It’s Your iPhone. Why Can’t You Fix It Yourself?

Apr 06, 2019 · 92 comments
Dave S (Albuquerque)
The owner of my favorite car repair shop told me that the local dealer had a monopoly on certain service codes, preventing him from diagnosing the repair to the part. (It was an emissions fault.) Funny thing is - the dealer wanted to "shotgun" the repair, by replacing all the parts instead of narrowing it down to the faulty part. So much for "special" codes. I brought the vehicle back to my repair shop and had them replace the part he thought might be bad - yep, the idiot light went away. Saved me over $2K. It was an older, non-warrantied vehicle, so the dealer couldn't hold a gun to my head - lucky me.....
No (SF)
You can't fix an Apple because Tim Cook wants to squeeze as much cash as he can from clueless consumers. He has been aided in this evil quest by the worshipful coverage the Times provides to him and his greedy company.
Marc (Portland OR)
Jeez guys, stop whining. If you want the status of the shiny apple logo, you gotta take the absurd price and the abuse as well. It's your choice.
Dennis Mancl (Bridgewater NJ)
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has been promoting the ideas of "Right to Repair" and "Right to Tinker". There are a lot of problems about "ownership of technology" that were created by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). We need to rethink some of the provisions of DMCA that give big companies power over our devices and our information.
India (midwest)
How many people screaming for the "right to repair" have had a repair done on their home recently? Did the plumber do a good job? Did the electrician cause another problem because he was an idiot? Is the guy installing your new $8000 countertop a skilled installer or an idiot who has now chipped it near the sink and repaired it with all the skill of a 6 yr old with a pot of glue? These are highly technical devices. They're not for Joe Blow the Hacker. It's the same reason that Dad and the Boys are no longer repairing the family's cars in the driveway. They require highly trained technicians with the proper tools. If you want to turn over your $800 iPhone to some buy to replace the battery and then wonder why the phone keeps coming open and is not working well, then be my guest. I wouldn't let him work on my Rolex, either.
cfarris5 (Wellfleet)
I see a lot of comments here about just buying another brand. So, it's ok for a multi billion dollar company to rip us off because we can buy another phone?
Gerry Power (Philadelphia, PA)
This is foolish. What legal precedent is there for compelling companies to sell repair parts against their own interests?
bill sprague (boston)
Uh, why can't you fix your transistor radio which you bought in 1952? Believe it or not when I wanted to replace a battery in my perfectly working but 9 years old HTC phone (yes, I have had iPhones, too) I was told by a BATTERY TECHNICIAN OFF SOME WEBSITE that it was impossible. The Russian man in the Mall I go to carefully took the screen off and put a new battery in the phone for $87. It still works well today. Cheaper than a new phone, right?
Max (NYC)
Apple's products are designed and marketed exactly like luxury fashion; they are meant to be used (worn) until the next coolest and newest thing that comes along. Then you discard the old and buy the new one. It's silly for the New York Times to complain about repairability because it goes against Apple's design and marketing DNA. They are not going to change. Instead of ranting about Apple's design choices, the Times should suggest consumers look to other options. For every one of Apple's products there are competing gadgets in the market which offer repairability. While they may not be as luxurious, they offer a better value and are better for the environment than Apple.
cfarris5 (Wellfleet)
@Max I disagree. It's a rip off whether an iPhone is a luxury item or not.
JustInsideBeltway (Capitalandia)
Buy a different brand.
Amy (Brooklyn)
It's your own fault if you buy an Apple product.
bill sprague (boston)
And when I worked for Telenet (it was a precursor to Sprint - we called it Splint) and did X.25 it was common knowledge that STANDARDS (i.e., the redbook) were the way to go. That was 35 years ago... What's taking these guys so long? Are we afraid of Apple since they have so much money? What about Bill and Melinda? or Trump? Good opinion piece.
J-R (Ulster County)
Ma Bell gave us telephones that lasted half a century. Smart phones gave us an unhealthy dependence on lithium and “coltan.”
B. (USA)
Erm, don't buy Apple products.
Richard (Palm City)
The problem with John Deere isn’t the right to repair, it is getting it repaired in a timely fashion. The problem is with design that uses a coating on wires that is irresistible to rats. Who knew there were rats on a farm. When I bought a Rolex and an iPhone I knew they were expensive to own and maintain. I bought a Volvo on a subscription plan just so I wouldn’t have to worry about those costs. Quit your crying and buy a cheap Android or a Kubuto.
JB (New York NY)
Now you've gone too far, the Editorial Board! Please don't mess with my iPhone!
Veblen (NY)
Oh gosh Those who buy Apple Phones generally know that. There are plenty of phones with, for example, replaceable batteries But they are not as "cool" Part of Apple's brand image is : Look I am expensive !
