What the right to repair means for an Apple user
By Azrul Abas June 16, 2021
The Right to Repair
In case you’ve missed it, last Thursday, the New York State Senate passed the US’s first-ever right-to-repair bill, which would allow users to now go to an electronics repair shop, or even open up YouTube to fix their iPhone if required.
Rather than relying on manufacturers to repair, the law lets people mend their devices on their own. This has undoubtedly affected companies like Apple, Tesla and AT&T which have lobbied hard against the right to repair citing quality, intellectual property, and security concerns as their main reasons. Although this still has to pass the Assembly on a very tight turnaround, if approved it’d be the first law of its kind in the US.
As you can see, although this applies mainly to the West, here in Singapore it’s not as strange. It's quite common to actually bring your MacBook Pro or iPhone X to a repair shop to fix whenever an issue arises instead of bringing them to the Apple store itself. However, this does bring up the question of the right to repair for users here.
So what is it about?
The right to repair essentially questions users as to whether they really own an electronic product or are they just loaning it from the manufacturers (although at a higher price) before discarding for newer models. Large tech firms like Apple, want to gain control not only of the product market, but also for repair. For example, when your iPhone 8 screen breaks, they also like to be the one to sell you the repair of the screen instead of going to other repair providers. This allows them to keep as much control as possible over the whole ecosystem.
So while it does seem like a monopoly is happening, Apple also tries to circumvent this by introducing an Independent Repair Provider Program that allows repair providers to be an Apple-certified one. Although this sounds good on paper, it may actually harm these businesses in the long run. This is because Apple only allows the repair of iPhone batteries and screen, and they’re not allowed to repair other brands as part of their services. Furthermore, these providers are also susceptible to Apple continuing to inspect their shop for 5 years even if they decide to leave the program. So in short, Apple still tries to keep it as a monopoly, although under the guise of letting you repair it.
What else is there?
It also should come to no surprise that we’ve mentioned countless times on how they have also intentionally designed their products to prevent users from dismantling and repairing them on their own (read more here).
While it should not compromise the design and usability to the users, the fact that users have to use a heat gun, multiple screwdrivers and unglue a battery just serves to reinforce the idea that Apple has no intention of allowing users to repair their phones themselves. Just look at the countless miniature screws and various types of screwdrivers - it would definitely put off someone to repair their device on their own.
As technology began to evolve, so are the skills required to fix and meet these particular issues. Creating barriers and obstacles would only create more dissent towards the product and company itself. And just because it's difficult doesn't mean it is not doable. Like any of the other items that we purchase, we deserve the right to repair the things we own.