Apple’s Repair Policy Sparks Debate Over Durability and Repairability


Apple’s stance on user repairability has undergone a significant shift in recent years, driven in part by growing concerns over sustainability and the right to repair movement. However, the company’s ongoing use of parts pairing has drawn criticism from repair advocates, including iFixit, which has repeatedly accused Apple of prioritizing durability over repairability.

A new white paper, titled “Longevity by Design,” offers a comprehensive look at Apple’s current repair policy and priorities. The study, which highlights a focus on durability over repairability, is led by John Ternus, Apple’s SVP of Hardware Engineering.

According to Ternus, Apple’s goal is to create devices that never break in the first place, while also providing easy access to repair services when needed. However, the company’s prioritization of durability has led to controversy, particularly over the use of parts pairing.

The iPhone 15, for example, received a mixed bag from iFixit, with the site awarding the device a 4/10 repairability score due to the use of parts pairing. Apple has since expanded its user repair service, with the launch of Diagnostics for Self Service Repair in 32 European countries, including the UK, France, Germany, and the Netherlands.

However, the company’s approach to repair has not been without controversy. Apple has been accused of planned obsolescence, with some critics arguing that the company designs devices to fail or become outdated, making repairs more difficult or costly.

In response, Apple has emphasized its commitment to sustainability and user repairability, highlighting the growing number of iPhones in use for more than five years. The company has also argued that its focus on durability and longevity is ultimately the better move for sustainability, citing a study on the iPhone charging port as an example.

The study found that making the charging port individually replaceable would require additional components, increasing carbon emissions. However, with an actual service rate of below 0.1%, Apple’s existing design approach yields lower carbon emissions over the lifetime of the device.

Apple has also taken aim at competitors, accusing them of lagging behind in terms of multi-year OS updates and device longevity. However, any policy that allows users to continue safely using older devices is a net positive.

Ultimately, the debate over Apple’s repair policy highlights the ongoing tension between durability, repairability, and sustainability. As the company continues to evolve its approach, it will be important to monitor its progress and assess the impact on users and the environment.

Brian Heater
Brian Heater
Hardware Editor. Brian has worked for a number of leading tech publications, including Engadget, PCMag, Laptop, and Tech Times, where he served as the Managing Editor. His writing has appeared in Spin, Wired, Playboy, Entertainment Weekly, The Onion, Boing Boing, Publishers Weekly, The Daily Beast and various other publications. He has also appeared as a regular NPR contributor.

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