November-Rose-59 (Delaware)
DIY hearkens back to the good old days when drivers could repair, replace parts and change the oil on their vehicles without having to go back to the dealer or some other third party. Landline phones were the norm, we simply dialed a number and voila!...we're connected, and could speak to a live human by dialing the operator. Mfrs of technologically advanced wide-range of systems and equipment today deliberately make self-repair impossible with all the computer chips, components, sensors and cameras on gadgets that require the services of technical experts so they can command exorbitant fees.
Paul Fisher (New Jersey)
@November-Rose-59 And when your landline went down it was repaired by ... who? Your local electronic shop? Your cousin who was "good with gadgets"? No, "the phone company", i.e. AT&T. The fact is modern tech is complex and requires extremely expensive equipment to manufacture and repair. Frequently, one of the issues that makes repair so difficult is a design decision to allow for exactly the convenience and form factor consumers demand. This legislation, and the NYT board's understanding of the issues is rather naive. There is no doubt that every company leverages repair as an additional revenue source. Can that verge into predatory tactics at times? I rather imagine so. It *would* be nice to fix that. But I'll be honest. If I were Apple and someone came in with a non-working phone where the screen had been replaced by "the guy down the street who does tech for a living", I'd void the warranty also. So now it is Apple's responsibility to create an entire training and certification regime to be sure repairs are down correctly? Supply free training? Charge for training? (then we will complain the training costs limit access to off-brand repairs ...) Perhaps Apple should hamper designs to make them easy to repair? Be careful what you wish for with legislation like this. It might seem like a great idea but the unintended consequences will be vast. The fact is that electronics are not tractors. These are not our old tube based TV sets.
MitchW (Albany)
Nikon cameras. I’m a full time pro photographer for over 3 decades with the same manufacturer. Suddenly Nikon will not sell parts to independent repair shops any longer. Suddenly Nikon declares that they will no longer repair equipment beyond a certain age because it is “beyond normal service life.” And that appears to be once 2-3 new model updates to a specific model come out. With Moore’s Law applying to digital cameras, I was buying new gear every 1 to 2 years, especially because repairs would no longer be an option. They also labeled every single repair as a higher category service than expected due to mysterious and unfounded “impact damage”. This behavior extends to other camera manufacturers, with newer ones who have entered the pro realm verging on not offering repairs it would seem by virtue of weeks to perform the service at exorbitant cost. Manufacturers long ago discovered extended warranties and closed loop repair systems as a very high profit center.
Cherri Brown (G#)
@MitchW Yes, and the new models have problems. Nikon will also not touch a 'gray market' camera, even if the camera was a gift. If not purchased in the U.S., no fix. However, MitchW, Kurt's Camera Repair in San Diego did a thorough check and repair on my old Nikon D70. Folks who work there are Nikon experts. I think you figured out that if a product lasts, the company's stock doesn't. For our appliances and farm equipment, we use YouTube and buy parts from other countries. The YouTube DIY videos we use are from countries where repairs must be DIY because money for new purchases and/or repairs may not be an option.
Rethinking (LandOfUnsteadyHabits)
For advocating for level playing fields - in equipment repair, and also in consumer credit and banking, and in voting rights - Sen. Warren has been branded as an extremist and leftist by the GOP. Which tells us everything we need to know about GOP values.
Underhiseye (NY Metro)
If you purchase a Bentley or other high-end manufactured car, would you take it to Ford for repairs and parts, expecting it to operate like a Bentley? Should you be able to replace Bentley parts with generics from any equipment and parts manufacturer, Warranty preserved? You modify it, you change it's integrity. Like generic car parts and service, computer hardware has also been commoditized, and yet, its that very commoditization which arguably has diminished what is "special" about an originally conceived patent. Why not just make everything the same? White bread for all. I once made a specialized product, approved by original manufacturers as highly specialized for their parts. Every manual would direct customers to this product, or any product of like components and performance. This didn't stop US companies from sourcing cheaper components that not only changed the manufacturing functionality of patented technology, but was more Degrading to the environment and equipment lifespan. I thought this piece might instead speak to a bigger issue. Try calling to migrate or integrate data from more than one phone or iCloud account. No amount of service offered a solution from a company trying to pose as a service business. Not having a fix prevents migration to another cloud provider, preventing competition. Even compels more than one phone/account. How is this reflected in APPL financials? How many accounts/phones would be eliminated if owners self integrate/migrate freely?
jmsegoiri (Bilbao, Basque Country, Spain)
The future is linked to a dramatic lowering of our actual consumer habits, and repairs of anything, from computers,to cars, to appliances will become an important sector of the economy. The actual culture of changing our "machines" gadgets, or throw away our planned obsolescent devices will become absurd and will disappear. Very simply: the Laws of Thermodynamics will start to reveal themselves clearly in this planet, and indicate the inherent limitations of an endless cycle of economic growth, as we perceived now.
