Is Apple about to extend its repair coverage to older devices?

An interesting article from The Verge claiming that Apple is looking to start offering a repair service for its devices that are currently “too old” to fix, including the iPhone 4S:

If this helps keep older devices in use for longer, then great! But while this is good in some ways, Jon Porter (the author) makes the excellent point that:

Repairing older products is definitely a good thing, but Apple’s restrictive repair practices still mean that devices end up being thrown away when they otherwise could have been repaired. The company has lobbied against right to repair legislation in the US, and it has used proprietary software to prevent its laptops from being repaired by unauthorized companies.

^ This is something we’ve discussed ourselves over in @Panda’s thread:

There’s also the issue that Apple has discontinued security patches for many/most of these devices… so…?

Very good point! In case they indeed do it, it will beg the question: now can you provide security updates for iPhone 4s? Also, the price point they offer is unlikely to be anywhere as competitive as most repair businesses. As @RestarToshi commented in the past, for old devices, it’s very important that third-party parts are available, as it’s makes no sense to spend a fortune repairing them.

That would be quite a mindset change on the part of Apple.

Last week I was in Paris, needed WiFi access and happened to be close to an Apple shop, so I spent about an hour at a long table where staff (are they still geniuses?) were dealing with customers’ queries about their devices. This was fascinating (and distracting).

For most of the iPhone repairs, customers are asked to come back two hours later to pick up their ‘fixed’ iPhones. However if a sticker had changed colour to signal some water ingress staff couldn’t even change the battery. A customer’s response was that they should then throw their phone in the bin - the customer appeared serious and not saying this against Apple’s policy, weirdly. The staff mentioned very briefly without enthusiasm that if that was the case it could possibly be fixed elsewhere. It was said so unconvincingly that I’m not sure the customer registered that information; at least he didn’t react or comment about it. Another customer had brought a pair of broken in-ear headphones; these were not from Apple but had been bought at this Apple shop a few years earlier. They were out of warranty and the staff offered a replacement for €129 (or maybe it was €149; I don’t remember the exact amount, but it was of this order). A new equivalent headset was likely cheaper. It was a couple, she was using the headphones and he had bought them. The headphones were still working, but one of the earpiece had broken into two. She was pissed off that Apple were basically refusing to repair them. As I had a pack of Sugru in my bag, when the staff had finished I offered it to that customer so she could fix her headphone, an easy job.

There were other similar cases and it was frustrating not helping the customers who didn’t get satisfaction from Apple staff, but I didn’t think I could start talking about the repair community and remain there to finish what I had to using the free Wifi. It did make me think that just outside Apple shops would be good locations to communicate about repair. It’s probably difficult to do as a regular activity, but maybe a stunt could be having a Restart Party on the pavement opposite an Apple shop (there are restrictions on using the pavement, but last time I looked at these charities had many exemptions -though councils’ security staff are often not aware of them).

I also observed from afar a training on using the camera app that was happening at another table and was impressed by its quality. So from an hour in that shop: good skill sharing, dubious repair policies and practices.

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Nice! Some guerilla repair in action.

Good take by Cory Doctorow on this:

Apple will only ever do what they see as profitable. It could be that with declining sales and changing public perception they are seeing repair as a service as one alternative avenue for profit. Unfortunately they will do it as a form of rent-collection, not an open ecosystem of repair. So it may be Apple’s goal that Apple devices will become more repairable, but only by Apple. And only if and for so long as it is profitable.

As Panda says it doesn’t seem like it’s happening just yet, but could be on the horizon.

“Goldman’s proposal for Apple is to create a services bundle similar to Amazon Prime; for $30 a month or so, subscribers would get access to music, video, 200 GB of storage and phone repair. The investment bank calculates that with just 50 million subscribers, such a bundle could add $18 billion in services revenue in 2019.”

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