Australians may soon be eligible to repair iPhones after Apple backflip

Max Hawker has set a career out of shattered tech.

He previously worked in a phone store and started helping people with tech issues in his spare time after seeing “a pretty big need” from customers.

Now 29 years old and based in the Whitsundays region of Queensland, he has been an independent electronics repairer for six years.

He’s also a big name on the social media platform TikTok, where videos of him enthusiastically solving issues with people’s damaged devices have received over 5.5 million likes.

From his catchy greeting “What’s digging?” to his classic signature “All in a day’s work, mate”, his merry clips have seen him amass 450,000 subscribers in the past 14 months.

Mr Hawker says he’s used to getting questions from his subscribers about how they can fix their own devices, and now they’re asking him why Apple has reversed its long-standing stance of preventing iPhone owners from do just that.

“I think it’s a pretty big backflip,” he said.

“To my knowledge, there isn’t really a manufacturer that is pro-repair… If it’s more than a screen or a battery, they basically want you to buy a new device and replace it.”

Max Hawker says people often ask him to fix their own devices(Provided: Max Hawker)

So what did Apple announce?

Apple last month announced that it will launch a self-service repair program in 2022, to allow customers to purchase official parts, tools and manuals so they can repair their own devices.

It’s a major change for a company that is notoriously protective of its intellectual property and – like many other tech companies – has been accused of designing products that are difficult to repair without special equipment.

Apple said its new program will begin in the United States early next year and “expand to other countries throughout 2022.”

The program will initially include parts such as displays, batteries, and cameras for some of the latest iPhone models, but will later include more parts for iPhones and some Mac computers.

Why did Apple do a backflip?

Apple’s move is a sign that regulators are paying attention to the right to repair movement, which continues to grow in Australia, according to Leanne Wiseman, a law professor at Griffith University.

She says tech companies often cite intellectual property issues as well as customer security, protection and privacy as reasons for not allowing people to make their own repairs, but legislative pressure and the potential to win. money while further controlling the repair market may have influenced Apple. thought.

“It’s a full backflip which is really exciting,” said Prof Wiseman.

“It’s really windy in the sails of the right to fix the move now, because if Apple can say you can fix things, then hopefully that just shows other manufacturers that there isn’t a no no more safety or security concerns. “

In the United States, about half of states have considered the right to remedy legislation this year, and President Joe Biden signed an executive order in July calling on his country’s Federal Trade Commission to crack down on “unfair anti-competitive restrictions on remedies. by third parties or self-repair. repair of objects “.

Some Apple shareholders believe the company’s change of mind was also influenced by a key deadline in their demand that Apple reassess its stance on independent repair, The Verge reported.

A woman is standing in a park and smiling for the camera.
Griffith University professor Leanne Wiseman hopes Apple’s move will lead to positive change in the industry(ABC News: Rosie King)

What was the response to Apple’s announcement?

Apple’s backflip came as a pleasant surprise to the right to repair movement and many in the tech industry, but others are wary of things like the cost and risks of letting untrained consumers make their own. repairs.

Kyle Wiens, the CEO of iFixit – which independently sells parts and creates repair guides for many Apple devices – shared his take on social media shortly after Apple’s announcement.

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“This announcement does not repair the years of harm that Apple’s design practices, breach of environmental standards and cynical lobbying have caused. The industry is currently on a dark path of obsolescence,” Mr. Wiens.

“But there is hope. Today is a good day. Let us unite, push back entropy, and help other businesses on this journey.”

Apple has yet to release pricing for its self-service repair program, but many in the industry don’t expect it to be cheaper to repair your iPhone yourself than to repair it. Refer to Apple or an authorized repairer.

Some see the program as a next step to prevent more electronic devices from going to landfill and to slow the increase in electronic waste, which increased in 2021 and is expected to reach more than 70 million tonnes per year globally. by 2030.

“We probably all know how many broken phones we have in our drawers at home, and all the precious minerals and materials that are in an iPhone,” Professor Wiseman said.

“So this not only saves e-waste, but it also prevents the sourcing and manufacturing of these items in the first place. “

Others, like independent repairman Max Hawker, see the self-service repair program as a public relations initiative.

“I think it’s more of an optics game than anything else, but I’ll be happy to be wrong,” Mr. Hawker said.

“Hopefully when we see this rollout and how it all plays out – if more and more parts and manuals became available that would be great. I just don’t think it’s going to turn out like this. “

Can I really do the repairs myself?

Apple acknowledged that its self-service repair program was not designed for most consumers, but rather for those “with the knowledge and experience to repair electronic devices.”

A white man with long brown hair looks into a microscope to examine a motherboard from an electronic device
Max Hawker said inexperienced consumers would make mistakes when repairing their own devices(Provided: Max Hawker)

Mr Hawker said he didn’t want to scare anyone, but it was inevitable that inexperienced consumers trying to fix things themselves would make mistakes.

“Once you look at the prices and then people take the risk on board, I would be very surprised if a lot of people would take that on board and start doing repairs themselves,” he said. declared.

Will Apple’s backflip change the industry for the better?

In its announcement last month, Apple said it “designs products for durability, longevity and increased repairability.”

Mr. Wiens of iFixit is optimistic that a financial incentive to increase repairability and sell parts to customers could change the way Apple and other tech companies design their products.

And Professor Wiseman believes other tech companies could follow in Apple’s footsteps, as they have in the past.

“I think it’s likely that in the future we’ll see other technology vendors follow suit and at least provide access to their repair and service information, and hopefully some parts of it. spare, ”she said.

A pair of hands, holding an Apple iPhone and a repair screwdriver
Apple said self-service was not intended for the majority of its customers(Supplied: Apple)

What is Australia doing regarding the right to redress?

The Australian Productivity Commission reviewed the right to redress this year.

In a report submitted to the federal government in October and made public on December 1, the Commission found that it is difficult for independent repairers to access the spare parts, tools or information needed to repair items of all types. days, which makes it harder and more expensive for consumers to get things arranged.

The report found that although Australian consumers already have “reasonably comprehensive” rights, improvements could be made, such as amending copyright laws to allow easier sharing of information on remedies.

The Commission recommended that the federal government require manufacturers to provide software updates for “a reasonable period of time,” as well as greater clarity regarding warranties and rights so that customers are aware of their rights. .

He also recommended the introduction of a product labeling system informing consumers about the repairability or durability of products, which had also been proposed by the consumer group CHOICE.

“The Productivity Commission has done a fantastic job, and we just hope the federal government will follow up on some of these recommendations,” said Professor Wiseman.

Mr Hawker agreed that there was still work to be done. “I think we have so much more ground to gain, and that goes with every device,” he said.

“If you can’t modify or repair a product you buy, is it really yours at the end of the day? “

About Anne Wurtsbach

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