Apple’s limited repair commitments frustrate independent repairers

Apple’s limited repair commitments frustrate independent repairers

Apple has earned praise for making the iPhone 14 more repairable compared to its predecessors, but the question of who can do those repairs remains. It appears that the company has added an additional, seemingly unnecessary layer of friction to the process of replacing a cracked screen. Much as in 2019, even genuine Apple screens are causing repaired iPhones to malfunction. Sources within the third-party repair community, who asked not to be named for fear of retaliation, say that while breaking an iPhone 14 may be easier, getting it to work properly afterwards is considerably more difficult.

Our sources say the new issue centers around the iPhone 14’s Always-On Display (AOD), which uses the phone’s two Ambient Light Sensors (ALS) to calibrate the screen’s brightness. To conserve battery life, at night or when the phone is in your pocket, the screen will turn off, taking advantage of auto-brightness. However, if your screen breaks and you don’t use an Apple-authorized service center to replace it, the ALS turns off, leaving the screen permanently black unless you can remember the position of the slider, and then you’ll be stuck. manually adjust its brightness.

(The ambient light sensor has been an issue with previous versions of the iPhone, as far as where its controller was located. In the iPhone 12, for example, it was mounted on a flexible sensor that lent itself to mechanical failure. In the 13, it moved to a new set of components, reducing the risk of it breaking unexpectedly (our source says the iPhone 14’s sensor is in a similar spot, so any failure must be a software-related issue).

YouTuber Hugh Jefferys posted a video about the problem, swapping the logic board between two new iPhones (for both the 14 and 14 Pro). Despite all the components being new and made by Apple, the phones erupted in a chorus of error messages and broken features. FaceID, Battery Status, True Tone and Auto Brightness, as well as forward-facing cameras, are disabled. When Jeffreys switched them back, the issues persisted and the phones were only “fixed” after switching to iOS 16.0.

The cause of this flaw is Apple’s policy of “matching parts”, linking individual components to the phones that carry them. A screen, a commonly broken part, will have a unique ID registered to its hardware that the iPhone checks every time it boots up. As far as the phone is concerned, it will only work properly if it has its “own” display connected, and if it isn’t detected, it won’t work. Instead, users will see a urging them to go to their local Apple support technician. These messages will eventually stop, but your device will be marked as hosting rogue components.

The only way around this is for an Apple-authorized technician to manually approve the pairing using an internal software tool. Our source said this process requires a technician to connect to Apple’s private network over the Internet, a process the company keeps “low key.” Until iPhone 13, there was a workaround for this with third-party repair shops using custom EEPROM programmers. These devices would read the ID code of the paired display part and write it to its replacement, which would often be a genuine, refurbished display manufactured by Apple. Unfortunately, while this worked on previous iPhones, it doesn’t fix the iPhone 14 issues.

The result of this is that repair shops outside of Apple’s own network will soon be unable to repair any new iPhones. However, the costs of joining Apple’s network are high enough that many companies are hesitant to do so. “The Independent Repair Program (IRP) is not profitable enough, as an independent repairer, to keep it as a retail operation,” said one person who asked not to be named.

Apple has historically resisted the idea that users should be able to fix their own equipment. It has supported groups that oppose the right to repair and tries to keep all repairs within its own service process. That has led to situations where Apple overcharged for basic repairs that didn’t require a machine to be sent in for repair. The most infamous example, as reported by That’s when Genius Bar quoted $1,200 to do a repair that a third-party store charged $75 for.

Apple withholds repair manuals and replacement parts from third-party stores, despite the volume of iPhones that require basic fixes like screen and battery replacements. Instead, the only non-Apple teams that can repair iPhones are Authorized Service Providers (ASPs) where Apple can exercise some control. Critics of the company say weeding out third parties who can do simple repairs and forcing people back to the Genius Bar helps make a handsome profit. Apple denies this and told the , since 2009, “the costs of providing repair services have exceeded the revenue generated by the repairs.” Although Apple did not explain if that constitutes all of its repair operations, or only those carried out under warranty.

