When Apple announced that it would now allow consumers to fix their own devices, it partly laid a foundation for a comeback of an old tradition and a new product category. Photo: Supplied
When Apple announced that it would now allow consumers to fix their own devices, it partly laid a foundation for a comeback of an old tradition and a new product category. Photo: Supplied

Apple's Fix Your Own Device is a game changer for digital devices

By Wesley Diphoko Time of article published Nov 21, 2021

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When Apple announced that it would now allow consumers to fix their own devices, it partly laid a foundation for a comeback of an old tradition and a new product category.

In a statement, the US tech giant said the programme would be available first for the iPhone 12 and iPhone 13 line-ups and soon to be followed by Mac computers featuring M1 chips. Apple went on to say that self-service repair will be available early next year in the US and expand to additional countries throughout 2022. We might as well add that other device manufacturers could also introduce similar services and products.

Because Apple was partly succumbing to shareholder pressure and also reacting to an imminent bill, it is only natural that other big tech manufacturers will also be expected to offer a similar service. The house bill in support of right-to-repair was proposed in June by President Joe Biden's executive order outlining efforts to make it "easier and cheaper" to repair your own items.

At the same time, the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) report found that "there is scant evidence to support manufacturers' justifications for repair restrictions. For Apple, this was a reversal of years of restrictive repair policies. The US tech giant is known for being closed and secretive. Its products are almost designed to force consumers to buy a new one when it breaks. This can be said about many digital devices that we buy.

This has led to an economy of disposability where these kinds of consumer electronics are concerned. Some of us have multiple devices that we no longer use at home due to minor issues that could have been easily resolved. The devices are designed to force one to buy a new one, even with minor breaking points.

History tells that it’s only been this difficult to repair your own devices for the past 25 years after a critical piece of law expired and reopened the idea of repair monopolies. IBM was found to be a monopoly in 1956, and the US Department of Justice hung a threat over their heads in the form of a document called the IBM Consent Decree.

After the Consent Decree expired in 1996, IBM was allowed to re-establish a repair monopoly that had been illegal since 1956. After that, the rest of the industry followed, and other industries followed that. The advocacy group Repair Association estimates that 90 percent of manufacturers have monopolies on repairs to their items, with Apple leading in that front. The organisation began advocating for new right-to-repair policies in 2013 and has continued to gain momentum ever since.

Now that Apple has been forced to open up and free its devices, the US Tech giant will do what it’s known for, that is to make money from anything that it can make. Apple will make the process to fix devices so easy you will have fun. At the same time, it will add billions to Apple shareholders. Apple will probably make cool manuals and even create maker spaces in their stores for people to just have fun with the process of fixing their devices.

This will be good for the environment as well. This will bring an end to the constant need to buy a new device whenever the old one breaks or loses its shiny features.

This change will also enable students and young people to learn about fixing stuff. It’s a perfect opportunity for education institutions to start introducing modules that will teach students the ability to fix things or even do research on how to improve their devices.

his will come at a cost to the functionality and safety of our devices. There were good reasons why companies like Apple resisted the right to repair pressure. Currently, with an Apple device, your safety is almost guaranteed. The experience is almost guaranteed throughout the life cycle of the product. This cannot be said about other devices you could tinker with. The more you play around with the devices it changes its functionality, and over time, some lose their original usability.

The beauty with products that are closed is that their functionality, as per manufacturers' expectations, is almost guaranteed. Our ability to tinker will take away the guarantee of specific functionality by manufacturers like Apple. That is probably a good thing if it will lead to more personalised devices that we can enhance ourselves throughout their life cycle.

This brings me to another important part about this new development, and that is the fact that it opens a possibility for Apple to create a new device that will enable self customisation.

Apple can provide the base, and you can buy other parts to create the phone of your dreams.

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