Apple is screwing you by making third-party repairs hard and expensive

If Apple and other tech companies have their way, it will only become harder to have our phones and other devices repaired by third-party businesses.

Smartphones and many other tech devices are increasingly being designed in ways that make it challenging to repair or replace individual components.

This might involve soldering the processor and flash memory to the motherboard, gluing components together unnecessarily, or using non-standard pentalobe screws which make replacements problematic.

Many submissions to an Australian “right to repair” inquiry have called on tech manufacturers to provide a fair and competitive market for repairs, and produce products that are easily repairable.

The right to repair refers to consumers’ ability to have their products repaired at a competitive price. This includes being able to choose a repairer, rather than being forced by default to use the device manufacturer’s services.

But it seems Apple doesn’t want its customers to fix their iPhones or Macbooks themselves. The company has lobbied against the right to repair in the United States and has been accused of deliberately slowing down iPhones with older batteries.

Opposition against the right to repair from tech companies is to be expected. Cornering consumers into using their service centers increases their revenue and extends their market domination.

In its defense, Apple has said third-party repairers could use lower quality parts and also make devices vulnerable to hackers.

It also defended its battery warning indication as a “safety” feature, wherein it started to alert users if their phone’s replacement battery hadn’t come from a certified Apple repairer.

In the US, Apple’s independent repair provider program grants certain providers access to the parts and resources needed to fix its devices. Independent repair shops in 32 countries can now apply, but the scheme has yet to extend outside the US.

[Read: How do you build a pet-friendly gadget? We asked experts and animal owners]

Impact on users

With the iPhone 12 — the latest iPhone offering — Apple has made it even harder for third-party repairers to fix the device, thereby increasing users’ reliance on its own services.

Apple has hiked its repair charges for iPhone 12 by more than 40%, compared with the iPhone 11. It is charging more than A$359 to fix an iPhone 12 screen outside of warranty and A$109 to replace the battery.

Historically, third-party repairers have been a cheaper option. But using a third-party repairer for an iPhone 12 could render some phone features, such as the camera, almost inoperable.

According to reports, fixing the iPhone 12’s camera requires Apple’s proprietary system configuration app, available only to the company’s own authorized technicians.

It’s not just Apple, either. Samsung’s flagship phones are also quite tricky for third-party repairers to fix.

Impact on environment

When certain parts for repairs aren’t available, manufacturers will produce new phones instead, consuming more energy and resources. In fact, manufacturing one smartphone consumes as much energy as using it for ten years.

Pile of smashed, discarded smartphones
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