Apple will now let you do some DIY laptop repairs at home, for a cost. The company is expanding its self-service repair program from just certain iPhones to include its MacBook Pro and MacBook Air laptops with M1 chips starting tomorrow, according to a press statement.
However, as with its earlier smartphone program, there’s still a big catch: at-home repairs require a whole suite proprietary parts that customers will need to purchase from the company, as well as tools that Apple encourages you to rent or buy from them at a premium.
Plus, you won’t be able to do any DIY upgrades to your laptop, just 1:1 repairs. That’s because Apple is continuing the practice it began with the iPhone program, and requiring a serial number for each replacement part purchased, according to a report from 9to5Mac. The serial number requirement also prevents third party shops from keeping a steady supply of parts on hand.
Apple also announced that it will be expanding its DIY repair program for both phones and laptops to Europe later this year.
For the current U.S. incarnation of the program, a laptop repair rental kit will run $49 (including shipping) for one week of use. Kits will include all of the tools specific to a particular notebook model—though seemingly not the major parts, which will need to be purchased separately.
The notebook rental kit cost is the same as the two-part, massive, 79-pound iPhone repair rental kit currently available on the Apple website. However, Apple spokesperson, Nick Leahy, told Gizmodo in email that the laptop and phone repair kits are significantly different. “For example, with iPhone, we ship a heated display opener, which is not needed for Mac repairs,” he clarified.
In addition to the rental kit option, customers will also be able to permanently purchase individual tools and parts. Individual pricing for these parts will vary depending on the fix, but will likely be higher than buying tools from other sources, which the wording of Apple’s announcement discourages.
For reference: the parts alone to replace an iPhone 12 battery sell on Apple’s site for $70.99, which doesn’t include the cost of tools necessary for the repairs. Just one of those needed tools, a torque driver, retails via Apple for $80 (though you can buy torque drivers elsewhere if you’re experienced enough to know what will work for the job). Compare that to the estimated cost of getting an iPhone 12 battery replaced through Apple’s own repair service, though, which is just $69.
Leahy could not immediately offer price estimates for a DIY MacBook Air battery replacement, but the online estimate for the service cost through Apple is $129.
Given that the DIY-repair option can easily get pricier than paying Apple to do it for you, it’s apparent that the company isn’t interested in making its tools and parts accessible to all of its customers. Even with the rental option, you can’t rent just the tools you need, and instead have to get the $49 kit.
In fact, the company says as much in its announcement: “For the vast majority of customers who do not have experience repairing electronic devices, visiting a professional repair provider with certified technicians who use genuine Apple parts is the safest and most reliable way to get a repair,” Apple wrote.
The company’s Mac notebooks have historically been aluminum “black boxes”. Something goes wrong—a trackpad breaks, a screen cracks, a battery peters out—and, for years, the only available solution for most has been making an appointment at the Genius Bar. Even independent repair shops haven’t been safe from the company’s extensive, ongoing fight against the right to repair.
Yet, updates to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act made last year meant that repairing your own devices was supposed to get easier. The advent of Apple DIY kits is sort of a shift in the right direction, but the cost of the parts and official Apple tools (even for just a tool rental) remains prohibitive.
Update 8/23/2022, 3:27 p.m. ET: This post has been updated with additional information on Apple’s serial number policy, from a 9to5Mac report.