Once dubbed “one of right-to-repair’s most powerful villains,” Apple made the surprising announcement on Wednesday that it will begin accommodating DIY repairs by selling customers the parts and tools they need to repair their iPhones and Macs at home.
In a blog post, Apple said that the new program, Self Service Repair, will launch with the parts for the iPhone 12 and iPhone 13 lineups, with Mac computers featuring M1 chips following shortly thereafter. The program is expected to roll out in the U.S. early next year, with a planned expansion to additional countries throughout 2022.
Although Apple notes that the program is only meant for “individual technicians with the knowledge and experience to repair electronic devices,” and advises most customers to continue to seek out professional repairs, allowing the option for DIY fixes is a marked departure from the company’s longtime opposition to the right-to-repair movement.
Apple has been fiercely protective of its grip on in-house product repairs over the years, imposing considerable and devious restrictions on its independent repair partners that would see them saddled with huge fines for using non-sanctioned products and subjecting them to contractual audits during their time in the Independent Repair Program (IRP).
While the sudden shift to home repairs is surprising, there have been subtle signs that Apple has been changing its tune on at-home repairs in recent weeks.
Just one week before announcing Self Service Repair, the company notably backed off of a screen repair trap that had bricked Face ID on the iPhone 13 unless a tiny microcontroller chip was properly transferred—a far-from-standard repair step that had required the ability to microsolder, making it all but cost-prohibitive for independent repair shops to complete the replacements.
“Creating greater access to Apple genuine parts gives our customers even more choice if a repair is needed,” Jeff Williams, Apple’s chief operating officer, said in a statement. “In the past three years, Apple has nearly doubled the number of service locations with access to Apple genuine parts, tools, and training, and now we’re providing an option for those who wish to complete their own repairs.”
Apple already has programs in place to sell its proprietary parts to third-party repair vendors, and the decision to extend that access to “more than 200 individual parts and tools” makes it all the more likely customers will buy full-priced parts from Apple. But as iFixit—the go-to source for DIY repairs and a longtime advocate of right-to-repair—notes, Apple’s announcement “isn’t the open-source repair revolution we’ve sought,” specifically because the program is modeled after the company’s restrictive IRP program.
“At the moment, Apple’s repair software doesn’t allow an IRP member to replace a broken part with one taken from another Apple device; it requires scanning both the serial of an Apple-purchased replacement and the phone itself, according to two IRP members we spoke with,” the site notes. “That’s a major limitation for refurbishers and fixers who are accustomed to harvesting parts.”
Although no prices have been announced yet for the newly-available parts, Apple notes in its blog post that customers who return used parts for recycling “will receive credit toward their purchase.”