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The Next Economy
Apple Begins to Support Consumers’ Right to Repair

Apple has announced a new process that will finally enable customers and independent repair providers to utilize used Apple parts in repairs; but advocates of the right-to-repair movement see the move as a small first step.

Apple has announced an upcoming enhancement to its repair processes that will enable customers and independent repair providers to utilize used Apple parts in iPhone repairs.

The company says the new process — beginning with select iPhone models this fall — is designed to maintain an iPhone user’s privacy, security and safety while offering consumers more options, increasing product longevity, and minimizing the environmental impact of repairs. Used genuine Apple parts will now benefit from the full functionality and security afforded by the original factory calibration, just like new genuine Apple parts.

“At Apple, we’re always looking for new ways to deliver the best possible experience for our customers while reducing the impact we have on the planet, and a key part of that means designing products that last,” said John Ternus, Apple’s SVP of Hardware Engineering. “For the last two years, teams across Apple have been innovating on product design and manufacturing to support repairs with used Apple parts that won’t compromise users’ safety, security or privacy. With this latest expansion to our repair program, we’re excited to be adding even more choice and convenience for our customers, while helping to extend the life of our products and their parts.”

Apple will now extend its Activation Lock feature — requested by customers and law enforcement officials to limit iPhone theft by blocking a lost or stolen iPhone from being reactivated — to iPhone parts to deter stolen iPhones from being disassembled for parts. If a device under repair detects that a supported part was obtained from another device with Activation Lock or Lost Mode enabled, calibration capabilities for that part will be restricted. And to simplify the repair process, Apple says customers and service providers will no longer need to provide a device’s serial number when ordering parts from the Self-Service Repair Store for repairs not involving replacement of the logic board.

Anisha Bhatia, Senior Technology Analyst at data and analytics company GlobalData, calls the move a positive one.

“OEMs [original equipment manufacturers] have come under pressure by governments as the Right to Repair movement has gained tremendous momentum in the EU and the US. Apple’s enhancement of its repair process to utilize used Apple parts is a win for the Right to Repair movement, while still allowing the tech giant to maintain control over repair revenues,” Bhatia said in a statement. “Simplifying its repair process for both customers and service providers [will make] iPhone repair less bothersome, which in turn will increase circular economy income for the tech giant.

“Sustainability is a hot-button topic right now, and sustainable devices with increased longevity potential are likely to generate brand loyalty for both telcos and OEMs that offer it as a differentiator.”

Part of the new policy addresses the increasingly contentious practice of parts pairing — the process of confirming whether a repair part is genuine and gathering information about the part — which has long stymied third-party repair shops and self-repairers. Apple says parts pairing is critical to preserving the privacy, security and safety of an iPhone; and the new policy enables the reuse of parts such as biometric sensors used for Face ID or Touch ID. Beginning this fall, calibration for genuine Apple parts, new or used, will happen on a device after the part is installed; and future iPhone releases will have support for used biometric sensors.

This is the latest move in Apple’s slow acceptance and support of facilitating consumer repair of its devices. After being sued for planned-obsolescence strategies (ex: “Batterygate” and iPhone updates that slow down older models) and years of opposing such bills in various states, including New York and California, the tech giant reversed course in 2023 when it publicly supported California’s SB 244 — a right-to-repair bill that would make it easier for the public to access the spare parts, tools and repair documentation needed to fix devices.

But Apple’s support for the bill wasn’t reflected in its product design: The iPhone 15 — released last fall — seemed impervious as ever to independent repairs or parts replacements without jumping through the usual hoops, and paying Apple more money.

Some right-to-repair advocates are calling this newest move the bare minimum, and that it merely reflects the increasing pressure Apple has faced from shareholders, lawmakers, federal regulators and the public to end restrictions that limit consumers’ ability to fix their devices.

That pressure has come in the form of a growing number of ‘right-to-repair’ consumer-electronics bills popping up across the US, increasingly focused on the practice of parts pairing — which, while it may improve device security, enables manufacturers to disable some functions of a device if owners make repairs with an unauthorized part, making many independent repairs untenable. Last month, Oregon passed the first right-to-repair law banning parts pairing; and Colorado could be close behind.

And Apple’s new policy doesn’t apply to aftermarket parts — a distinction that frustrates right-to-repair advocates: As Kyle Wiens, CEO of iFixit — a global repair community that provides replacement parts, toolkits and repair guides for consumer electronics from companies including Alphabet/Google, Fairphone, HP, Logitech, Microsoft and more — told Wired: “This is a strategy of half-promises and unnecessarily complicated hedges designed to deflect attention from legislators intent on banning the practice altogether.”

And Nathan Proctor, senior director of the right-to-repair campaign at the Public Interest Research Group, said Apple’s move is a drop in the bucket of change that’s needed: “Let’s be 100 percent clear: This move is because of state lawmakers pushing back on [parts pairing] — a fully untenable, unethical practice to begin with. I’m glad it’s started to be restricted; but we need laws that prevent this from happening on any device from any manufacturer — not just a couple of phones from one manufacturer.”

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