But the company, through a combination of pressure from regulators and activists, has been forced to loosen its grip on the repairs. In 2019, he said he would allow to be “verified,” which allows you to receive the same tools, parts, and manuals as your ASPs. The process later expanded this program to include repair for Macs, as well as for iPhones (and iPads). And, on November 17, 2021, the company announced a where it would make tools, spare parts and manuals available to users.

This process, however, as detailed in depth by , revealed that allowing a user to fix their own iPhone screen on Apple’s terms was not that easy. The company provided more than 79 pounds of tools, including a hot plate to melt the glue that holds the screen in place. If that wasn’t bad enough, the repair isn’t validated until the iPhone connects to Apple’s own service team, who can then set up the new part as legitimate. And to do so, the user must make a deposit of $1,200 to ensure that the tools are returned within seven days.

The end result of this is that consumers have to pay a significantly higher price to keep their iPhone running than they should or could. In one example, a third-party store using genuine Apple screens charged around £140 ($157) to repair an iPhone 11 screen, while the same repair at an Apple Authorized Store would cost close to £220 ($247). ). Compare that with replacements, made by third party companies, which are priced at £95 ($106).

Jason Eccles is Managing Director of SimplyFixIt, a chain of independent repair shops throughout Scotland. “The idea that someone can buy a device outright, but the manufacturer can still control its functionality for years to come is mind-boggling,” he said. “It’s frustrating for us, because we want to offer the best fix possible, but Apple seems to have arbitrary rules about what we can do, sometimes even creating new problems with iOS updates.” However, Eccles has no problem with iOS devices knowing they were repaired with aftermarket parts. “Consumers getting relevant information in iOS that a component was replaced is a good thing, but I think it’s hard to say that reducing the functionality of the phone, even if we use original parts, is good for customers.”

Eccles added that repairing existing equipment is as important from a sustainability standpoint as anything else. “We still regularly repair MacBooks and iMacs that are ten years old,” he said, “it shows that there are plenty of Apple devices out there that would be perfectly usable after a little repair.” Not to mention, responsible independent repair technicians should be welcomed by Apple with open arms. “If everyone had to pay £349 ($403) for a new screen, there would be a lot more people switching to Android for their next phone. Apple may not want to admit it, but we’re helping people stay in their ecosystem.

iFixit tested and confirmed the issue to Engadget, saying there is an issue related to the always-on display. Liz Chamberlain, iFixit’s director of sustainability, said the practice of using software locks is an “insidious threat to repair as we know it.” And that this new number is a further demonstration of the fact that “repairability requires the ability to access software locks, not just hardware locks.” She added that, whether by accident or intentionally, Apple has “tested [it] you can’t rely on a part-matching off switch.” And that unless lawmakers step in to ensure there’s a federally protected right to repair, there’s a chance Apple could “disable all phones that have undergone independent repair.”

Engadget reached out to Apple for comment on the story, but none was available at the time of publication.

If there is hope, it is that the push for right to repair legislation on both sides of the Atlantic will make great progress. Earlier this year, President Biden it was a common problem that a person owns a product, but does not “have the freedom to choose how or where to repair [it.]And the FTC recently That’s causing major manufacturers, including Harley Davidson, to use warranty provisions to prevent owners from seeking independent repair for their products.

And the EU, currently taking the lead on many elements of technology regulation, is also seeking to establish better right-to-repair provisions. Their “The initiative is in its infancy right now, but it will focus on producing rules that ensure devices sold there are more repairable. One of the key clauses in its first draft is to provide “appropriate information for users, repairers and recyclers” (paragraph 4). And that these requirements are designed to allow “end-user repair operations” (paragraph 15), which Apple allows, but does not facilitate. We can only hope that when these rules are agreed upon, the balance of power will shift back towards user repair.

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