: Apple will now help you repair your iPhone, but are you really up to the task?
When I heard the news that Apple
was making it possible for customers to do repairs on their own, I immediately flashed back to a conversation I had with my wife at Costco about a month ago.
While we were wandering through the warehouse, we noticed that wiper blades were on sale — almost at a price too good to resist. And we very much needed to replace the blades on our car. But that’s a job we have usually left to our mechanic, even if it means we end up paying way more for the parts. To put it mildly, I’m technically challenged when it comes to most anything in life — cars, appliances, even hammering a nail into a wall (as in I’ve paid people to hang a picture in my apartment).
And now Apple is going to let me fix my iPhone??? Thanks, but no thanks.
For years, there’s been a growing “right to repair” movement — one that aims to stop companies from making it so difficult to fix all sorts of goods without going back to the companies themselves and paying mightily for the privilege. Indeed, the companies often charge so much for a repair that it becomes more cost-efficient to replace an item. Which may be precisely the point. (Ever heard the term “planned obsolescence”?)
So Wednesday’s Apple announcement was a victory for the consumer. To quote Kyle Wiens, chief executive officer of iFixit, a company that sells parts and offers advice to the DIY community: “No one should be in the dark on how to swap a battery or fix a cracked screen. Access to service information for products is a fundamental human right.”
Apple seemed to say as much as well. “Creating greater access to Apple genuine parts gives our customers even more choice if a repair is needed,” said Jeff Williams, Apple’s chief operating officer.
All this comes while there’s a legislative push at the federal level for the right to repair. To say nothing of the fact that President Joe Biden has advocated for the movement as well.
But I still say the movement has limits.
We live in a time when most of us don’t fix things. Some of that is due to our laziness — and to the fact that repair skills are no longer part of our human vocabulary (remember when shop class was still mandatory in high school?). But it also has to do with the rapid escalation of technology. As Revathi Advaithi, chief executive of Flex, an electronics-manufacturing company, told The Verge website: “Everything we make has some form of a chip in it.”
Loose translation: It’s no longer enough to be handy with tools. You now may need to know computers to fix even a hair dryer.
Which is not to say you can’t attempt certain things — and there’s a plethora of advice and how-to videos online. But I also say there’s a limit — and a question of time. Do I want to spend hours figuring out how to replace a cracked screen on my iPhone when I can pay someone else to do it? (Or, if it’s in my budget, just purchase the latest model, which is bound to have a few more features anyhow?) Moreover, do I want to risk screwing up the job? I’m still haunted by the time I once tried to solve a computer problem and ended up erasing my hard drive by mistake (I’ll spare you the gory details, but let’s just say I really misunderstood a prompt.)
Some of this could be generational. I’m 57, which means I’ve grown up in a world of creature comforts. An older generation learned to do things on their own, be it changing the oil in the car, fixing a leaky pipe or, yes, hanging a picture.
Conversely, a younger crowd is championing the DIY movement. It’s about saving money and being environmentally conscious all at once (after all, when you replace rather than repair something you’re just adding to the culture of overproduction that gets our planet into trouble). In Portland, Ore., the city that’s at the heart of hipsterdom, there’s even a “repair cafe” scene.
So maybe some of these people will want to take advantage of Apple’s plan. But I’m not there yet. I’m all for the right to repair, but I also embrace the right not to repair. Meanwhile, I’m still waiting for my wife to install the wiper blades we ended up purchasing at Costco after she volunteered for the task. Maybe I’ll just get our mechanic to do it.