OPINION: This week Apple surprised everyone when after years of belligerent refusal it finally conceded to let customers repair their own iPhones.
Specifically, in a public statement the tech giant confirmed it would release documentation detailing how and tools to let customers repair their iPhone 12 and iPhone 13 handsets as part of a new Self Repair programme.
This sounds small, and I’m still wondering how much it’ll charge people for the parts and custom tools to do so, but it is a big step for Apple, which has traditionally insisted its devices are too complex for a normal person to repair.
This is why if you look at its history it has mounted numerous takedown requests against online guides detailing how to repair its kit and frequently reminded users any repairs made by non-approved Apple services would void the device’s warranty.
Only this year it had to make a massive U-turn to let iPhone 13 customers use third-party screen replacement services, following a backlash where a number of early adopters learned doing so would prevent Face ID from working.
It’s also why it created products with things like soldered in SSDs, parts that need custom, Apple exclusive, screws to add and remove and generally made it very difficult for DIY fans to take apart or repair its tech. Look at any repair guide on iFixit and most Apple products at best have a “moderate” difficulty rating and come with numerous warnings.
On the one hand the U-turn is great. I’ve always been a big believer in the right to repair movement. This is an eco-focussed movement that lobbies for the right for consumers to repair their own products. The idea is that if companies design products with easy home repairability in mind, and provide the documentation and tools to let them do it, we’ll create less waste as people will hold onto their stuff longer.
It’s a simple idea and one that really makes sense – I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve replaced a phone I’ve been perfectly happy with just because its battery has degraded or the cost of replacing its cracked screen makes it quicker and easier to just get a new one.
But for me, to borrow Steve Jobs’ catchphrase, there’s “one more thing” I’d like Apple to do in its ongoing effort to be more sustainable.
Specifically, I’d like it to start letting independent bodies check its homework and accredit its eco-efforts.
To really show its commitment to the right to repair Apple should let its product get accredited by independent NGOs like the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute, check its homework. I made this argument earlier this year when audio firm Bang and Olufsen revealed its Beosound Level speaker which has achieved a “Cradle to Cradle” bronze certification.
The reason I say this is because, it’s all well and good saying you’re good at something – to this day I maintain I’m the only person at Trusted Reviews to bowl a Turkey – but until you offer evidence and let people check the facts that’s just a boast.
This is why I’d really like to see Apple partner with independent bodies and work with them to go even further with its sustainability efforts.