Cracked screens are common sights on smartphones. So are batteries that don’t last nearly as long as they used to. And, too often, people just learn to live with them.
“If a repair is needed, we believe we have a responsibility to customers and the environment to offer convenient access to safe, reliable, and secure repairs to help customers get the most out of their devices,” the company wrote in a white paper outlining its expanded approach to product repairs.
Apple announced its plans for a self-service repair program in late 2021, and at the time, the company confirmed that customers would be able to access service manuals and official replacement parts through an online store. Now that the store is open, the company is finally offering a clearer sense of how the process works.
Customers who want to attempt a repair themselves, be it a screen replacement, battery swap or something more exotic, are first urged to look at the repair manual for their device to gauge how doable the process is. From there, people can buy “more than 200 individual parts and tools” from the new store, at the same prices at which Apple would sell them to its authorized repair providers.
But there are a few caveats to keep in mind.
For one, Apple’s repair program has parts only for more recent devices, like the iPhone 12 series, iPhone 13 series, and the 2022 iPhone SE. The company says replacement parts for its Mac computers — but only those using Apple Silicon chips — will arrive later this year.
The self-service repair program is also U.S.-only for now, although the company said it would launch in Europe — which is having its own Right to Repair moment — later this year as well.
And while customers are being empowered to make these repairs, they shouldn’t expect to save a huge amount of money by putting in the work themselves. A replacement battery kit for the popular iPhone 12 costs $69 through the online repair store — that’s the same price as an out-of-warranty battery replacement through Apple.
The same goes for iPhone screens, which are often the most expensive component found inside smartphones. Replacing the display of an iPhone 13 released last year will cost $279 as an out-of-warranty repair through Apple, or $267.96 in the form of a replacement screen customers would need to install themselves. (And that’s before factoring in the cost of tools needed to open these phones in the first place.)
That said, there is one way to help defray the cost of those replacement parts: sending the old ones back. Repair customers will receive credits after returning those old components for recycling, but even those may not make attempting a fix worth it for some people — one of the largest credits available is $33.60 for sending back an old iPhone screen.
After years of watching the company place stringent restrictions on who could access components, some Right to Repair advocates are on the fence about Apple's new direction.
Sustainability director for iFixit Elizabeth Chamberlain argues that access to repair manuals and genuine parts is a welcome change but takes issue with the company’s requiring customers to provide their device serial number when purchasing replacement parts, calling it “a dire omen and could allow Apple the power to block even more repairs in the future.”
And for Nathan Proctor, the senior campaign director of the consumer issues nonprofit U.S. PIRG, Apple’s push for greater reparability isn’t quite there yet.
“While this is a start, there are still too many hoops to jump through to fix phones. As it’s becoming clear that Apple and other manufacturers can give us the right to repair, we should require them to.”