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Following the rather stunning news last week that Apple will be opening up to self-repairs, a few more details have emerged about how the program will actually work in practical terms.
Most significantly, even though Apple will be charging for the tools and parts necessary for do-it-yourself (DIY) repairs, it appears the company plans to make all the necessary repair manuals freely available on its support website at no additional cost.
The details were spelled out in an internal memo obtained by MacRumors, which notes that anybody will be able to access the repair manuals so that they know what they’re getting themselves into.
This includes understanding the details of how the repair process works, as well as knowing what exact parts and tools to order. Presumably, Apple will spell out the exact parts in these service manuals and possibly even provide direct links to the online store where they will be available for purchase.
The memo also revealed that Apple plans to use an unspecified third party to handle the program’s logistics, including the operation of the online parts store. The memo doesn’t specify any reason for this, but it’s not particularly surprising since Apple uses a similar system for its Authorized Service Provider (AASP) and Independent Repair Provider (IRP) programs.
In fact, it’s probably safe to assume that Apple will just use the same company to handle direct-to-consumer parts orders that it already uses for authorized technicians since most of the procedures are already in place.
The only real difference is that repair shops can pre-order the parts and may choose to order them in bulk. On the other hand, customers taking advantage of Apple’s new self-service repair program will need to provide a specific serial number for the device they’re repairing and will only be able to order parts corresponding to that particular device.
For now, that only includes iPhone 12 and iPhone 13 models, and only those parts and tools necessary for the most common repairs, such as battery and screen replacements. Apple plans to expand the program later next year, but it’s rolling it out with baby steps for now.
It’s Not for Everyone
To be clear, Apple’s new self-service repair program won’t be for everyone, and we expect that most customers will still be far better off simply taking their iPhone to a local repair shop staffed by those with the expertise to handle these kinds of repairs.
For numerous reasons, we don’t recommend taking your iPhone to just any repair shop, as the money you’ll save almost certainly isn’t worth the risk of defective or substandard parts. Genuine Apple parts — and the tools needed to replace them — are only available to AASPs and IRPs, so it’s best to look for one of those.
Of course, if you do have the expertise, you’ll be able to attempt a self-repair, but Apple makes it clear that this is intended for “individual technicians with the knowledge and experience to repair electronic devices.”
It’s still intricate work, but we can also envision a cottage industry of freelance technicians and smaller shops popping up around this new service. Apple’s independent repair provider program has been described as pretty onerous, so it’s understandable that many smaller shops may not be eager to give up their autonomy to Apple in exchange for genuine parts and tools. However, it’s a safe bet that many will be happy to help you out if you show up with the parts in hand — for a fee, of course.
The parts themselves are also very likely to come in at a premium. From what we’ve heard from authorized service providers and independent repair shops, Apple charges a pretty hefty up-front fee to order parts such as batteries and screens, with the expectation that you’ll return the defective part to Apple for reuse or recycling, at which point the company issues you a credit or refund.
For example, an iPhone 12 display can easily run over $1,000. You’ll get a good chunk of that back after returning the defective display, but that money will still be tied up while you’re waiting for parts to ship in both directions and completing the actual repair.
Even though the returned parts are often worthless to Apple — there’s no way a shattered screen is worth $800 — the pricing policy is in place to ensure that repair shops aren’t hoarding parts or reselling them outright. Essentially, this allows Apple to confirm that every part it sells is used to replace something that’s actually broken.
There’s no reason to assume this policy will be any different for consumers since there’s even more room here for fraudulent ordering of parts. Although you’ll be required to provide your serial number before ordering a new part, there’s nothing else to prevent you from trying to resell that replacement part for a profit unless you’re forced to return your original broken screen to get the bulk of your money back.
Apple’s new Self Service Repair program will launch in early 2022 in the U.S. It will initially be confined to screens, batteries, and cameras on the iPhone 12 and iPhone 13. Apple plans to expand it to other countries and more devices later next year, starting with its M1 Macs.