Apple Will Let iPhone Users Repair Their Phones, But It Only Applies to Certain Models

Good news for home tinkerers. Apple is going to let you finally crack open your devices without penalty.

Well, most devices.

The Associated Press reported some iPhone users will be allowed to fix their phones in the coming months. Apple previously prohibited such technological adventures for owners, leaving that to company-approved technicians instead.

But Wednesday, Apple said it will enable users of iPhone 12 or 13 to access genuine Apple parts and tools — many after-market or off-brand options already pervade the Internet — via an online store dedicated to self-repair.

The store will launch early next year, according to the AP. Its focus will include do-it-yourself solutions for screens, batteries, and displays. The company resisted such opportunities in the past, arguing bad battery replacements, for example, can damage a device.

A growing "right-to-repair" movement has some backing within the federal government and Apple became one of the movement's primary and long-chased targets. Advocates were routinely frustrated by the company's practice of locking down its software so parts were encoded to a specific device, the AP reported. Attempted repairs with third-party equipment often left phones unusable.

Apple's changes are limited. However, the shift is being lauded as significant progress considering the company's prior reticence and the popularity of its products. Nathan Proctor, senior director for the Right to Repair campaign at U.S. PIRG, a consumer advocacy group, called the decision "a big milestone."

"One of the most visible right-to-repair opponents is reversing course in a meaningful way," he said.

Proctor said pressure from even some of Apple's investors helped push the decision. Reducing electronic waste was also cited as a contributor to the shift.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

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A person uses an iPhone on Oct. 8, 2019 in New York. Apple is letting some iPhone users fix their own phones, a sharp turnaround for a company that has long guarded its software in a walled garden that only Apple-approved technicians can unlock. Jenny Kane, File/AP Photo

The change reflects a strengthening "right to repair" movement embraced by President Joe Biden and affecting everything from smartphones to cars and tractors. It's a reaction to the infusion of software into more everyday products and the practices of manufacturers who have increasingly made those products difficult and expensive to repair.

Apple's action is welcome news for consumers and a sign that similar standards should apply to other electronics, said Maureen Mahoney, a senior policy analyst at Consumer Reports.

"If you buy a product, you should be able to fix it," she said. Otherwise "consumers have to either rely on the manufacturers' authorized repairer or they have to buy a new one."

The Federal Trade Commission, the Biden administration and state legislatures have been eyeing regulatory changes that would make it easier for Americans to repair their broken devices.

Regulators have expressed concerns about restrictions that steer consumers into manufacturers' and sellers' repair networks, adding costs to consumers and shutting out independent repair shops from business opportunities. They've also said those repair restrictions often fall heavily on minority and low-income consumers. An FTC report to Congress in May noted that many Black-owned small businesses make equipment repairs, and repair shops often are owned by entrepreneurs from poor communities.

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A man checks his phone in an Apple retail store in Grand Central Terminal, January 29, 2019 in New York City. Apple is set to allow users to make fixes to their newer phones. Drew Angerer/Getty Images