Apple has always maintained that the best approach for most customers is to get their products repaired by the company itself or by an authorized partner. But following years of pressure, it recently softened its stance on DIY repairs, announcing an iPhone self-repair program last November and this week expanding it to cover MacBooks.
But has Apple genuinely been converted to a belief in the right to repair, or is it selling ice cream in winter for an easy PR win? Is it just pretending to be okay with customers doing their own repairs because it’s worried about antitrust regulators?
We’ve written before about the high costs and significant stress of the Self Service Repair program, and it looks like at least one of the new MacBook options follows a similar pattern. Repairs site iFixit has published an article arguing that, rather than encouraging DIY repairs, the new program makes MacBooks seem less repairable. It focuses on replacing the battery in a MacBook Pro, one of the most common and inevitable repair processes, and argues that the enormous manual (162 pages) and high cost (30-50% of the price of a new machine) represent an “excruciating gauntlet of hurdles” for repairers.
“Which makes us wonder,” the site muses, “does Apple even want better repairability?”
The core of the problem appears to be the method Apple is espousing, which involves dismantling and replacing the entire top case. That’s the only replacement part the company will currently sell you for this repair; it claims the battery will become available as an individual replacement part in the future, but doesn’t specify when. That seems like something that a company with Apple’s resources could have organized by now, but until it does, you’re stuck with an expensive and awkward replacement process that seems likely to put off prospective DIYers.
It’s easy to see why Apple would prefer customers–and particularly those who are inexperienced with DIY projects–to get their repairs done by an official partner, which brings in significant revenue, gives the company more control, and reduces the number of failed repairs being complained about on the internet. It’s also easy to see the attraction of seeming to be cool about DIY repairs, given the popularity of the Right To Repair movement and the importance of individuality and thinking different to Apple’s brand. What’s less clear is how Apple can achieve both things at once, especially now that sites like iFixit are growing suspicious about the sincerity of its self-repair efforts.
Want to get your Mac repaired? Read: Apple repairs: price guide and how long repairs take. We also cover The ultimate Mac DIY repair guide.