Apple Embraces “Right-to-Repair” but Restricts the New Policy to Certain Repairs

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4Q 2021 | IN-6363

Apple has finally realized the importance of repairs for iPhone and Mac computers. Following years of consumer and legal pressure, the firm announced a self-service repair scheme last week that allows customers and smaller third party repairers to purchase new components such as an iPhone display, battery, and camera. Currently, there are few details about how Apple's repair program will work in practice, although right-to-repair initiatives are designed to give equipment owners the ability to repair items with no regard to manufacturer or technological limitations. However, inexperienced individuals cannot repair their iPhones as they do not have the technical knowledge and so demand for Apple's repair service and authorized third-party repair services may increase. Additionally, the shift in Apple priorities towards services and growth prospects in the repair industry may led the firm to cut the cost of iPhone and Mac repairs while also extending the lifespan of its consumer goods.

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Self Service Repair Will be Launched Next Year in the U.S and Adopted in Other Countries Successively


On November 17th, Apple unveiled Self Service Repair, which would provide its authentic parts and equipment to consumers who are comfortable doing their own repairs. Self Service Repair will be available in the U.S early next year for the iPhone 12 and 13 lines and will shortly be followed by Mac computers with M1 CPUs. It will also be accessible in other countries during 2022.

The program's first phase will focus on the most frequently repaired components, such as the iPhone display, battery, and camera. Furthermore, additional repair for other components will be available later next year. Individual experts having the skills and competences to repair electronic equipment should use Self-Service Repair, even if the company is still not clear what this will allow and entail. In this case, repair is just a replacement of components, and could represent a risk of damage to Apple devices. The company also suggests that visiting a professional repair provider with licensed technicians who utilize genuine Apple components is the most reliable option for consumers to receive an in-warranty or out-of-warranty repair service.

The program allows independent repair businesses to access the same training, parts, and tools as other Apple Authorized Service Providers, even though they do not provide repairs covered by Apple's warranty or AppleCare plans but may offer their own repair warranty. Also, the company releases software upgrades regularly to provide new features and capabilities and gives a discount for customers that return broken components for recycling. However, updating the software could deteriorate the device performance and make it function slower, increasing the need for repair services.

Apple Forces Consumers to Professional Support


The new approach seems to be a significant change for Apple as they have long resisted independent repair by restricting access to parts, manuals, and diagnostic equipment, creating products that are difficult to repair, and campaigning against laws that would protect the freedom to repair. Additionally, the outcome appears to be a big win for the Green Century, an investment advisor to the Green Century Funds, and a stamp of approval for shareholder action in general that are aiming for carbon neutral products and supply chains by 2030. The bulk of emissions related to smart gadgets occurs during the production stage, and so one of the most effective methods to lessen the climate effect of consumer technology is to use them as long as possible through maintenance and repair.

Arguably, Apple's move is good news for customers as they have more options for their repairs thanks to the expanded availability of authentic parts. By increasing repairability, customers get a long-lasting product that retains its value for years. However, the right-to-repair has already been embraced by Apple’s main competitors. Microsoft, for example, complied with a first-of-its-kind right-to-repair resolution through which the company agreed to conduct research on the social and environmental benefits coming from right-to-repair and will act on its findings by the end of next year (2022). In addition, Apple offers a self-service option for consumers who want to handle their own repairs and has increased the number of service facilities with its authentic parts, tools, and training. The firm claims to have over 2,800 independent repair providers worldwide that access its components and repair expertise.

The Self-Service Repair is not seen as a complete win by right-to-repair advocates, as there are still some unanswered questions about how it will work in practice. For example, suppose the new system works the same way as Apple's existing Independent Repair Program. In that case, consumers will still be forced to buy genuine parts from Apple rather than, say, a less expensive third-party display. Also, as Apple uses proprietary tools and glues and "software locks" on their devices, it will make it impossible for a customer or third party to fix their devices independently. Therefore, consumers would be forced to pay a premium for their repairs because they will have to use Apple repair.

Shifting Priorities for Long Term Benefits


While right-to-repair is on the one hand helping to reduce e-waste, on the other hand it seems to be neglecting the unique supply chain activities of vertically integrated companies, such as Apple. However, as the rationale of right-to-repair is to provide practical means for owners to repair their devices without any manufacturer or technical restrictions, Apple could potentially lower the cost of iPhone and Mac repairs and thereby help to extend the lives of its consumer goods.

Apple's priorities have changed, rapidly during the past few years. While the company is expecting its hardware sales to stagnate, Apple's services division is being positioned as its next major income growth frontier. Apple is a firm that focuses on the confluence of its hardware, software, and services, and Apple wants to continue improving the user experience within its ecosystem. The shift of priorities to services and the potential growth in the repair market could boost Apple's repair service demand and reduce its sales volume per year.

Additionally, the worldwide electronic equipment repair service market is growing due to innovation and technological improvements which make devices become obsolete more slowly. In addition, factors such as the availability of electronic equipment insurance, the adoption of "right to repair" legislation, and the entry of new competitors are also propelling the worldwide electronic equipment repair service market. In light of this, the consumer electronics category is leading the market. Regionally, Asia-Pacific has dominated the worldwide electronic equipment repair service industry. According to the ResearchAndMarkets, the global consumer electronics repair and maintenance market is expected to grow from US$15.11 billion in 2020 to US$16.44 billion at the end of 2021 at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 8.8%. The market is expected to reach US$22.17 billion in 2025 at a CAGR of 7.8%.

The current pandemic has limited the significant potential in the repair market as consumers have not been allowed to meet professionals for repairs due to stringent government limitations. However, the evidence is that, despite these circumstances, the repair market continues to grow, as consumers become increasingly conscious of the environmental impact they can generate through their e-waste. This could affect overall sales in the consumer electronics sector resulting in a reduction in smartphone shipments and a lengthening of replacement cycles.



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