What is the reality of Apple’s ‘ self-service repair scheme’? Is it really a big deal?

Tech behemoth and Cupertino-based company Apple Inc. announced a self-service repair scheme a few days back. With this announcement, the firm made a considerable buzz in the tech market. This program allows the users to obtain parts, tools, and manuals directly from apple in an apparent win for right to repair movement.

The ‘right to repair’ movement.

Why did the movement started?

When an average consumer buys a product they know that it will soon become obsolete after some years of purchase. Moreover, fragile and irreparable components reduce a product’s lifespan. As products become more difficult to repair, activists and consumers, are taking action, including becoming members of the Right to Repair movement which offers consumers the opportunity to repair their electronics themselves or have them repaired by third parties.

“Repair is also a critical function for all forms of re-use and even Extended useful life. Products that cannot be repaired become instant Electronic-waste,” not-for-profit organization Repair.org has said on its website.

Objective of the movement includes retention of value of the product which is lost if it is irreparable. Ultimately, it aims at retention of power in the hands of the consumer. A number of tech giants such as Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, and Tesla don’t support it because they claim that it threatens intellectual property rights as well as trade secrets.

Effect of Apple’s announcement.

So, why aren’t consumers permitted to fix their gadgets themselves? This is a question advocates of the worldwide ‘right to repair’ movement have been addressing for decades now. In recent years, countries around the world have been attempting to pass effective ‘right to repair’ laws. And amidst all these chaos Apple’s announcement is win for the right to repair movement.

Nathan Proctor, who heads up the Right to Repair campaign with the United States Public Interest Research Group, called Apple’s move a “huge milestone” for Right to Repair, while repair advocate Kevin O’Reilly called it a “huge win,” but said concrete reforms are still needed.

one of the biggest repair firm iFixit lauds and says it will keep fighting for laws that will “keep Apple and other manufacturers honest.”

Self service repair scheme.

According to this scheme, the consumers will be directly getting the repair products from the company which will allow them to repair there devices by themselves or with the help of third party. During the first phase of the Apple Self Service Repair program, which will launch in early 2022 in the United States, Apple will make repair components available to iPhone 12 and iPhone 13 customers.Apple plans to expand to additional countries throughout 2022, and will also work to support more repairs and more devices over time.  Apple announced to bring the service for M1 Mac computers eventually. The service will kick start earlier next year.

Independent repair provider program.

Two and half years ago in 2019 the company launched a almost similar program called independent repair provider program. this program was supposed to make parts and manuals for independent repair shops so that they can do their jobs. but it was not as convenient as it sounded the people who signed the program has to sign a restrictive NDA.

People wanting to disclose the actual terms of the program they have to be willing to risk their company’s finance and their legal status. It was just a PR stunt designed for sending a virtual signal to congress and senate that there was no antitrust problem but the actual reality was different.

First of all according to this program they only made screen and batteries available to the service centres. So if a customer have a problem regarding charging port or microphone or any other problems regarding their MacBook, iMac etc they again have to go to Apple care because these damages and products for its repair were not included in the IRP program.

Secondly, to buy screen or batteries the service providers should have the customers imei no. along with the serial no. so that they can place the order for the same prior to get the replacement as they cannot stock the parts.

This entire process will take almost a minimum of week’s time which will ultimately lead to the decrease of customer for the independent service provider as the people will prefer to get their repair done in less time and directly from the apple care. Thus this entire program came out as a failure .

Self repair program – another marketing gimmick?

Although this is a big thing for small businesses and a big win for right to repair movement, Apple doesn’t have the history of delivering on its promises. This kind of situation has also been witnessed earlier after the launch of their IRP scheme where they preached about the benefits of independent service providers but nothing happened. It was the company itself reaping the benefits of the program.

Apple suddenly wants to give all the power in hands of the end-consumer. Apple’s intentions seem quite simple. The company wants to avoid any external issues by keeping the repair responsibility only with its authorized partners or shifting that onus completely to the end consumer. “While the intentions are simple, the technicality could be far complex and remains to be seen,” Glen Cardoza, Senior Analyst at Counterpoint highlights. 

The iPhone’s repair aspect has been controlled by Apple and its authorized repairers until now.Independent repairers have been voicing their concern for a while now, with the new service Apple has decided to skip them and go directly to the consumer. The service most definitely is not very encouraging for independent repairers.

And as for the end consumer the benefits will not be that easier to get as the experts believe that  the most valuable modules (including battery, display, and camera) could be tricky for a layman to handle even with manuals and tools. The lack of confidence and the need to carefully handle a premium smartphone might force the consumer to eventually opt for an Apple authorized centre. 

So in my opinion they actually promised to solve the problem they created themself. AppleCare makes Apple a ton of money every quarter is known to all so are they really going to willingly give up their profits because of a public outcry. It is highly questionable. Either the parts will come with some serious strings attached or the price will be so high that the most economical thing to do would be to buy a new device anyway.