Apple has been in the news regarding device repair plenty over the last year, but none of it has been positive for them. The company has been raked over the coals for recycleability and repairability and has been increasingly criticized for keeping a tight hold over official repairs and making it more and more difficult for independent repair shops to make certain fixes. I can’t say it isn’t mostly true.
The situation seemed to come to a head a few weeks ago when Apple was nailed again for their handling of third-party battery replacements. I wrote at the time that Apple was being petty in their handling of the situation, and I still stand by that. I think many other Apple fans and writers felt the same way.
To be honest, I don’t disagree with their insistence over “authorized” repairs and use of only official parts. That isn’t the issue and it also isn’t an adequate excuse for what they’ve been doing. The right move has always been to open the doors to independent repair shops that want to be authorized and to provide them access to the necessary parts, tools and service manuals.
In the previously mentioned article, I wrote that, if there was enough negative public sentiment over this battery issue, that Apple would have to do something in response. Thankfully, Apple has finally done just that. Now, they are going to do what should have been done a long time ago. They are going to allow independent repair shops the opportunity to buy the same parts, tools and literature that authorized Apple repair centers have access to. Technicians will have to watch some training videos as part of this process, but they will get access to them free of charge. Like most things Apple, this is rolling out in the US, but should come to the rest of the world over time.
This is the right move for Apple and it should diffuse a couple of situations for them. First off, you had the general public outcry over how unfriendly Apple has become to independent repair shops. Then you also have the stickier issue of Right to Repair legislation in the United States. Apple has publicly opposed such legislation over the years for the same reasons they resisted opening up their repair ecosystem. Opposing this legislation looks just as petty as their handling of battery replacements and they keep taking a beating over it in the tech press. With this change in how Apple handles repairs, they will also get some of the heat off of them in this area, as well. They still haven’t addressed repairs by users, but it’s at least a start in the right direction.
This was the smart move for Apple because it was the obvious move. It allows them to continue to hold their positions on how repairs should be handled but still gives users a choice and independent repair shops a chance to compete. This also subtly shifts the PR burden to repair shops, as those that aren’t interested in using Apple’s parts will be put on the defensive and have a harder time painting Apple as the bad guy.
This may be the smart move now, but it should have been made a long time ago. The smarter move for Apple going forward would be to spend more time thinking ahead about PR and issues that are important to users and avoid the pitfalls they continually trip over.