Questioner (Massachusetts)
An observation: the "machines" that dominate human consciousness are fully virtual—Facebook, Google, Amazon, etc. They will never be forced into providing APIs and a manual for optimal hacking. But they certainly are in need of much repair.
sfdphd (San Francisco)
This planned obsolescence in devices has been a problem for many years with many products. I'm glad to hear that Elizabeth Warren is pushing this consumer rights issue. Whoever is the Democratic nominee needs to take this on.
Chicago Guy (Chicago, Il)
Why allow someone to fix something themselves for $5 in parts, like replacing a battery, when you can prevent them from doing so and charge them $169? Apple isn't worth a trillion dollars because they offer a trillion dollars in value to consumers. They're worth that much because they can get away with charging $169 for a $5 part by calling it "quality control". BTW: Neither Steve Jobs nor Apple has ever "invented" anything. They copy, buyout, aggregate and steal everyone else's and repackage it. Essentially, that's all Apple is - a repackager of technology. They didn't "invent": personal computers, phones, portable music players, personal digital assistants, cameras, headphones, laptops, tablets, or even the mouse. None of it. I think it's quite telling that the most profitable business model of the last few decades in one in which your real product is not something essential, rather it's the marketing and branding or mostly useless, extremely overpriced technologies and "image" accessories. $10 shoes that sell for $225 for example.
will segen (san francisco)
oh, cool! a chance to share. Last year, in florence, (itay), my iPhone5 was acting up,(touch screen issue) and the battery was getting weak. Apple wanted around 150 bucks to deal with it. Somebody turned me on to a shop that sold cases, near the Duomo, and they did it. New battery, repaired touch screen, etc, and the price was 35 dollars (US). Loved it. And a year later it still works fine.
Paulie (Earth Unfortunately The USA Portion)
This is the same thing the auto manufacturers tried to do when computers first appeared in cars, they claimed that no one could have access to the diagnostic codes but them, they lost in court. As a side note I got a free tow behind mower that costs about $3,000 new. A $11 carburetor and a $60 starter and I now have it running like new. All because the previous owner was incapable of these simple repairs.
Smotri (New York)
Same thing here, except with a vacuum cleaner, of all things. The first owner did not seem to have ever realized how to empty the dirt and had thus simply thrown out the thing!
Rudy Ludeke (Falmouth, MA)
The Massachusetts right-to-repair legislation was a blessing. From my perspective it not only reduced repair costs appreciably for my imported car, but also reduced dishonest and unnecessary practices since one now has multiple choices to get estimates. The only time I went back to the dealer was for a recall repair. I have long ago given up servicing my own car, including tuning, roughly coinciding with the introduction of fuel injection and electronic timing control. It was progressively getting more complex with requirements for special tools and insufficient repair documentation. However, repair of cell phones and other portable electronic devices is a different matter because of their vast complexity and incredible miniaturization. Like for cars, special diagnostic equipment is needed to identify the faulty component. A circuit schematic is pretty much useless. Nevertheless, the establishment of independent repair shops capable of doing the repairs would be welcomed progress. However, the price drop may not be substantial as the cell phone manufacturer will probably charge plenty for the components as there is no after market of manufactured parts. And even if it existed there may be subsequent reliability and compatibility issues.
just visiting (USA)
@Rudy Ludeke - I disagree with your view on the complexity of cell phones. If the USB board on your smart phone fails, you don't fix it - you replace it. While there are many thousand parts in a cell phone, there are just a handful of assemblies, and those are not that hard to exchange. And there are plenty of sites (I personally like, but there is also a lot of information on Youtube and other places) that tell you how to do it
Nelly (Half Moon Bay)
The core of these problems go much, much deeper than Apple or Deer holding the technology over your head so they can further profiteer from an initial purpose. The subtitle of this column illustrates this well: "When the tools of modern life stop working, people should be able to shop for the best price on repairs." This actually should read: " When the tools of modern life stop working people should be able to engage in these repairs themselves." Planned obsolescence was once recognized as a gigantic social ill; where manufacture took serious advantage of consumers. No one even cares now. Therefore, the amount of waste created from planned obsolescence is astronomical with all of the attendant environmental problems associated with having to manufacture and sell many articles instead of making the original durable and fix-able, hopefully by the owner of the device or tool themselves. The wasteful character of our Society is appalling, but your column seems only concerned with any extra money having to spend money to repair items. The only reason one has to repair many items is because planned obsolescence itself is happily accepted by a contemporary society entirely removed from the philosophy of taking care of themselves. Sheeple, such acceptors of this are called.
