Earlier this month, Apple finally launched its self-service repair program that lets customers buy official parts to fix their own devices. In addition to the parts, Apple is also selling (or renting) the tools necessary to do the repairs.
As you might expect, people who write for tech publications and people who make YouTube videos are getting them and cracking open their iPhones. Those tools are the exact same tools as Apple uses to fix your iPhone, and if you rent them, they show up in two large Pelican cases weighing about 80 pounds.
“I expected Apple would send me a small box of screwdrivers, spudgers, and pliers; I own a mini iPhone, after all,” said Sean Hollister, in an article from The Verge. “Instead, I found two giant Pelican cases — 79 pounds of tools — on my front porch.”
The argument seems to be that Apple made the whole thing so incredibly arduous for anyone to repair their iPhone that obviously Apple doesn’t want you to repair your own devices. The subhead of Hollister’s article reads: “I’m starting to think Apple doesn’t want us to repair them,” referring to iPhones.
Of course, they don’t. That’s not surprising, nor–by the way–is it nefarious. Apple never intended for users to crack open their iPhone and replace its battery or cameras or display. The iPhone wasn’t designed with that in mind. As such, repairing one is ridiculously challenging.
It’s certainly not something most people should, or would want to attempt. There are far easier ways to have your iPhone repaired. You can take it to an Apple Store. You can take it to one of Apple’s third-party authorized repair partners. Apple even makes certified parts available to independent repair shops.
Any of those options is better than buying the parts and renting the tools needed to do it on your own. Even once you have the exact tools needed to pry the display off your iPhone, unless you’ve used them before you will probably break your iPhone trying.
That isn’t an indictment of Apple’s self-service repair program. The fact that Apple will sell you official parts and let you rent the tools needed to replace them is a wonderful thing. The fact that almost no one should ever try is only a reflection of the fact that most of us aren’t good at repairing iPhones.
You could argue that it is bad that Apple makes devices that are so thin and compact that they are impossible for consumers to repair without complicated, expensive tools. If you’re mad about that, that’s not entirely unreasonable but the alternative is more repairable but less beautifully designed iPhones.
Every stage of product design is about making choices. The choice Apple made is to make iPhones that are thin and compact, while still delivering the best performance and battery life possible. Doing that while making them easily repairable is impossible–at least, not at a price most people would be willing to pay.
You could ask ‘why does Apple want me to bring my phone to one of its approved repair shops? Surely they just want all the money.’ Yes, I agree, Apple wants all the money, but I am also definitely sure that Apple does not make a lot of money off iPhone repairs.
Apple made more than a billion dollars a day in its last fiscal year. Very little of that money came from swapping out cracked iPhone displays or dead batteries. Besides, If you pay for AppleCare+, which is $9.99 a month for an iPhone 13 Pro, you can have the screen on your phone replaced for $29, up to twice a year.
I am terrible at math, but if you pay for the AppleCare+ and use it twice a year to replace your display, you will pay $177.88. To buy the kit to replace the display yourself, you will pay $267.98 (or $234.36 if you return the damaged part after you replace it). That’s the same price Apple charges its authorized repair partners. If you do that twice a year, not including the cost of the tools required (which you can rent for $49), you will pay $468.72.
Apple is charging you a little more than a third of that to just walk into an Apple Store twice a year and have someone who has repaired hundreds of iPhones do it for you. Even if you don’t have AppleCare+, Apple will still replace the display on an iPhone 13 Pro for $279, less than it costs to do the repair yourself.
It seems clear that Apple isn’t doing this because it is greedy and wants all of the money from repairing iPhones. Or, that Apple is mean and spiteful and wants to make its self-service repair customers miserable.
I’m guessing that if Apple had its way, it would never repair another iPhone. Every time it has to repair an iPhone it’s because something went wrong. Broken iPhones don’t make people happy at all.
Apple just wants happy iPhone customers. Having a cracked screen on your iPhone pretty much sucks. Being able to walk in and pay $29 to have it replaced, on the other hand, is amazing. It makes people happy. Happy people buy more iPhones.
The lesson here is that Apple isn’t making its products harder to repair, or sending overly complicated tools to be spiteful, it’s making design decisions that result in iPhones that are basically impossible for people to repair on their own. So, it makes it as easy as possible for them to get their device fixed by people who literally do that for a living.
Of course, Apple is also showing how complicated repairing iPhones really is, which makes its AppleCare service look like a pretty good deal. If nothing else, it’s a far better experience, which–ultimately–is the point.