It seems Apple’s anti-right-to-repair recalcitrance has come back to bite it.
Like many companies dependent on an Asian supply chain, the iPhone maker is experiencing disruptions due to the coronavirus. According to a report from Bloomberg, this has manifested in, among other things, a shortage of replacement devices for customers’ broken iPhones.
Unfortunately for those very customers, Apple has a long history of fighting the very right-to-repair movement that could otherwise jump in and save the day.
In a memo to Apple store employees, the company reportedly warned that delays for replacement phones could persist for as long as four weeks. The report also notes that some Apple store employees claim they’re short on basic replacement parts.
Of course, there are other non-Apple-sanctioned ways to repair an iPhone. At-home kits offered by the likes of iFixit provide those who can work a custom screwdriver the option to replace basic parts like cracked screens or old batteries. There are also third-party shops that offer more technically complicated fixes.
“Apple is running into this problem because their stores are not equipped to do the kind of challenging repairs that independent shops can,” iFixit editor in chief Kyle Wienstold Mashable over email. “Water damage is a great example—local shops can often fix these devices with board-level repairs, where Apple does not have staff with this level of sophisticated training.”
It was only this past August that Apple finally half copped to the necessity of a healthy third-party repair ecosystem. The company announced it would allow non-Apple store and Apple Authorized Service Providers access to some Apple parts and tools — as long as they first applied through an Apple program. Even then, a phone had to be out of warranty for Apple to be OK with some non-Genius touching the device.
Before that half measure, Apple was even more notoriously anti-right-to-repair.
“Our society would be in a more resilient place to handle this crisis if Apple hadn’t been fighting so hard to stop right to repair legislation,” continued Wiens. “As they turn customers away because of supply constraints, they are going to wish that there were more local alternatives to serve their customers.”
We reached out to Apple in an effort to determine both if the Bloomberg reported shortages are accurate and if the company’s opinion on the right-to-repair movement has evolved as a result of the coronavirus. We received no immediate response.
Perhaps everyone at Apple is too busy calling up their local third-party repair shops to ask for spare parts.
UPDATE: March 4, 2020, 4:39 p.m. PST: This story has been updated to include comments from Kyle Wiens.