Larry Figdill (Charlottesville)
Of all the things to be concerned about now, this issue seems really overwrought. I have owned a lot of Apple products over the years and in general they are built to last a long time; most often needing replacement only because newer technology is more attractive. I have done a few battery replacements in very old iPhones and iPads, but it really wasn't all that costly. It would be a different story if they frequently broke down at an early stage.
Matthew (Washington, D.C.)
There is a big difference between the Apple repair situation and the John Deere one. There is no technical reason that those tractors cannot be repaired. John Deere has intentionally prevented repairs simply to make sure you need to pay them for repairs. Most difficulties in making some Apple repairs are just because they're so small and compact, and therefore difficult to fix. There are some security features in an iPhone that cause it to stop working if it's dismantled - this is to prevent somebody from stealing your phone and extracting the flash memory to get all your data. This article seems woefully researched, and its comparison is ridiculous. At least it's in the "opinion" section because it plays fast and loose with the facts.
d (nzl)
@Matthew "John Deere has intentionally prevented repairs simply to make sure you need to pay them for repairs. " As do bmw in certain countries with certain models. The cure for this is simple, no longer buy their products, then public demonstrate/advocate against this predatory trade practice, until it changes.
Jess Juan Motime (Glen Cove, NY)
I for one don't own any Apple products and how does gluing batteries in place constitute technological improvement?
Jay Lagemann (Chilmark, MA)
I just had my old IPhone 6 plus screen replaced with a OEM Apple screen for $40 here in Thailand. It took less than 10 minutes while I watched him do it. Apple wanted hundreds of dollars to do exactly the same thing in the same upscale Mall.
Mekong.Rick (Ho Chi Minh, VN)
@Jay Lagemann When I lived in Bangkok, I had multiple repairs done on a MacBook Air, iPhones, iPad and iMac -- all done superbly and cheaply by an independent repairer. Never had a problem in 9 years of fixes. So all the Apple scare tactics are just this: Lies.
ShenBowen (New York)
Yes! Last year my MacBook refused to charge so I brought it to the local Apple store. When I came back to pick it up they told me that they couldn't fix it locally because they detected moisture inside the case and they're not allowed to work on machines in which they detect moisture. They would have to send it to the repair center, and there would be a minimum charge of $700. Naturally, I told them to forget. I brought it to my local computer repair shop. He fished inside the USB-C port (power port for newer MacBooks) and removed a small piece of junk that had found its way in there. Worked fine after that. No charge for the fix. Many people have documented similar experiences on Youtube. Apple makes great products, but service is awful. These laws are a great idea. Kudos to Elizabeth Warren for the original proposal, and the Times for extending it.
Bon (AZ)
My iPad's battery failed last year, and the Apple store and others told me that it could not be replaced without incurring more expense than it would cost to buy a new one. They would have to send the device to some central repair place (on my dime, of course) and they would try the repair, which might not work. A battery? couldn't be replaced? Come on Apple, this is disgusting. I opted to neither replace nor repair. So far I've survived. Apple is not on my Good Guys list.
GJW (Florida)
Search eBay or Amazon for a battery specific to your iPad, search YouTube for a how-to video (again, specific to your iPad), and follow the instructions. I’ve replaced batteries, screens, etc., for family and friends on many out-of-warranty iPads and iPhones, all of which are still working. It’s not terribly easy, but neither is it prohibitively difficult.
ALLEN S. (Atlanta)
We live in a competitive world. If you don’t like the policies of a vendor, don’t buy that vendor’s product. There are many reasons for the designer and seller of a complex product to refuse to risk its reputation built over decades. When iPhone repairs are made by inadequately trained freelancers, it is Apple’s reputation that will suffer. If enough people refuse to buy Apple products because they may only be repaired by qualified and trained technicians, then Apple’s management will have a business decision to make. To substitute Apple’s business judgment with the vote of legislators whose home VCRs are still blinking midnight is pretty bad policy.
markymark (Lafayette, CA)
I quit buying Apple products years ago because of their predatory policy on battery replacements. No consumer wants to throw out a perfectly fine ipad because they can't replace the battery in it.
