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Apple yields to DIY movement as 'right to repair' bills proliferate

Score one for the tinkerers.

Apple Inc. will offer some tools and parts so owners can repair their own phones, conceding to pressure from consumer groups, lawmakers who introduced bills in more than half the states and President Joe Biden.

The self-repair tools and parts will first be available for iPhone 12 and iPhone 13, the company announced, with availability for Mac computers to come early next year.

The Apple announcement is a good first step, but the self-repair movement still has a long way to go, advocates say. They are pushing legislation in most states that would include not only phones but also farm equipment, medical devices and, in many cases, a broad range of tech devices.

“The new program isn't as comprehensive as the Right to Repair reforms discussed in more than two dozen state legislatures this year would be, said Nathan Proctor, senior right to repair director for U.S. PIRG, a consumer group, in an emailed statement. “Given current public information, Apple still maintains a lot of proprietary control over repairs on its devices, although more details are emerging.”

But, he added in another email, “Our coalition of tinkerers, fixers, repair shops, DIYers, and consumer and environmental advocates has forced one of the world's biggest companies to change for the better. It's a win for repair shops, it's a win for consumers and it's a win for the planet.”

Critics of Apple’s move argue it is a small step at best and may lead to more business for the company as owners’ repair attempts may fail, and they may end up sending their phones to Apple stores anyway.

“Most people don’t want to fix their own phone. This will appeal to a small but vocal group of Apple’s most technical customers,” said Gene Munster, a tech analyst and managing partner at the venture-capital firm Loup Ventures.

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Munster, in an email, said pressure from Biden and the states may have been a catalyst for Apple’s action. But, he added, “Apple made this move because they see an opportunity to better serve their customers. “

An internet site that shows consumers how to fix their own phones, iFixit, reports their online videos and instructions have been viewed hundreds of thousands of times.

The repair movement has gotten new impetus in the pandemic, as internet connectivity became essential for workers at home and remote students.

Stateline is a nonpartisan, nonprofit news service of the Pew Charitable Trusts that provides daily reporting and analysis on trends in state policy.

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Lars Plougmann/CC BY 2.0

An Apple iPhone with a cracked screen. Apple has decided to provide parts and instructions so individual repairers can fix some phones, after years of resisting the 'right to repair' movement.