Apple does the bare minimum to get in front of right to repair laws and the internet loves it

iPhone 13
iPhone 13 (Image credit: Apoorva Bhardwaj / Android Central)

I don't really have much of a personal opinion about the iPhone. If it's what you like, you should probably use one, but it's really not what I like. But because it is the iPhone, I have to follow the news about it and oftentimes write words about it. This is one of those times.

There is something I do care about a lot, though, and that is the right to repair. So when Apple claims to support the right for us to repair our own property, it's my time to take the proverbial mic and say something, so I'll come out and say it — Apple is only doing the bare minimum to stay ahead of right to repair legislation in the U.S. and abroad.

Now I don't know what was discussed in any meetings before Apple announced it was going to graciously allow us to do whatever we wanted to do with the property we bought and paid for, and I certainly can't read minds. But I can see the hypocrisy in action here. So can you if you take a moment and move past all the headlines and social media posts praising Apple for doing the bare minimum.

Apple is allowing you to buy a kit (opens in new tab) to fix your iPhone 12 or iPhone 13 that includes a repair manual and the part you need, complete with a handful of tools. Right now, the plan is to only allow you to fix the display, the battery, or the camera module, but the company claims that other assemblies will be available later next year. So, in theory, this means you can plop down on your sofa and fix your busted iPhone, right? Whoa there, pardner.

Apple would still rather have you visit the Apple store and pay them to fix your phone.

A look at iFixit shows that the iPhone 13 receives a 5 out of 10 repairability score because it requires special tools and is glued together. It's even difficult to replace a simple piece of glass that covers the back. It's also worth noting that the score was given by bonafide experts who have access to very specialized tools Apple is not going to ship to you in the repair kit.

And yes, I find it ironic that iFixit is praising Apple for getting out ahead of reparability laws it has championed for years instead of taking the chance to further educate consumers about why the way phones are made in 2021 is so bad. But, I guess even a little something is better than nothing?

You're never going to do this.

I am not going to do that. Instead, I am going to tell you that Apple has only done what almost every other company that makes consumer electronics has been doing all along — not bricking your device (presumably) if you try to open it without Apple's special secret configuration software.

It seems like most companies that build phones don't care if you can fix them or not.

It's my opinion this isn't enough to warrant any praise, and I'm not singling out Apple here. Almost every company that makes smartphones in 2021 makes them in a way that prohibits you from performing even the simplest of repairs. That goes for Apple, that goes for Google's Pixel 6, that goes for Samsung's Galaxy S21, and whatever company made the phone you're holding in your hands right now.

The difference is that most phone makers didn't actively try and stop you from breaking your phone by trying to open the case before today. You don't just unscrew a phone in 2021. You might need heat to melt glue, shims and spudgers to separate the case, and a lot of YouTube tutorials that tell you which cables to unplug (those will probably break, too).

Fairphone 4 Dissassembly

Source: Jerry Hildenbrand / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Jerry Hildenbrand / Android Central)

It doesn't have to be this way and you don't have to take my word for it. It's possible to build a high-quality smartphone that's actually easy to repair and sell the parts to do it at a reasonable fee. I know because I have that phone on the desk in front of me: the Fairphone 4. This is the best sustainable Android phone because it's one you can actually repair yourself, even if you're not a long-time DIY nerd.

I'm really not trying to bring you down if this news makes you happy. At least Apple has moved in the right direction, even if it has a long way to go. I just don't want anyone to think they are going to be fixing phones on their coffee table, whether they be a Galaxy phone or an iPhone, because that's not how it works. It's just how it should work.

Jerry Hildenbrand
Senior Editor — Google Ecosystem

Jerry is an amateur woodworker and struggling shade tree mechanic. There's nothing he can't take apart, but many things he can't reassemble. You'll find him writing and speaking his loud opinion on Android Central and occasionally on Twitter.

  • I understand the desire to be able to fix your tech, but as the parts get smaller and smaller so they can cram more and more into a small device, they get harder to repair and using materials like glue make it cheaper too.
    That's the reason the fair phone 4 is quite a bit behind in specs and much more expensive than other phones. The fact is that in real life people prefer the cheaper and higher spec standard smartphone and don't mind accepting that they have to take their phone to Samsung or Apple to get fixed I don't think that you have to be able to repair a phone yourself too recycle it either, we just have to make recycling a priority I've never really needed to repair smartphones that often, I dropped one note 5 that I needed to get Samsung to repair, it was no big deal and they did a much better job than I would have lol.
  • Okay, Tim. That is indeed the lies Apple uses to justify the massive profits on repairs of devices that YOU own. That is also the reason the RDF crowd went wild when Apple announced this con scheme that makes it even more expensive for you to repair YOUR OWN device. Because you can't stop believing the lies.
  • Yep, a stale, mouldy loaf of bread is a feast to someone who hasn't eaten for a month. I thought it was a pain to undo 18 screws just to replace a battery. With adhesives, I've given up.
  • Every move Apple makes is the right one, even if it's the minimum.
  • "Almost every company that makes smartphones in 2021 makes them in a way that prohibits you from performing even the simplest of repairs." But you aren't singling out Apple in the article titled "Apple does the bare minimum ..."
    Glad the Fairphone meets your needs, but the average phone consumer wouldn't have the skills to repair their device. Yes, that is to large degree because of how they are built. Note that PCs were very conducive to repair, and most folks couldn't, or didn't, replace cards, much less motherboards, power supplies or CPUs. I can tell you from years of experience, reliability and ease of repair are competing features.
  • That's the problem — the average consumer does have the skills to repair something like the Fairphone 4. We're just used to consumer electronics that are difficult to repair or really complex and accept it as the norm.