Steve (Iowa)
A "right" to repair? We already have that right. I can taker my iPhone to any repair shop I want and get it repaired. But as with all things in life, actions have consequences. If we don't like the restrictions a manufacturer places on a product, we shouldn't purchase the product in the first place; not whine like petulant children about the restrictions we agreed to with our purchase. We should also be careful what we wish for. We might get a "right to repair" law passed, only to find that the cost of providing the mandated service, or the necessary parts and equipment to 3rd party repair shops, adds to the cost of the repair or the original cost of the product. Monetarily, we could end up right back where we started
@Steve Show me anywhere on Apple (or any other company's website) where such restrictions are clearly spelled out. On most Apple devices with the T2 chip (basically any one with biometric authentication), repairs with "unauthorized" parts will basically brick your device. Where exactly does Apple disclose this pre-purchase? In recent years, most people have found out about these and other Apple "quirks" when they've needed repairs, not when they are buying.
Chris Morris (Idaho)
Spot on. You can't afford to get a major appliances fixed either. They are notoriously expensive to have repaired. A fridge used to last for 30 years. Yes, big, heavy and inefficient, but robust and maintainable. Now they are light, efficient and loaded with options, but fail early and often. Sad.
Joanna (Georgia)
Apple began offering a $29 battery replacement when the news broke that they were slowing down phones with old batteries. But when I went to get that they said mine would be $299 because the liquid sensor had been flipped and they wouldn’t do the work. After a sea of visits and calls and dire warnings that it would destroy my phone to just replace the battery, they agreed. I did that, despite being genuinely scared by them to do so (I could sell it to get a credit, but not if it doesn’t start back up!). They also wouldn’t sell me the battery so I could do it myself. I didn’t need a new phone, or to replace a liquid sensor, I just needed a $29 battery that any would have just popped into any other device. It’s deeply wrong to charge ten times more to do that. At some point I, and others, will truly get fed up that Apple takes such advantage of its customers, as with its insane prices for factory RAM. For now though, I’m typing this in on an ipad.
Eugene (NYC)
Many years ago,when IBM only rented their computers, they required that all repairs and upgrades be made by their employees. Then someone took them to court (I forget the grounds) and won. IBM then agreed that anyone could repair or upgrade their mainframes. It would seem that this court decision would apply to all of these products. Also, I believe that the Carterphone decision could be relevant. In that case, AT&T prohibited any attachment to its telephones -- even a modem or answering machine only "connected" acoustically. Of course, they lost.
Jay Orchard (Miami Beach)
If iPhones were the only smartphones one could buy you might have a point. But consumers have a choice. I have an iPhone but my son has an Android. There are other choices as well. When I chose the iPhone I was aware that I could not fix it myself but bought it anyway. If the ability to fix a smartphone yourself is important, no doubt someone will sell such a smartphone. I also think you're overestimating the number of consumers who would, if they could, repair their own iPhone. Remember that this is a country where over half of consumers who purchased VCR's (remember those?) could only put a tape in and play it but could not figure out how to program the VCR to record a show. The bottom line is that the smartphone marketplace is working just fine, and doesn't need any repair, professional or otherwise.
Wish I could Tell You (north of NYC)
It's really sinister what has crept into our lives. We are in service to corporations, even our devices, rather them being in service to us or serving us. It's crazy how far and how quickly we've come from fixing our own stuff, tinkering with our own stuff or knowing someone who knows 'a guy' who knows how to fix anything. We are so disconnected from what is right in front of us, what's in our own hands, that's it's disorienting.
John LeBaron (MA)
I cannot speak to John Deere products, but Apple's disposition toward equipment repairs is totally consonant with its overall business plan that grossly overcharges for products which it orphans of software support long before the products have outdistanced their functional life spans. It's fully American to make a buck, but even Americans resist getting fleeced, and that is what Apple does to its customers. It costs to be cool.
Paul Central CA, age 59 (Chowchilla, California)
Resist corporate control. Encourage your children to learn Linux and the hardware platforms that can support open-source solutions. Use the source.
SR (Bronx, NY)
Of course. But let's go further and REQUIRE such a megacorp like Apple, ALREADY known to have been breached more than once and to have left people waiting for fixes to issues like the Group FaceTime one, and ALREADY known to have a massive "market" share, to Show The Damn Code before someone else finds another hole. Then we can repair it instead, if we were crazy enough to buy an iPhone in the first place. Their creepyphones are so widespread that their non-freedom is a public (data) health problem, not just a bad choice of theirs or their customers—they're a powerful botnet waiting to happen! I wouldn't require such of, say, Amazon's or Facebook's hardware, but only because they have proven so consistently and brazenly breachable, creepy, and outright evil that they ought to be simply jailed and out of business entirely.
AL (Delaware)
While we are on this topic, why can't there be a law that a subscriber to a cable service may buy and own their cable boxes, instead of having no option but renting one for years at exorbitant prices?
Matthew (Washington, D.C.)
