Right to Repair’s Moment to Shine

The ability to fix your own stuff is the core of Right to Repair. The movement to compel companies to provide parts and schematics that enable people to repair the stuff they buy has been in the works for many years. Small wins were gained as a few states passed RtR laws, New York being one of them. And while there were some bumps along the way, Right to Repair is having its moment. It also helps that Apple and Google have gotten aboard. Maddie Stone at The Verge has more.

Signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom, the Right to Repair Act guarantees everyone access to parts, tools, and manuals needed to fix their electronic devices — something industry-backed research shows can reduce both waste and carbon emissions but which Apple, the world’s most valuable company, has aggressively lobbied against for years. At a recent White House event, Apple even pledged to honor California’s new law nationwide.

But if independent repair professionals were hopeful that Apple’s dramatic about-face would signal a change in how it designs its products, that hope was short-lived. In September, Apple rolled out a new iPhone that appears impossible to fully repair without the manufacturer’s blessing — and without paying Apple money. 

As device detectives at repair guide site iFixit.com soon discovered, the iPhone 15 is riddled with software locks that cause warning messages to pop up or functionality to be lost if parts are replaced with new ones that weren’t purchased directly from Apple.

The stark contrast between what Apple now professes to believe — that repairing devices is good for consumers’ pocketbooks and the planet — and its decision to discourage unsanctioned fixes by pairing specific parts to specific devices, highlights a sobering reality right-to-repair activists are now confronting: despite a recent string of hard-wonvictories, the fight for affordable, accessible, and universal access to repair is far from over. Following years of pressure from consumers, shareholders, activists, and regulators, tech companies are finally cracking open the door to repair. But unless these corporations are forced to do more, our devices will continue to die early deaths because they are difficult to disassemble, the manufacturer stops offering software support, or the only way to make them work again is to purchase pricey replacement parts from the original device maker. 

The Verge

I won't give any company kudos for supporting RtR when it was compelled by law, but I will give them a golf clap for doing more than the bare minimum. While it felt that Apple's initial rollout of a DIY iPhone repair was malicious compliance, it was clear during the iPhone 15 keynote that it was going to be more repairable.

I've mentioned in the past that having to rely on iFixIt to repair my children's laptops due to liquid damage was difficult mainly due to it being my only resource. But it worked. The site's tools and in-depth walkthroughs helped save the computers from being recycled or a near-$1000 repair bill. If Apple and others will soon make components available first-hand and also give me the tools (physical and written) to perform said repairs, it goes a long way.

Look, I get it that by locking out repairs it's good for business. But in every other way it is a bad decision. The fact that repairing your own stuff is looking to become mainstream again, is a testament to all the hard work that benefits us all.

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