus $278.35 for a DIY repair, after you give them your old screen and if you don’t rent their tools — which, by the way, if you did , would bring the total DIY cost to $327.35,” teardown engineer Shahram Mokhtari said.

The third concern is perhaps the most controversial. Apple applies partial matching to replacements – each component is synchronized with the IMEI number of the device on which it is to be installed.
Apple does this through a system configuration software tool that must be run on the device after repair. The company says this ensures quality and reflects the need to calibrate parts such as displays, cameras and batteries for each handset. If the game does not match, the phone displays a persistent warning message.

“Can we talk a little bit about matching pieces?” Mokhtari observed. “Like how they’re trying to control the market by disabling functionality if a screen or battery is replaced without Apple’s permission? Who owns this phone, anyway; haven’t I already paid for it? battery health is not a biometric like Face ID could be I can only see this as a fix monopoly.

Warranties and repairs are, according to an analysis, a nice little source of revenue for Apple. As its designs have become more robust, trade publication Warranty News estimates that the company’s revenue from programs such as AppleCare reached $8.5 billion in its 2021 fiscal year, but it paid the price. equivalent of only $2.7 billion in claims, 10% less than the year before.

Apple has always aggressively defended the aftermarket channel, and its openness, however limited, is welcome — though such limitations could still fuel demands for legislation establishing formal access requirements.

AND readers are likely to be part of the bargain for all kits, and as we look to review how they work, we’d love to hear from you. Whether it’s Apple, the four working in tandem with iFixit, or any of the others deployed around the world, the next part of the right to repair debate should be for users.

Components available for Apple Self-Service Repair

iPhone 12 mini repair options: exploded view


Apple iPhone 12 Mini Teardown Annotated - Online

Image credit: iFixit/E&T

1. Assembling the True Depth Camera

2. Cameras

3. Upper battery adhesive tabs

4. Battery

5. Lower Battery Adhesive Tabs

6. Speaker

7. Lower Pickups

8. Lightning connector

9. Touch Engine

10. Taptic Engine connector cover

11. Display connector

12. Battery Flex Cable (hidden)

13. Receiver connector/ambient light sensor/proximity sensor

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