@AL There *IS* such a law. You can buy your own cable box and the cable company has to provide you with a CableCard, by law. The telecommunications act of 1996. Have you heard of TiVO? There are newer players in the space too, such as HDHomeRun, which I have. I save $22.50 a month - $10 cable box rent, $10 "HD technology fee", and Comcast gives me $2.50 credit on my bill each month for providing my own equipment. BTW, I have my own cable modem too for internet.
Sketco (Cleveland, OH)
@Matthew Having had TiVo since they were first available, I agree that companies are required, by law, to provide CableCards, but companies, such as Time Warner, now Spectrum hamstring the technology. Spectrum requires the use of a separate device, a switched tuning adapter, that frequently must be rebooted after losing its connection to Spectrum’s signal. There are more advanced systems that don’t require the outboard device, but Spectrum doesn’t offer them. Its CableCard support is just awful. The team in Buffalo, NY, is great but no one locally knows anything about how CableCards work nor whey there are so many “issues”. Spectrum’s CableCards do not support video on demand. It seems as though Spectrum, and perhaps other cable tv suppliers want to make it as difficult for customers to use any equipment than their own while still staying within the law.
Will Goubert (Portland Oregon)
@AL worst part is still that if you're interested in a couple of channels on occasion you have to get a package with an add-on. If you're not a big watcher it's rediculous. Most of what is on the air is garbage anyway. Everything is "bundled"
Jack (Washington State)
It really comes down to one thing. These companies do not want you to repair, they want you to replace.
Observer (USA)
A Medtronic pacemaker and an Apple iPhone have something important in common: many people’s lives now depend on them. And if this seems far-fetched, consider that Apple is already selling products that incorporate critical health monitors. If the Times Editorial Board is willing to take their own pacemakers down to that funny little shop off Canal St. just so they can get low-cost repairs, then more power to them. But don’t shoehorn Apple into policies for products they were making ten years ago.
chris l (los angeles)
My iphone 6 isn't used for anything safety or health critical. It's a small computer that's useful for making phone calls. I've also completely dismantled it myself to replace a $2.50 antenna, requiring about $10 worth of tools and about half an hour of time. I've also taken apart nearly every version of macbook pro except the most recent (last 1.5 years or so) to replace something - usually fans, disk drives, optical drives, or memory, but also batteries that are glued in place. When Apple denied that they had a solder problem on their GPUS (which they eventually recalled) I found a shop that could desolder and install new ones for a few hundred dollars instead of replacing the whole logic board for $1000+. It not only *can* be done, but it's not that hard and it's economical.
Matthew (Washington, D.C.)
@chris l Thanks for this. I was unhappy with this article because it implies that Apple's made it impossible to fix their phones or has done something to intentionally prevent people from doing so. Just look around at all the phone repair shops to see proof that this is false reporting.
Kevin (Los Angeles)
@chris l You also voided your warranty with each repair.
hen3ry (Westchester, NY)
This is in line with what Microsoft has done too. It used to be that when we purchased Windows or Office we received a CD and we could install the product ourselves without having to verify that we were the owners of what we'd just bought. We didn't have to pay for a subscription each year. The product, warts and all, was ours to install and reinstall as many times as needed. The waste that such policies cause is beyond reckoning. When it's too hard or too expensive to fix something it's often tossed into the garbage or scrap heap. Someone I know needed a repair on her car. An electronic component wasn't working correctly and that was affecting something that, only 10 years earlier could have been fixed for far less money because no electronics were involved. In fact it was the electronics which were the problem, not the actual part. We worry about plastic bags and plastics ruining the environment. We need to worry about the effects of "unfixable" products piling up in dumps because manufacturers continue to make products too complex for the average person to repair and reuse.
Will Goubert (Portland Oregon)
@hen3ry you forget the fact though that making and shipping installation disks was expensive, then you had to keep them handy etc. It's nice to be able to download software and update it through the Internet and have current software. Unless you're keeping a MS Office product for several years it's not that much more for basic versions. Pros and cons to everything. After a while you need to keep things updated also for security reasons regardless of platform.
Brian Harvey (Berkeley)
I'm really pleased to see the Times endorsing Right-to-Repair! This is an important issue. But replacing the screen or the battery in your phone is the tip of the iceberg. Most of the problems with modern devices are in their software. The recent Boeing plane crashes have brought this fact to public attention. Tesla has also helped with their boast that they can fix most problems over the phone, so you don't even have to bring your car to the shop. What this means is that the right to repair has to include the right to read and modify the software in anything you buy. (Some products might be exceptions for safety reasons -- you're not allowed to modify the software that runs a modern car so that you don't circumvent speed controls or limits on pollution in your exhaust.) But your phone, your computer, your printer, and most other devices don't have that sort of safety issue. Manufacturers don't want to release their software for profit reasons. Apple, in particular, gets premium prices for its products because of its software; its hardware isn't so different from anyone else's. (I'm typing this on a Mac.) Right now, reverse engineering of software is forbidden by the Digital Millenium Copyright Act. Nebraska and Minnesota can't fix that by themselves.
