Apple takes a (small) step towards right to repair

The next time there’s a crack in your iPhone screen, you may be able to bust out a tiny screwdriver and fix it yourself.

What happened: Apple will let people fix their phones with used parts. The policy only applies to iPhone 15 and newer, and the company won’t supply repair shops with parts, but it’s a step away from parts pairing, which is when features on a device are made to stop working after new parts are installed.

  • Companies claim this ensures devices work properly and stay secure, but consumer groups say it forces users into pricey first-party repairs or buying new devices early.
  • Authorized repair shops previously had to certify iPhone replacement parts were legit in a process that will now happen automatically on the phone.

Why it matters: Big Tech is slowly changing its tune on “right to repair,” a legal right to fix or modify products someone owns. This debate has included everything from farm equipment to McFlurry machines, but tech companies seem to be trying to shed the perception that they upsell customers or encourage forced obsolescence.

  • Google endorsed a right to repair bill in Oregon, the first in North America to ban parts pairing.
  • Last year, Apple made everything needed to fix its products available to consumers across the U.S. — though that was expanding something it was being forced to do under a new California law.

Yes, but: Apple isn’t fully ending parts pairing. The policy only applies to used parts taken from other Apple devices. New parts still have to come directly from the company or an authorized dealer, and third-party parts still aren’t supported.

  • Consumer groups say that tech companies can get away with half measures that give them a say in new laws and avoid being forced into full repairability.

Zoom out: Like the last time iPhones got easier to fix, the timing happens to coincide with scrutiny from lawmakers. Oregon’s right to repair law passed weeks ago, and a similar bill hit the floor of the Colorado Senate on Thursday.