Apple will now allow more independent repair shops to buy “genuine” iPhone parts and tools, allowing them to complete repairs in roughly the same way that an Apple Store would. The change could be helpful to iPhone owners as Apple continues to lock down repairs, though it could also lead to higher prices for parts, as they’ll all pass through Apple.
Until now, independent repair shops had to become “authorized service providers” in order to get genuine parts from Apple. But there were major reasons repair shops may not have wanted to join: they’d have to pay Apple to be part of the program, and they’d be limited to only completing authorized repairs, as Motherboard previously detailed.
Most legitimate US repair shops ought to be able to buy parts from Apple under the new rules. A repair technician will have to complete an Apple training course, but the whole thing is free. Apple will sell them parts — along with tools, manuals, and diagnostics access — at the same price they’re offered to authorized service providers. They’ll only be available in the US for now, but Apple says it’ll eventually be expanded to other countries.
The big limitation is that Apple is only offering parts and tools for “the most common out-of-warranty iPhone repairs.” That likely means battery replacements and cracked screens. For more specific or complicated repairs, these shops will still be on their own. Unlike authorized service providers, they won’t be required to send customers with other problems to Apple, though; they’ll be able to attempt repairs on their own with third-party parts if they choose to.
iFixit editor-in-chief Kyle Wiens said the announcement was “a good thing” for repairs, but noted that it ignored individuals who want to perform repairs and still allows Apple to reject any shop it wants. iFixit writer Kevin Purdy called it a “bold move” and pointed to a prior leak showing that available parts could include speakers, vibration motors, cameras, and more. But he also added that there’s a risk of costs going up.
Unfortunately, this leaves Apple customers who want to perform their own repairs in the cold. If these diagnostics are secure enough to provide to independent technicians, they should be available to consumers as well!— Kyle Wiens (@kwiens) August 29, 2019
Apple doesn’t disclose the cost of the parts it offers, but iFixit previously saw documents showing prices that range from reasonable ($16 to $33 for a battery) to unworkably high (a screen that costs more than Apple’s own screen repair service). While the extra cost for parts comes with a guarantee of quality, it would also mean higher repair costs. (Independent stores can set their own repair prices).
“And while it goes much of the way toward an open repair market, high prices could still weaken the incentive for all reputable repair firms, and individuals, to have a shot at keeping iPhones working longer,” Purdy wrote.
The program also speaks to a growing issue facing repair shops: that devices are being locked down more and more often. Apple has been particularly aggressive at preventing repairs by requiring specific tools or authorized parts. Earlier this month, for instance, iFixit discovered that Apple had begun showing a notice to some iPhone owners with third-party battery replacements that their new battery couldn’t be verified as genuine. While phones still work with the unauthorized part, Apple doesn’t provide information on the battery’s health.
Apple has also lobbied against right to repair bills, which would make it easier for consumers and third-party shops to get replacement parts for their devices.
Ultimately, even as Apple opens up its repair system, Apple is still keeping itself at the center, in control, and in a position to make money off of repairs.