Now that Apple offers right to repair, what will you do?

Apple has at last agreed to make it a little easier for people to mend their own devices. What does this mean to your company?

Apple finally seems to have finally come to its senses — repairability is no longer a dirty word in the Apple-verse. But is this good news for your business?

What Apple has planned

In brief, Apple finally listened to consumers and governments and will begin giving people the right (and the tools) to repair their own devices.

The Self Service Repair scheme begins with baby steps — the company will begin selling Apple genuine spare parts for iPhone 12 and 13 devices next year, and will make components available for Apple Silicon Macs after that.

The company will extend the program — which also includes provision of service manuals and approved tools — to up to 200 components and additional nations starting in 2022.

Details about pricing aren’t yet visible, and if you own an older iPhone or Mac then nothing has changed. And Apple has said nothing concerning iPads.

What isn't likely

The scheme will not enable you to harvest components from broken iPhones to use to repair other iPhones. Apple’s existing model does not permit Independent Repair Shops (IRPs) to replace a faulty part with one taken from another device. Instead, the company requires serial number approval of both the Apple-purchased component and the phone itself, according to iFixit.

The sense of the announcement tells us this is likely to continue. Other than price, that limitation may not matter a lot to individual users who just want to replace their battery or display, but will matter to enterprises and others attempting to maintain — and manage tech support budgets — across larger fleets.

SMBs do have an option.

Apple Business Essentials will offer AppleCare support across fleets of devices next year. It’s important to note that the coverage you get from AppleCare via that plan can be applied across any device you manage. So, if you pay for that coverage across 50 staffers, that provides plenty of coverage for multiple instances.

Larger enterprises probably have existing arrangements with approved repair engineers.

Also consider iFixIt's claim that IRP members get a new iPhone 12 display for around $235 if they return the broken screen. That’s a very slight discount on the $280 Apple levies for repairing an out of warranty iPhone 12 display.

For many businesses, it will be a matter of studying the fees for both AppleCare and component replacement once these are revealed in 2022. I think most small business users will find Apple Business Essentials (and a stout case) offer the best deal, while larger enterprises will stick with existing support deals.

It’s not a total commitment

Apple’s approach to right to repair is also limited by what it isn’t offering.

It hasn't discussed older devices. It has only announced iPhone 12 and 13 and M1 Macs. Apple also hasn’t announced any form of amnesty on those annoying "genuine part" warnings iPhones repaired with non-Apple-approved components sometimes show.

Overall this means that while you can repair your iPhone, you can’t use harvested parts and can’t seek out replacement components that are not approved (which means made) by Apple.

While I understand why Apple wants only approved components inside people’s iPhones, given that it won’t want to be sued in the event a faulty unapproved part causes a problem, it’s possible that enabling an approved third-party component marketplace could be a good next step. I won’t be holding my breath, but I can see this as an emerging battle ground.

It isn’t about repair

What may be most important is what people aren’t discussing much.

We know Apple is investing in building a carbon neutral supply chain and the company does seem more seriously committed to this than most. Apple has made frequent statements concerning its approach:

  • It wants to sell devices that work for years.
  • It wants to build devices that are as far as possible free of pollutants.
  • It wants to make improvements across the product lifecycle toward carbon zero.
  • It is striving to build a circular manufacturing chain, in which new components are created out of recycling what is old.

It even has that bit at the end of every product announcement (during which too many in the tech press seem to switch off) where it talks about the environmental design of each of its products.

Until now, the elephant in the room has been repairability.

Now, we know Apple didn’t rush to do this. Some think it took a shareholder rebellion and a change in management at the FTC to force it to accept some form of right to repair. That can’t have been easy for Apple’s environmental responsibility teams. With all their good work that elephant was still hard to hide, as elephants so often are. But I do take reassurance from the end of Apple’s press release concerning this scheme, where it states (italics mine):

“By designing products for durability, longevity, and increased repairability, customers enjoy a long-lasting product that holds its value for years. Apple also offers years of software updates to introduce new features and functionality.”

Designing products with increased repairability in mind may make a big difference in the years ahead.

There’s a little more background to consider. Apple astonished everyone a couple of years ago when it extended the number of devices supported by software updates to those up to five years old. Few, if any, smartphone vendors match this.

Now, by conceding the need for “increased repairability” — even if this is slightly compromised by the need to use Apple-approved components — the built-in encouragement to recycle lends itself to the company’s emerging vision.

Now that Apple has been pushed to accept repairability, your business will be next.

Apple shows where the wind blows

If you are a business that makes and sells products, you must recognize things are changing. We know governments fell far short at COP26, but the pressure for action on climate change will only grow. This is already happening. Those energy supply close-downs impacting Chinese manufacturing are not a blip, but a signpost.

While we have endured 20 years of increasingly rapid transformation across every enterprise, there is little sign this will slow, which means every company — small, or large – must adopt a mindset around repair, recycle, renew, and reuse.

Those environmental concepts will rapidly become as important as TCO and price in how consumer and business customers regard any product purchase, including the products your company makes.

Apple could — and perhaps should — have made self-repair schemes like this available years ago. That it didn’t means that when it comes to right to repair, Apple is a weathervane, blown by the winds of shareholder rebellion and government demand.

That may be true, but it also seems as inescapable as the black monolith in Space Odyssey that Apple making these changes shows us all how strongly the winds of these changes now blow. We are all going to feel the heat. So, how are the product self-repair plans at your company coming along?

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Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

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