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JR Lopez, March 11 2020

Repair power struggle sours Apple’s loyal customers

In controversial moves that have spanned over a two-year period, Apple has created a power play against its own customers by limiting users’ ability to repair or upgrade their own Apple devices — and ending both warranty protection and functionality if they try.

In controversial moves that have spanned over a two-year period, Apple has created a power play against its own customers by limiting users’ ability to repair or upgrade their own Apple devices — and ending both warranty protection and functionality if they try.

It started back in October 2018, when Apple added a handy feature on some of its iPhone models that would monitor battery health.

However, if a user or an unauthorized vendor removes the battery, the monitoring ceases. A warning message hits the screen, informing the user that the iPhone cannot verify if the battery is a “genuine Apple” part and, as such, battery health information would no longer be available.  1

In a statement from Apple, the company claimed that these actions were taken solely for the protection of iPhone users. "This information is there to help protect our customers from damaged, poor quality or used batteries, which can lead to safety or performance issues. This notification does not impact the customer's ability to use the phone after an unauthorized repair.” 2

But despite Apple’s words to the contrary, the action still left users wondering: Was battery health monitoring really a benefit added for the sake of the consumer? Or, is Apple simply playing “big brother” with its equipment, specifically to create a monopoly on both parts and repairs?

But despite Apple’s words to the contrary, the action still left users wondering: Was battery health monitoring really a benefit added for the sake of the consumer? Or, is Apple simply playing “big brother” with its equipment, specifically to create a monopoly on both parts and repairs?

In 2019, Apple struck again, this time with iPhone screens. In a very similar move, several Apple iPhone models could now recognize whether or not the replaced screen was a “genuine Apple display.” Again, the user would receive a note of warning. 1

What the warning doesn’t mention is that the user just voided the iPhone warranty by using a third-party screen. As Apple’s legal wording clearly states on their website: “Apple's Limited Warranty does not apply to products that are not Apple-branded…” 3

Apple’s “it’s us or nothing” approach hasn’t ended with its iPhones. Users have complained in online forums that Apple has made other equipment, such as the 2020 MacBook Pro, extremely difficult to repair on one’s own. Recent MacBook Pro models also do not have removable memory and as such, RAM cannot be upgraded.

According to Forbes, even the tools being used for the repairs are being scrutinized. So, for example, if your new screen is from Apple, but the tools used by the vendor to replace it are not, you’ll still be penalized and receive the warning message. Of course, Apple’s tools are more expensive for the vendors to purchase — and that cost gets passed down to the consumer. 4

All of this has put Apple users in the position of having to use pricey Apple “authorized” parts, tools, and vendors to make any necessary repairs. On the more extreme end, the policy has the potential to force consumers to buy brand-new devices, perhaps sooner rather than later.

All of this has put Apple users in the position of having to use pricey Apple “authorized” parts, tools, and vendors to make any necessary repairs. On the more extreme end, the policy has the potential to force consumers to buy brand-new devices, perhaps sooner rather than later.

In all fairness, Apple isn’t the only company making it difficult for consumers to repair their own equipment. As Vox reported in July 2019, Microsoft’s Surface tablet are assembled in such a “tight” manner, that it’s nearly impossible to even get inside of them. As one technician put it, “you basically have to break it” in order to repair it. 5

In all fairness, Apple isn’t the only company making it difficult for consumers to repair their own equipment. As Vox reported in July 2019, Microsoft’s Surface tablet are assembled in such a “tight” manner, that it’s nearly impossible to even get inside of them. As one technician put it, “you basically have to break it” in order to repair it. 5

These tactics have moved a number of states to consider implementing “Right to Repair” laws. These laws would give consumers the ability to make repairs to their electronic devices without fear of losing their warranty protection. In early 2020, ifixit.com reported that 21 states were considering such legislation, with Massachusetts and Hawaii already actively advancing bills. 6

These tactics have moved a number of states to consider implementing “Right to Repair” laws. These laws would give consumers the ability to make repairs to their electronic devices without fear of losing their warranty protection. In early 2020, ifixit.com reported that 21 states were considering such legislation, with Massachusetts and Hawaii already actively advancing bills. 6

Understandably, Apple’s tactics are being viewed by online user communities as heavy-handed arm twisting. Customers are calling foul — but are these moves by Apple enough to make their uber-loyal users abandon the brand?

Perhaps. As one disgruntled user put it, “Apple has become seriously overrated, and their proprietor behavior is verging on exploitation.”

It also begs the following questions: Why does Apple feel they have to stoop to such strong-arm strategies, when their brand has always been enough? Is this just how Apple SEO Tim Cook does business?

Or, in the absence of Steve Jobs, has Apple lost so much confidence in its own ability to be innovative with new product ideas that it now has to coerce consumers into exclusively using Apple parts and vendors? Is this how the company plans to sustain its revenue?

While these questions are yet to be answered, it does appear that, in forcing its users to use only Apple for parts and repairs, the company has cloaked its bottom line as customer service. And that’s leaving its devoted users with a sour taste in their mouths.

Citations

1. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/proposed-laws-could-change-how-consumers-get-smartphones-repaired/

2. https://www.cnet.com/news/apple-defends-controversial-battery-certification-warning-message/

3. https://www.apple.com/legal/warranty/

4. https://www.forbes.com/sites/gordonkelly/2019/09/28/apple-iphone-11-pro-max-upgrade-display-battery-iphone-xs-max-xr-update/#24a817362de4

5. https://www.vox.com/the-goods/2019/7/3/18761691/right-to-repair-computers-phones-car-mechanics-apple

6. https://www.ifixit.com/News/35606/right-to-repair-is-gaining-ground-in-2020

Written by

JR Lopez

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