On Monday, Apple expanded its DIY repair program to include MacBook Air and MacBook Pro laptops equipped with M1 chips (including the Pro and Max). At least, in theory. The repairability experts at iFixit, who regularly dissect Apple’s gadgets, have taken a look at the new program, and their outlook is...mixed.
iFixit’s Sam Goldheart writes that the new MacBook Pro guides “threw us for a loop.” The issue: the documentation “makes MacBook Pros seem less repairable” than they have been in the past.
The repair manual for replacing the 14-inch MacBook Pro’s battery, for example, is a whole 162 pages long. (One of the first steps, of course, is “Read the entire manual first.”) The reason the guide is so long, it turns out, is that replacing these batteries isn’t just a matter of popping the battery out. A user needs to replace the entire top case and keyboard in order to replace the battery, because Apple does not currently sell replacement batteries on their own for the 14-inch model. Needless to say, it is unusual for a laptop battery replacement to require a full-computer teardown.
And then, as Goldheart points out, there’s the matter of the money. The “top case with battery” part that you’ll need to purchase for the 2020 and 2021 MacBook Pro models is not cheap — after rooting around Apple’s store, Verge editor Sean Hollister found that you can expect to pay well upwards of $400 for the top case with battery after the repair credit.
“Apple is presenting DIY repairers with a excruciating gauntlet of hurdles: read 162 pages of documentation without getting intimidated and decide to do the repair anyway, pay an exorbitant amount of money for an overkill replacement part, decide whether you want to drop another 50 bucks on the tools they recommend, and do the repair yourself within 14 days, including completing the System Configuration to pair your part with your device,” Goldheart writes in summary. “Which makes us wonder, does Apple even want better repairability?”
iFixit’s complaints very much mirror my colleague Sean’s experience using the Self-Service Repair program to replace the battery in his iPhone Mini. “I’m starting to think Apple doesn’t want us to repair them,” he wrote after receiving 79 pounds of tools from the company, including an industrial-grade heat station, and putting down a $1,200 deposit for the equipment (a deposit he would forfeit if he failed to return the equipment within seven days).
Of course, iPhones are intricate devices, and it’s not unreasonable that they’d require a fairly difficult and specialized process to repair. MacBook batteries, on the other hand, have not historically been this complicated to replace (and iFixit’s own 2021 MacBook Pro repair guide is...less intimidating.) Modern phones don’t tend to be easily serviceable — but plenty of modern laptops are. There’s a case to be made that the iPhone repair kit, while arduous, was a step in the right direction for Apple devices. It’s harder to make that case for these MacBooks — especially when the experts at iFixit, who generally treat Apple devices very fairly, are raising their eyebrows.
Reached for comment, Apple spokesperson Nick Leahy tells The Verge that a replacement battery (not attached to the case) will be available in the future.