Michael (Dutton, Michigan)
Though not repair in the normal sense, my recent experience adding memory to my newly-purchased Apple iMac fits this mold. I took the new machine to an Apple-approved repair facility asking that the memory be upgraded to the maximum. Why? Because adding memory to a new iMac is not a user-friendly process; entering the device myself would invalidate the warranty. So I asked them to do it. The one phone call I received from the tech revealed that I could buy additional memory from a third party at a significant savings...less then $200...but with the downside that I would invalidate the warranty. So I opted for Apple memory to the tune of more than $500 for the same amount of memory. Of course I feel completely abused by Apple. I have added and changed memory in previous Apple computers and am completely comfortable doing so, but after spending a lot on their overpriced computer this time, I was not going to invalidate my warranty for short-term financial savings. And Apple knows it.
Frank (Sydney)
@Michael - so you just paid an extra $300 to Apple for the 'security' of their warranty ? sounds like people buying 'extended' warranties for household appliances - which have repeatedly been shown to be just money-for-jam for the salespeople modern electronic devices tend to either fail within the first week or three - or work reliably for ten years. Unless you drop it and break it - which is probably not covered by your warranty. if you're worried about your iMac in 5 years I can tell you what it'll be worth in 5 years - very little. I remember having a garage sale including my 5yo desktop computer (decades ago) - asking like $50 when I had paid $3500 for it. A father was quite interested and said it would be good for schoolwork, etc. - and he'd get his son to look - they came back - the son said 'will it play Doom ?' (the latest computer game requiring the most power only on latest computers) - of course not - the son turned away - completely Not Interested. So - the computer that was the latest thing when you bought it - in five years time - you may not be able to Give it away ...
Regina Valdez (Harlem)
@Michael Wow, and memory is so cheap these days. I've always upgraded my Apple products on my own. You can get the very same memory they use from Plenty of other retailers around the city that will fix these my mac products for half what the apple store charges. Don't fall for the scare tactics!
Bang Ding Ow (27514)
@Michael Should have gone Linux. Lot less costly.
All this will do is create a long line of people at Apple stores asking them to "unfix" the repair jobs done by incorrectly trained repair shops. These are complicated, very compact devices. I think allowing third-party repairs but mandating that they void the warranty is a fair compromise. How is Apple to know what a technician broke while fixing something else?
Roger (St. Louis, MO)
@QED Car manufacturers figured this out decades ago. If an independent repair shop causes some type of damage, the dealer service center can charge for the repair. However, having an independent repair shop correctly perform a minor repair doesn't invalidate the entire warranty. This has nothing to do with quality of repairs. Apple is simply trying to protect their ability to charge ludicrous repair prices.
QED Reply (Roundabout)
@QED I suggest you have a look here for an insight as to why the lines may not exist at all.
dpaqcluck (Cerritos, CA)
And it will change slowly or never, as long as industry rules our Congress and Congress utterly ignores monopoly control of any business they choose to.
Mort (Detroit)
Both Apple and Google have gone much too far. They have a duopoly and they know it. Unless the EU or US make them back down ownership will become meaningless.
Matthew (New Jersey)
@Mort You do realize there are far more Android phones sold annually, right?
C (Canada)
There is one major difference, though, between repairing cars and repairing iPhones. When you send your car to your mechanic, barring forgetting your keys in the compartment, you're not giving your mechanic access to your personal garage. But sending your physical iPhone away to be repaired gives the mechanic potential access to all of your stored data, including your passwords, sensitive documents, potentially everything on your iCloud account. Not to mention every account that potentially depends on your two-factor authentication, your SIM card that you might not have taken out, and the passwords that the operation may have asked for. I'm not against right to repair. I'm not. But I am against shady operations that charge low fees to repair phones and scrape data, because your lost pictures may not be all that they are looking for. Until the legislation is in place to protect users and their data I'm not sure what other solution there is. It's not sensational. It's reality.
SmartenUp (US)
@C Fully back up your iPhone, in a couple of places, then reset it to factory default settings (wipe it ) then send in for hardware repair?
Wade Nelson (Durango, Colorado)
Apple indicated they would do no, zero, repair work on my Iphone, now or ever, because I had replaced the battery myself saving approximately $50 two years prior. Not even replacing my replacement battery with a fresh Apple battery as I had requested, restoring it to 100% Apple parts.
