Plot Twist: Apple Adds New Repairability Scores for iPhones and MacBooks (But Only in France)

Iphone Repair Service Credit: Apple
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In an interesting twist, Apple has just updated the Apple Store in France to add a new repairability score for each of its products, providing an indication of how easy it is to conduct repairs on them.

The move, first reported by French site MacGeneration, comes as a result of new “right to repair” consumer protection laws in France, which require a variety of electronics and other household products sold in that country to provide these repairability scores.

The policy came into effect on January 1, 2021, but according to the report, it seems that French regulators are providing a one-year transition period to allow companies to ease into the new system before the enforcement becomes more rigid.

The new rules apply to smartphones, laptops, mowers, vacuum cleaners, and washing machines, which may explain why Apple has only added the new scores to the iPhone and MacBook product pages — it’s not technically required to do so for anything else it sells, including iPads or even iMacs, although the rules are eventually expected to be extended to include additional product categories, so it’s likely only a matter of time before almost everything Apple sells gets swept up in the new legislation.

These repairability scores are similar in principle to the ones that have long been assigned by iFixit, although they’re based on slightly different criteria, so not surprisingly they won’t line up quite the same way. Specifically, MacGeneration notes that they’re based on five main criteria:

  1. Availability of repair documentation.
  2. Ease of disassembly.
  3. Availability of replacement parts.
  4. Cost of replacement parts.
  5. Availability of software updates, free remote technical support, and ease of returning to factory settings.

As the French ministère de la Transition écologique (Ministry of Ecological Transition) explains, the purpose of requiring these repairability scores is to continue the fight against electronic waste by allowing consumers to know if their products are easily repairable or more likely to just be discarded in the event of serious problems.

Repairability Scores

Although we’ll likely never see Apple voluntarily add these scores to its product pages globally, you can find them on the French Apple Store, although even in this case the company isn’t showing them prominently — you’ll have to go through the process of selecting a product configuration and reaching the “Add to Cart” button before you’ll see the score shown.

That said, Apple has published a French support document for all the required products, not only providing access to the repairability scores, but also the rationale behind them.

The scores themselves are actually somewhat surprising, since although all the iPhone 12 models have been assigned a 6.0 (out of 10) — the same score that iFixit assigned — the iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, and iPhone XS Max come in at 4.6, while other older models hover around that number, with the iPhone 11 Pro Max and iPhone XR at 4.5, and the iPhone XS at 4.7.

These differ considerably from iFixit’s scores, which were generally much more generous.

  • The Touch ID-based iPhones all fare much better, with scores ranging from 6.2 for the 2020 iPhone SE to 6.7 for the 2016 iPhone 7.
  • Among MacBooks, the M1 MacBook Pro gets 5.6, the Intel 16-inch MacBook Pro, 6.3, and the M1 MacBook Air comes in at 6.5.

These ratings are self-reported by each product manufacturer, so they’ve been assigned in this case by Apple, however it was required to work against a grid provided by the Ministry of Ecological Transition, and it’s also policed by the Direction de la répression des fraudes (DGCCRF) — the “Fraud Prevention Directorate” — who reserves the right to audit any of the ratings on demand.

In this case, it looks like France is simply ahead of the curve here, as the European Commission has been moving toward tighter laws around e-waste and “Right to Repair” rules for several years now, and voted last year supporting a move toward tighter rules, so it’s entirely possible that this kind of labelling may soon be required across the entire European Union.

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