As a longtime and loyal Apple user – but one who abhors the company’s proprietary instincts and lack of transparency around parts and repairs – the announcement earlier today that Apple would soon launch their Self Service Repair programme, making specialist parts, tools and diagrams available to the public should have had me jumping for joy.
And it did! I was genuinely cheered by the news when I read it. It’s a remarkable change of tune from a company who have previously been so wildly hysterical on the topic of repair – as the iFixIt blog on the matter was quick to point out…
This move invalidates many of the arguments Apple and other manufacturers have used against the right to repair. Liability? You understand the risks, and won’t sue Apple if you damage your device, or stab yourself in the palm with a screwdriver. Warranties? Although it’s illegal to void a warranty for a DIY repair, people worry. Apple’s program should tell motivated fixers that their warranty is intact.
But there are some serious caveats, too. As the European Right To Repair campaign’s response says, the devil is very much in the details. Their website wonders whether the announcement might end up being too good to be true.
For my part, I don’t think ‘too good to be true’ is quite fair. I think this is genuine, and I think that is legitimately good news – but I think it does not go anywhere near far enough, and I think Apple’s motivations still owe more to safeguarding their market share than helping their consumers. That is their right – but it is also our right to keep campaigning for binding right to repair legislation which serves the public, not just vested interests.
Apple are releasing only the schematics and spare parts for the newest iPhone and MacBook models (at least to begin with). The message is clear: Buy our new stuff, and you’re much better off! You’ll even get to fix it, too!
But those of us who care about repair and sustainability don’t want to be forced into upgrading to new devices so we can get the cool new toys. In fact, that is exactly the type of attitude we are trying to get away from! If Apple’s damascene conversion were serious, they would want to help us keep older devices running better for longer.
What cheers me most about the whole thing is that it shows we are winning. Apple is a smart. Smart, with a carefully-honed image of slick, polished competence. In my view, what’s happening here is that Apple have spotted which way the wind is blowing; they want to get out in front of any legislation which maybe coming down the line to do things on their own terms; they want to jump before they are pushed. Well, good. But that doesn’t mean we can’t still push.