Lauren (NJ)
@Wade Nelson - I had an equally frustrating situation with an older model Apple iPod that I had bought for my autistic son. He was able to use that iPod independently, and after several years the battery would no longer hold a charge. I had bought him a new iPod as a replacement, but due to his disability he was unable to get the gist of manipulating it as he had done with the prior one. I brought the older one to the local Apple store and wanted them to replace the battery, being quite willing to pay them for the work. (Their batteries are soldered in place, and I knew I wouldn't be able to do it properly.) They refused to replace the battery as the older iPod was out of warranty. I told them I didn't care, as the current state of the iPod was of no use to us, and that I had already bought another iPod that my son was unable to use. It made no difference. It was too old, and they wouldn't replace the battery. I told them that I did not think they deserved their reputation for service to people with disabilities. Not a nice company.
Hugh Massengill (Eugene Oregon)
It's also my government, and it really looks like I, and millions like me, will have to grab hold of our right to repair this government and get rid of Trump and every Republican who supports him, and then maybe we get an expanded Consumers' Bill of Rights. But then, corporations are people, and one has to wonder at the Supreme Court level, if Apple has more "human rights" than we do. Hugh
expat london (london)
Apple has a dominant position and abuses its position. Under EU law, that is very clear to me. A few months after the Apple warranty ended (surprise!), my lap top started consistently dropping the wi-fi signal. I took it to Apple who said it was out of warranty and wanted almost £500 to repair it. I was quite agitated (on an English scale) and read out to them in the store the EU/UK consumer protection law re defective electronic products. The law says that they have to repair it or refund me the purchase price. (I'm convinced Apple products are designed to fail after the warranty period expires.) They agreed to the repair at no cost. But I had to get a bit nasty (by English standards). I'm glad the EU has our backs, unlike the US which is letting technology companies get away with murder. And the arrogance of the Apple store employees. I have already decided next lap top is a Dell, and next phone is a Samsung. Sick and tired of Apple and what they are getting away with.
Regina Valdez (Harlem)
@expat london I am with you, but *don't* get a dell! I've have one, and trust me, for all the arrogance, at least your Mac will last longer. Yes, they do last longer. I've had my MacBook Pro since 2008 and my MacBook Air since 2016. I got you on the Samsung, but not the Dell.
SmartenUp (US)
@expat london Good luck after Brexit...juts one more reason to REMAIN!
Bang Ding Ow (27514)
@expat London Why did you buy Apple? Many did not, and solved that issue. Heck, simple math -- many do not buy Apple because it costs more. Period, full stop. As to this -- " .. Until recently, cars, tractors and even most consumer electronic products were relatively easy to fix .." Ms. Warren and others know nothing about cause-and-effect of their wack-o theories. To wit: demand higher CAFE for cars -- engines and transmissions have to work hard. Basic math -- an eight-speed transmission (to boost MPG) has *more* parts than a four-speed and is more complex. It costs more, all over. Really. Try to do the math, Ms. Warren. If Ms. Warren's gang are so brilliant, why don't they actually *produce* something brilliant? And hire 10000s of people at "fair compensation?"
Sketco (Cleveland, OH)
The iPhone isn’t the only Apple device with “repair issues”. I sent a first generation Apple watch to Apple to have the battery replaced—prepaid. Apple decided the battery didn’t need to be replaced, refused to replace it and returned my watch with the original battery. Presumably Apple, as the designer of the watch, is the most reliable source of a battery replacement, but its refusal to replace the battery, which did not last an entire day, gave me the choice between having the battery replaced by someone who would be at best, a second choice I could not vet, or not being able to use the watch an entire day. “Think different” indeed.
David Salahi (Laguna Niguel, CA)
The situation is so bad that some printer manufacturers don’t even allow the use of 3rd-party ink cartridges.
Steve J (Mello Park CA)
@David Salahi Give way the razon and charge for the blades style marketing has been around since King Gillette invented the Safety Razor around 1910 or so.
Gerry Power (Philadelphia, PA)
@David Salahi and you don't have to buy those brands if you find that a problem.
I have also run into the problem (yes, at Apple) of being told that the cost of repairing a product or replacing a part would be more than the cost of just buying a new one. So they’ve got us over a barrel. We consumers are supposed to take their word at face value, no questions asked, no second opinions.
BigFootMN (Lost Lake, MN)
@NM That's where the 'right to repair' would come in. The Repubs are all about competition and the marketplace. With right to repair, you would have multiple options to repair that device. Kind of like a second opinion as compared to your primary doctor. You see that now in the replacement of smartphone screens. Many places now work on smartphones (including kiosks in many malls). If your phone is out of warranty (or it the problem was not covered by warranty), you have multiple options to get it fixed. That same option should be available for virtually anything.
See also